By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
It occurred to me recently, that back when my husband and I were college-shopping with our now-26 year old son, it was a shared responsibility. It was also something neither of our parents did for or with us. When it was time to start thinking about college, we pretty much ran our own shows. And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even visit the college I planned on going to. I just applied, got accepted and went.
Our daughter just turned 18 on New Year’s Day, and she is now on deck. I am really proud of her for doing all her own research into schools, and making the tour arrangements. She’d ask me questions and I’d answer all that I could, but when I couldn’t, she’d go to her guidance counselor. Now how can I put this delicately? My daughter is not a motivated student. But I’m blown away by a commitment and maturity that I’ve never seen in her before. (She still, thank heaven, asks me to tuck her in from time-to-time, so I still have my baby girl. For now, at least.) But mostly, I believe that college shopping is her job to do because ultimately, she’s the one who’ll be going to that school and getting that education. My girl picked four colleges/universities to visit, turning this past summer into a fun road-trip-filled one for her, my husband and me. We bonded with her in an entirely different way and on a whole different level. The same thing happened with our son.
Here’s where my confusion lies. I have heard of parents who start the college search, with or without their student. They make the arrangements for the tours and they help them write their essays. I have to admit, I don’t agree with those tactics, and my question for those parents is, “If your child can’t initiate and follow through on the college search, how do you know they’ll be able to manage on their own once they’re at school without you?”
There has to come a time when the helicopter stops hovering.
I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t be involved in the planning. We need to be involved from that point, all the way through to college graduation, and even after that. It just seems to me that at some point, we need to allow our kids to test their wings. Sometimes that freedom can weigh those wings down…and eventually out…of school. But it’s that child’s fight to fight, just as it’s his or her life to live.
I understand that I am pontificating and how dare I do that when every child is different? All I can say is that school was never an easy road for either of my kids, and when I needed to be, I was as helicopter as you could get.
I’m just saying that when it’s time to start thinking in terms of college, maybe that’s the time to allow our kids’ independence to shine through while we watch over them with love, openness, and a willingness to swoop in and help, if needed.
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your opinion.
Happy New Year!