Friday, August 31, 2007

They're back.....

I was running a little late this morning, so it wasn't till 6:30 that I was walking down Fenway on my way to take the train to the gym and there they were. An army of SUV's, mini vans and station wagons. The students are back and anyone with an ounce of sense will avoid any retail outlet or tourist venue for the weekend.

I arrived in this city myself as a student, but this was back at the dawn of time, so things were a bit different. Generally speaking, once you were out of your parents house, you were on your own. Some people were getting a bit of financial assistance, or pieces of furniture from various basements, attics or garages and maybe a few bucks pocket money to tide them over the first few weeks. Now, anxious parents are buying out big box stores, purchasing condos, depleting the stocks of supermarkets and arranging everything short of au pairs for their college student offspring. Wide screen TV's? My friends were lucky if their parents relinquished the old rec room black and white set with a coat hanger for an antennae.

I can only assume that these parents intentions are the best, but I don't think they are doing their children any service. College used to be a rite of passage into adulthood. Now it seems more like an extension of day camp. Institutions of higher learning are viewed as high end baby sitting services and it is somehow the universities fault if their kids are not doing their work, making decent grades or are getting into trouble. Working at a school I am fortunate in that I have very little contact with the undergraduates. I hear stories though. There are parents that are calling on a weekly basis to make sure that their little darling is dressing warmly and that angelcakes special requirements are being met and that no one is doing anything to upset those delicate sensibilities.

It's not just the freshmen either. One friend at work told me about a couple of cases where graduating seniors had their parents go with them on job interviews to negotiate salaries! In one case, after the kid started, he got yelled at by his boss and his mother called his place of work the next day, very upset, because her little darlings feelings had been hurt! Isn't that just so special? I personally would have fired the kid on the spot. If he doesn't have the maturity to fight his own battles or at least keep his mother shut up, he has no place in the work force.

Parents need to back off. Cut the umbilical. Push the kids out of the nest. Choose your metaphor. We wonder why the country is in the shape it's in? Maybe it's because we have decided that no one is capable of taking care of themselves and that it is the responsibility of education and employers to continue to hold the hands of peoples adult children. Does infantilizing young adults improve their ability to cope with the real world? More importantly what are these parents thinking?

Speaking as a middle aged man with a mother who still persists in trying to dictate to him, I can say that having a meddling parent is not even remotely helpful. The only lesson I took away from it was that when my daughter went off on her own I adopted a noninterference policy that has held me in good stead for the past several years. The daughters mistakes were hers to make and if it was painful to witness, it was also a bit gratifying to watch as she mustered up the maturity and courage to deal with her own problems and to feel as though I had played some small part in helping shape her ability to function as an adult. Of course, I am with rather limited means, so there has been very little I could do to smooth the path, but I didn't feel the need to call up her bosses and tell them to stop being meanies when my little angel was having troubles at work either.

So, all of these really special college kids are once again invading our fair city. They will congest the sidewalks, be rude and feckless and feel as though it is their right to behave as badly as they choose. That, yes as a matter of fact they do own the sidewalk and the amenities, that they have been assured by their doting parents that they are indeed entitled to do exactly as they please, that it is wrong for others to behave in exactly the same way if that will upset these little prodigies and everyone really should get out of their way and let them do what they want or they will throw a tantrum.

The first few weeks are always the worst, then classes and the New England winter weather drives them indoors and they are somewhat less underfoot. Oh well, there is always Memorial Day and the grand exodus to look forward to.