Our third son Robert had KU orientation last week. He brought back a notebook “New Student Orientation Guide.” The inside page said “Welcome to KU.” Glossy with a big Jayhawk on the front, he dropped it on the dining room table where it didn’t move. Untouched by human hands. Until last Friday, that is. I grabbed it between innings while watching the Royals play the Cubs. Aided by an adult beverage, cooler climes, and Bernie at my side, I struck pure gold.
For new parents, I suppose it’s a thoughtful attempt to reduce the anxiety that comes with a kid heading to college. For an old timer like me, it was a preposterous tutorial that had no relationship to reality. The choicest was the tab that read “Parents and Families.” What follows are the text, with my editorial comment in bold.
1. “Support the transition to adulthood.” Moms – end the denial. Your son no longer sleeps in jammies and snuggles with that teddy bear you brought home from CKMC. The bedroom will be empty. The center of your universe – evaporated. Think this is bad? Wait until menopause. “Parents should consider their student’s transition to university life as another step toward independent adulthood.” Ditch the helicopter. Take up knitting. He’s old. So are you are. The secret is no longer safe with your hairdresser. “Parents can gradually turn over greater levels of decision-making authority as their student demonstrates increased self-discipline, self-respect, and personal responsibility.” Gradually? Really? Who wrote this? The Tooth Fairy? News flash: authority has been ceded.
2.“Expect different responses to homesickness. Most students have some longing for the comfort and security of family and old friends and a familiar hometown and lifestyle.” If your kid is homesick, he should leave Watson library and spend more time at the Hawk. If he needs a fake ID, have him visit one of the fraternities on Tennessee street.
3. “Stay in touch.” If you have a daughter, you have a shot. If it’s a son, look for his picture on a milk carton. “Discuss your expectations about frequency of contact in advance.” Try. He won’t listen. “You probably will find that you put forth more effort in staying in touch than your student does, but don’t assume that because your student doesn’t return your calls and emails that he or she is not interested in maintaining contact.” Whoever wrote this doesn’t have a son.
4. Establish financial guidelines. He will call when he’s broke. Many parents are uncertain about how much money to give their students and how often to do so. I’m not. Give him enough dough to last about three weeks. Then he will call you.
5. Prepare for visits home. Whether your student’s first trip home is a weekend or a holiday, you probably will notice changes, and conflicts may arise. Duh. When he asks to “have some friends over” – its code for a kegger and Buffy and Muffy passing out in your basement with a handle of Captain Morgan at their side. The old rules and curfews may be challenged. You will fight and argue. Its normal. At least in our house it is. Many conflicts can be avoided if those involved talk and listen beforehand. Good luck with this one.
If I wrote the book for sons, it would be one page. It would go like this:
1. You raised your son to be a mature, independent young adult. Congratulations. You will see him at Thanksgiving. He will probably have a beard and two tattoos. Warn the grandparents.
2. There are two bars that matter. The ones on his phone and the other that hopefully rejects his fake ID. After all, he’s not from Alaska and his name isn’t McLovin.
3. Campus security is attuned to moms attempting the drive-by on Jayhawk boulevard. It’s an ugly scene. Don’t attempt it.
4. There is only one rule he needs to follow. Never ever miss class.
5. It’s advisable to get the cell phone numbers for his roommates. They are often reachable when college boy is not.
6. When you ask him about grades, and he blathers about academic confidentiality, begin the enrollment at Barton County CC.
Matt Keenan’s book, Call Me Dad, Not Dude, is available at Borders and online at thekansascitystore.com. Write to Matt at his website, matthewkeenan.com.