Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Helicopters and Velcro

So according to this article in the New York Times, parents are having a hard time leaving campus after delivering their snowflakes. I understand that. I've always found it difficult when I had to leave my dogs at the kennel. But these people are freakin' whack-jobs!

Schools are scheduling in "leave your little snowflake behind" sessions during orientation. After that, the flakes do things like "floor bonding" exercises with dorm mates. WTH? When did college become summer camp? I had no idea that these cult rituals were occurring on campuses. No wonder the flakes are so flakey.

When I left for college, my parents didn't spend the weekend in town just in case I needed anything or to take me the breakfast the next day. (Good thing, too, since I had a wicked hangover after my first night of freedom!) They slowed down the car, kicked my ass out, threw a $20 to me, and said "I guess you'll find you way back home at Thanksgiving." And you know what? I grew up to be a successful, independent, professional woman.

Maybe it's best that these parents can't let go. Because in four to six years when their knuckleheads graduate and can't find a job better than flipping burgers, the flakes will find their way back home. Then they can all sleep in the same bed together again.


  1. I drove myself to college. I never saw my parents on campus until my senior year, when my sister was also there. I grew up to get a PhD, so I guess that wasn't too debilitating.

  2. Helicopter parents pissed me off even when I was an undergrad. I worked as an RA in the dorms for a few years. One day, I got a call from my boss to come to her office. Turns out that the mother of one of the students on my floor called my boss to tell her that the floor was too cold for her daughter. You wanna know the kicker? Daughter was leaving her window open--IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER. Mother knew about this fact, but still wanted the heat turned up for the entire building of 1000 students just to make sure her little precious was comfortable.

  3. Yeah, my family didn't stick around, they just helped me get my stuff into the dorm, commented on how oppressively tiny it was, then took off. That was 20 years ago and in those days, orientation was a one-hour lecture along the lines of "the library's over here, grades are posted here, and remember to see your advisor." At the same university, nowadays orientation is a three-day weekend to which families are invited to stay over in the dormitories. In addition to the usual placement tests and issuing photo IDs, freshmen are treated to endless presentations, team-building exercises, campus tours, financial aid and loan counseling, academic advisement, registration, distribution of academic schedules for each student, "exciting evening activities," whatever those might be, and of course breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the cafeteria. So I think freshmen nowadays are a little more helpless and require more coddling than they used to, and that's probably why their parents want to stick around, since they are they ones who made their kids so helpless to begin with.

  4. It's the photos more than the article that give away the game for me. Viewers--which one of these soft-as-a-marshmallow adultolescents is the dad and which is the student?(!)

    Man up, gentlemen, if you can.

  5. My siblings and I all commuted to college, but my parents have always been big fans of us dealing with our college issues ourselves. They were happy to drive us to college visits, but we had to ask the questions and get the information. And when I went to grad school in a foreign country, I had no choice but to move in by myself.

    I hate working at recruitment/"preview" days and having to talk to the parents. The parent will come up with the child and say, "We're interested in psychology." Who's "we"? Usually, the parent is listening intently while the child is sullenly staring off in the corner, wishing he could be anywhere else.

  6. My son was a college freshman last year and, while I'm not a helicopter parent, I was glad to see that they did some first week activities. At his particular college, they are filled with high GPA, high SAT kids with high levels of introversion (and/or, perhaps, academic psychosis). Soooo... it wasn't such a bad thing in his case. Fortunately, he's not a demanding snowflake.

    The funny (ha ha) thing was that they separated the kids from the parents like they were going off to boot camp. "Ok, time for parents to go do some activities. You may see your kids tomorrow during feeding time."

    As others said in one way or another: when I went to college, my mother, uncle, etc, carted me about 160 miles away, stayed for about 2 hours and hauled out of town. Did I care? Heck no!!! FREEDOM! We had a full week (even "back in the day"), but we didn't get any counseling or other nice touchy-feely stuff. We just had big sessions to attend, buy books, register for class, drink cheap/horrible beer, and sleep until noon.

    P.S. The other parental unit in the household is not just a helicopter parent; she is the Head of Stalker Moms, Inc.

  7. Dr D - I'll do ya one better - my parents stuck around for about 2 MINUTES - just long enough to comment on how crappy the furniture was, admire the lakeside view from the window (my room's only redeeming feature), greet the residence don who dropped by, and then sayonara.
    I too was happy to see them off - my next task was to go buy a case of beer, pronto!

    I went to university about 3 hours from home, in a small city in the centre of farmland, forest, and lakes 3 hours away from any other city in all directions. So, most of the student populace shook off their parents real quick, the drive was just long enough to be inconvenient to all except the most devoted helicopter parent (which wasn't much of a phenomenon anyways 20 years ago). My siblings went to universities in a region where there was a moderate-large city every 1 hour drive or so. Apparently, the dorms emptied out every Thurs or Fri as the kiddies went home nearly every weekend. I'd be curious to know if there's less of this helicopter parent stuff, and correspondingly less snowflakery, on campuses in 'isolated college towns/cities' where the student body comes from elsewhere, stays put with visits home only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break/reading week, and mom and dad are for the most part a long way away.

  8. My parents were so hands-off when it came to college that I had to wait until I was considered "independent" to go to school so I could get financial aid without them. People who expect their parents to do everything for them when it comes to college make me sick.

  9. I was just dumped on a plane and sent to college, much to my relief. My roommate's parents took me out to dinner.

  10. I guess I'm not surprised by this, after all I see these kids when they show up in their slippers and pajama bottoms on the first day of class, as if I'm supposed to maybe pour them some juice and give them a plate of Pop Tarts before we start class.

    The article mentions a "Parting Ceremony" that allows those doting parents to say goodbye in some kind of overwrought farewell. I wouldn't mind being there for that, of course, so when the parents have to call me later in the semester to tell me that their darling son needs extra time because of "undiagnosed" ADD, at least they'll know what I look like.

  11. We shouldn't be surprised at the camp-like feel to the modern American college campus when even the PRISON system coddles the fuck outta its charges: Do you those poor widdle boyses and girlies have EIGHT PAGES of candy bar choices their mommies and daddies can choose from to fill care packages for those lonely and misunderstood...sleep-over campers?

  12. My mom wanted to stick around when she first dropped me off to college 11 years ago. Actually, she got very angry at me, stopped talking, and threw a hissy fit about how much I didn't love her when I ditched her to go hang out with friends during orientation. Rinse. Repeat. This was more or less the scene when she came and saw the play I was in at one point or another too -- screaming and crying over my wanting to go to the cast party and not hanging out with her.

    Me? I just thought it was freaking embarrassing. I, too, went on and became a college instructor, soon to be newly minted PhD, and administrator.

    When kids show up with their entire families for orientation I just shudder. I would have rather crawled in a hole and died than have parents present for that stuff.

  13. Yesterday I discovered that my university engages in this absurdity. After I cussed my way through the parking lot because there were no spaces, I soon discovered why: Mommies and Daddies were meeting with their babies' First Year instructor. Oy! I'm so glad I didn't agree to teach this non-course this year!

  14. "When did college become summer camp?"

    Are you fucking serious? It became summer camp when we started full time staff who need to justify their existence. If we don't provide a camp like atmosphere, then the dears will transfer (which hurts retention) or drop out (which hurts retention). Did I mention this bullshit retention cause?

    Yes, like the rest of you, my parents stayed long enough blah blah blah. My folks did have the decency to buy me a case of beer on their way out of town. I enjoyed one or two beers before my RA wrote me up.

    Guess who fucking transfered after the first semester?

    Moral of the story for our worthless and brainless administration folk: let the little dears drink beer in their room and they will stay five or six years.


    That hurts time to completion. Never mind.


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