Monday, October 8, 2012

Child Gone Off to University?

Quite a few of my friends are experiencing the first born going off to university at the moment. (For American readers,  - it's very recent as English universities don't start till the beginning of October.)

You may remember my experience last year? Happy to say that the beginning of the second year wasn't quite so traumatic. She phones a lot, I've been a few times and the Ball & Chain is in Washington DC so often that she's probably on the verge of saying "Dad, we really have to get out of this Wednesday-night-dinner-routine." (Although I'm sure she won't.)

I read a hilarious piece in the Guardian the other day - two points of view of the first term of university. Click here and have a read. There's a lot of parent comments saying "Back in the day..". Well yes, university is very different now. If I wanted to phone home, I had to collect mucho coinage, stand in a freezing cement stairwell and wait till the lad downstairs got off the phone. (I actually did tend to phone home once a week, btw, and was a copious letter writer.) These days with smart phones, they can text whenever they want, send photos of the piles of work they have (my heart bleeds) and generally pester you or not, to their hearts' delight.

If you're a parent of a US college student however, sometimes you have no option but to hover and generally be a helicopter parent. We get weekly e-mails from the Parents Office at our college, telling us everything from campus safety services (good to know) to how the menu has changed in the student cafeteria, (not so much). Every so often we get an e-mail suggesting that we remind our children of the content. I once e-mailed back and reminded them that since she was on the college e-mail system, it might be easier and quicker if they just e-mailed her directly. She's nearly 20 fer' cryin' out loud. And yes - there truly are whole departments or offices devoted to parental communication - or, as it should be called "Fund-raising".

In a few weeks, I'm going to Parents' Weekend, which is quite the tradition in the USA. Having only just bid them farewell, colleges across the country host a big-shebang Parents (or Family) weekend, where you have to fly or drive miles and miles so as not to make your child look like an unloved orphan. Last year the whole family went ($$$$) and had a lovely time; this year it's just me and the grandma who's flying over from the UK for a weekend of stalking merriment with the Q. (I hasten to add, she's not flying to the US just for one weekend!)

British university parents would probably revolt; I've been here so long it doesn't even seem that weird to me now.


  1. Gosh phone calls? I was hopeless at making those. We hitch hiked everywhere and I think I just returned home for the holidays without much warning. Lord but I was disorganised and useless...

  2. I would love to participate in a parents' weekend, but it's not really do-able from Seoul - at least not for us. We Skype and IM with Son#1 several times a week - just brief chats here and there, with a longer conversation when we get a chance - which allows me to pretend that he's not on the other side of the world. When I went to Uni, my parents were living in Germany, and phone calls were too pricey to be used for anything except dire emergencies.
    Being in closer proximity to Son#1 will be the absolute best thing about moving back to the US when our contract is over.

  3. I just sent my first (and only) off to college. I was all set to miss him like crazy. I knew he'd never call and rarely text. But what do you know - that kid has been home just about every other weekend(he's only 2 hours away)! In fact, he's coming home again for fall break this Wednesday.

    He's not even giving me a chance to miss him.

  4. The college parents weekend is a strange tradition I am just learning about now. It's possible we will no longer be in the States when our turn comes to be those people - but our next door neighbours who went last weekend had an absolute ball they tell me. Thanks for the article link - it was very good & much of it reminded me of when I first went to boarding school. I stood there watching the other kids cry and cling to their parents wondering what all the fuss was about, by the time I got to Uni both my parents & I were old hands at the whole thing

  5. I read that article last week and gave it to Rory to look at. We both had a chuckle, even though he's two years off Uni. I also remember the weekly phone call in a draughty corridor or, because the college phones were always busy, using the block of phones outside the Post Office - after 6 o'clock of course!

  6. I also remember that weekly call, having to queue for the phones as there were only 2 between a hall of several hundred people. And if someone phoned for you and you were out, bad luck - you just got a post it note on your door which may or may not have remained stuck there. It must be so different in these days of cellphones, Facebook and Twitter.

  7. I suppose it all starts because US parents are paying so much for their children's college education, that they feel more invested and take more of an interest. I couldn't believe it when I first saw that university websites have pages for parents.

  8. With skype, email, mobile phones it's a different world nowadays, and all for the better too.


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive