30 years ago my parents made clear that they "didn't go to college", and when they were "gone" away from home, they were truly on their own. I happily signed a contract to respect the fact that this was their hard-earned money I would be spending; I was not to be getting drunk, doing drugs, or sleeping around if I wanted the privilege of a college education.
In 1982, this meant that they brought me to Boulder, paid my tuition and room and board, and left. My brother and I started the same year. We were to finish in 4 years. We were "free" and we were very much on our own.
When I got extremely sick one night, I called my brother and he promptly carried me to the campus health center and threw snowballs at the Wardenburg window until someone came to the door to help. I stayed the night with an IV and my parents never knew. We had to pay for long distance calls. The next day I got up, got dressed, and went back to class.
My friend Annie had a plan: make a collect call home and ask for "Missy". Her mom would say, "Wrong number" and then know to call her back at the dorm. Well, Missy was their dog! Now...that was a plan! Can you even still make a collect call?
I quickly realized that working the summer prior was financing anything that wasn't included in a classroom or a salad bar. I made $2.25 an hour at the country club and had saved a couple hundred dollars. Ultimately, I landed a hostess job at "The University Club" where my professors ate their salad bar. I made about $28 a week which ensured I could stay fully clothed and buy shampoo and other necessities. I went home for the first time for Thanksgiving.
Fast forward to the college kids of today; you don't even have to have one to see the difference. I'll start with this: I have one who lives in my house! I have made a concentrated effort to grant him his freedom. The rules are basically the same: have a problem at school? Figure it out. Need to make an appointment? Well...you have a phone. Want a new gadget? Super happy you have a great job! You can count our text messages and /or phone conversations on one hand. He has learned independence with work, school, and responsibilities surrounding his health.
With college kids here in Boulder, I have seen the helicopter parenting of 2015 in full swing. Multiple texts and calls home a DAY are not uncommon. Complaints back to mom and dad frequent. Emails and "emergencies", trips home, and extra money are common denominator. The kids are late teens and early 20's and don't know how to call a doctor's office to explain symptoms and make an appointment, approach a professor with a question, follow up with commitments. The key here is the cell phone: also known as easy access to mom and dad. Obviously, there is a huge difference between the day to day and a true emergency. For that, cell phones are life savers. Alternatively, cell phones put pressure on our kids to CONSTANTLY keep in touch. In our own way, we are allowing them to live a life of dependence.
Last week Buzz's car didn't start and I very sweetly reminded him that he had a AAA card in his wallet. He'll figure it out, and he will be better for it. He knows we are here if he needs us. Parents, you think you are being kind and doing your kids a favor but endless access is not helping your kids grow up. Unless they are paying for every bill and living on their own, they are still a kid.
Anyone who knows me knows that I would do anything to spend time with my boys. They are just good people, fun, and I love them! One of the most difficult parts of parenting is letting them go into the world and figure out the daily requirements for life. They chose to pay the bill, go to church, eat, spend their money on something you wouldn't, etc... Having your cell phone attached to you and being available keeps them on a leash of sorts. Give them the space to grow (up) and start the process early. Middle school is a great time to allow your kids to fail under the watchful and loving eye of mom and dad. You will grow responsible adults in the process. It's tough not to be the "savior" having spent my life dedicated to the care and feeding of my boys. It certainly isn't popular or fun at times, but take a deep breath, they will thank you later (or so we hope!).
Food for parenting!