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Congratulations on sending your kids off to college in mint condition. There’s not a scratch on them. They look like nobody’s ever taken them out of their original packages and played with them, not even once. Maybe you haven’t heard the term “helicopter parent” before. Allow me to explain. For 18 years, you’ve hovered around your kid constantly to keep them from making mistakes. But now the time has come to land.
That’s hard. You’ve sacrificed. You hired ACT tutors and brought gluten-free donuts to all the PTA meetings. You told your kids which colleges to apply for, helped them write their application essays, and tagged along on all their campus visits. And now they’re here! Bravo!
But…now what? You’ve invested a lot in your kids, and you want to see them succeed. You probably paid a hefty tuition bill. We professors understand, sort of, I think. Most of our parents didn’t even want us attending college, and they complained the whole time. They disowned us when we applied to graduate school, and we spent most of our twenties working 2–3 jobs. But enough about us! Let’s talk about you and your child.
This handy guide will explain everything you need to know about being a good college parent. Or at least it’ll contain everything I thought of in the last hour. Let’s get started!
First, you’ll need to come back to campus after the second week and show them how to do laundry, because Jesus Christ do they stink. They’ll probably call and tell you that the machines are broken. Don’t listen to them. The machines work. They need quarters.
Some of the smarter ones may understand the whole quarter thing, but they don’t know why they’re clothes still smell bad after a wash. Show them the miracle of detergent, your parting gift. Everyone will thank you.
Your kids may also start complaining about how their clothes don’t fit anymore. If this happens, ask them how many meals a week they spend at Taco Bell or Chick-Fil-A. Remind them about vegetables, and things like baked chicken. Healthier dining options are usually located in the “boring” part of the campus food court.
First semester grades usually shock parents. We know that your kids have been telling you “everything’s fine” all semester. I’m sorry to bear bad news, but around October they learned how to lie convincingly. These aren’t the transparent lies of a 14-year-old. Your kids have learned advanced strategies like distraction, deflection, half truths, and omission. Don’t feel sad. It’s a major first step for them. I’ve been lying to my parents for at least a decade now. I lie to almost everyone.
An “F” lies in their future. When that happens, please resist the temptation to call the university and threaten lawsuits. Also, don’t email the instructor empty tirades about getting them fired. Although we find these messages highly amusing, they’re not effective. At this point in my career, I usually just delete emails from parents. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m not a mediator or a counselor. I treat students like grownups, with respect and everything. One person’s kid is another’s young adult.
Some of your friends may brag that they convinced a professor to change a grade. True, some people become such a pain in the ass that we just give a student a B or whatever so they stop sucking up our research time. That attitude will bite everyone in the ass later.
Think about the lesson you’re teaching. If your dad makes a scene, you’ll get your way. That barely works in college, and after that your kids will almost certainly wind up moving back into their old bedroom “because the job market’s so unfair, daddy!” In other words, you’ll live to regret such actions in ways you can only begin to imagine.
After the first semester, we advise you to cease all contact with your children. Change the locks on your doors. Erase their phone number. Make them get a job. They’ll either have to earn their tuition by frothing cappuccinos or winning scholarships. They’ll bitch about you to their friends all the time, but that’s a sign of growth. Maybe your kids will resent you for years, but at least you won’t have to financially support them anymore. They’ll turn into true grownups even before they’re old enough to consume alcohol. Wouldn’t that be something special?