School Spirit

Hi! The Deputy here!

My dad recently told me about a friend of his–this would be the 1940’s–whose mother told him to pick five schools he might want to attend. He chose the five, she told him to give the schools a ring to let them know he was coming for a visit, gave him train tickets and some spending money, and sent him on his way. Alone. He was…13. These were boarding schools we’re talking about!

Let’s contrast this with some stories I have heard about today’s COLLEGE students. These are very reliable accounts, not urban myths, and so Believe It Or Not: 1. A college student was late to class because his mother forgot to give him his wake-up call. 2. A mom successfully petitioned her child’s university to let her move into the dorm so she could keep an eye on her unhappy offspring. 3. Before Parent’s Weekend, one college made the students clean their dorm rooms and someone came around with a checklist to make sure everything was in tip-top shape. Sounds like summer camp, doesn’t it? A darned expensive one, I’d say.

When, exactly, do parents decide that their children are no longer children? In the 1940’s, for some folks, it was at age 13. In 2009 it seems to be 21 and climbing. What is going to happen if no one gets to grow up? Who’s going to run the show?

59 Responses

  1. I was allowed to go visit (by myself) one of the several boarding schools that I was considering as a 13 year old. My mom came wit me to one, and the other was too far away (meaning too expensive) for me to visit.

    But most of my friends traveled home to NYC, Philadelphia and Boston from school in Connecticut. We took Amtrak, we then got on subways and buses and cabs.

    We were 13 to 17. And this was in the early 80’s, when the aforementioned cities really were scary.

    Does anyone have stories about how Free Range Kids relate to their less empowered peers (Helicopter Kids? teacups?). I remember in college having to teach my neighbor’s roommate how to use an iron. She had always had a maid who did that for her, and she was too embarrassed to ask the her roommate.

  2. Could you share what schools your three examples were from? #2 at least sounds like there might be a related news story out there. I don’t doubt the truth of these anecdotes, but I’m really really curious for more details.

  3. My sister and both my brothers left for University abroad. I remember the first time the whole family got together after they left, and they took turns in telling us what their first week was like. All of them felt like crying their first night by themselves, in a foreign country, all strangers around… One of them had all his luggage lost; another landed two days before the landord expected him, so he had to find somewhere to spend the night at 7pm, carrying all his luggage with him; the third happened to miss his train and had to find his way with practically no cash on him…
    They were 19, 18 and 17. And a couple of months later they were able to laugh about it. They didn’t even think about calling home for help, though. What good would that have been, anyway?

  4. It’s hard for me to even relate to these stories. My college education was paid for through financial aid and student loans, so whether or not I woke up in the morning or had a messy room was none of my parents’ damn business.

  5. What the heck has happened to college kids these days? I would have been mortified if my parents had to help me out like that in college and I think they would have been mortified as well. During middle school and high school I remember being taught how to do all the tasks I would need to get by in college. I couldn’t wait to “get out on my own” and take care of myself.

    Did I do laundry correctly? Heck no and nearly as often as I should have. Did i miss or show up late to morning classes due to “socialization” the previous night? You betcha. And ya know I learned from these mistakes and had life or at least self maintenance part figured out within a few years. What happens to these kids when the graduate college?

  6. My mother-in-law was visiting us this weekend and my almost 5 year old daughter was asking her to tell stories from when she was my daughter’s age. She told a story about being 5 years old and going with her older sister, who was 9 at the time, to a movie by themselves. She said that on Saturdays her parents (and every other parent in the neighborhood for that matter) would drop the children off at the movie theater for the children’s matinee. Then the parents would all leave. Of course, neither of them ever came to harm this way.

    My husband marveled at the fact that this was such a wonderful experience for his mother and aunt and yet if we tried to do that today the Department of Youth and Family Services would take the kids away from us.

    The truth is that times have changed. And that does NOT mean that kids are more at risk now than they were before. It’s doesn’t. I KNOW that kids are safer now than they were when we were kids. But, the world just isn’t built to accommodate this kind of freedom. Compare a neighborhood movie theater that runs a special children’s matinee and everyone from the neighborhood goes without their parents. That is something that would be manageable for little kids. But the gigantic mega-plex at the mall that shows 20 different movies with one starting and getting out every ten minutes is a different story. Not manageable for a 5 or 6 year old. Heck, many places don’t even have sidewalks let alone a local movie theater.

    I think instead of lamenting the over-protectiveness we should be figuring out a way to enhance our communities to include pedestrian friendly options and age appropriate options for kids.

  7. I don’t think these anecdotes by themselves are very compelling. It’s no different from the people who say we need to always watch our kids because there are a few cases of stranger abduction. It doesn’t mean that the behavior is wide spread or that things are worse now.

    I can tell tales from my university days of the kids whose parents did much of their life maintenance for them. Plenty of people had never cooked or ironed and one or two of them had mothers who made sure they didn’t have to learn.

    One of my roommates got her weekly allowance (and curfew) when she went back for the weekend or at break. And if we’d had cellphones instead of one payphone for a block of 60 students, they’d have expected calls every 10 minutes too. Several people I knew never had to do laundry or type up a paper and one guy in one of my classes had his mother come up every weekend with frozen meals for the week.

    I know of people whose parents intervened to get them better grades (usually with a large gift to the university rather than plain badgering).

    My mother had similar tales about her time at college.

    I do find the testimony from administrators that they are receiving more calls from parents a bit more convincing, though I’d like to see some more robust investigation into the claims.

  8. The woman who moved in to the dorm needs to sent for psychiatric care, assuming of course there were not extenuating circumstances as to why she did it (i.e. disabilities etc)

  9. Elizabeth, the ideas are absolutely tied together. The idea of community is so lost precisely because we don’t trust one another any longer. We don’t trust because we no longer interact. We no longer interact because nothing in our communities/lives is built to let us do that on a one-to-one scale anymore. What came first – chicken or the egg, I guess.

    I can still tell you the characteristics of every family (or their dog – i was very dog focused) between me and the bus stop from my elementary school days. I knew the cracks on everybody’s sidewalk between me and the bounds I could explore and everybody knew me (likely as the crazy dog girl)

    Anywho…. unless there is a demand and the retailers and community builders of the world can find a profit in it, the world won’t change back to a place scaled to know your neighborhood – outside of facebook that is.

    On the to school topic – not boarding school. But I went 1/2 way cross country to college by myself, without having been able to afford to visit the place first. A friend did, and I went on her word (she did not end up going there). My luggage and myself arrived by plane, I cabbed it to my dorm and those who found their way like me spent the next few days figuring out who got taken the worst by the DC cabbies.

    Did the same thing again, but overseas to Scotland for graduate school. Landing jetlagged and having no idea what to expect… Always a bit confusing at first, but the stuff of great stories later.

  10. I was just speaking to a women who has been on the phone with her kid’s professors and advisers because he’s finding his college program too hard. She’s a client so I had to bite my tongue. I would have been mortified had my parents ever done that!

  11. I remember my first year at university I lived on campus in a co-ed dorm. 88-89. We had co-ed washrooms and on parent’s weekend a father freaked out because the shower bay was an open corridor with shower stalls with shower curtains. If you weren’t diligent your shower curtain could blow a bit in the breeze as people opened the door and a flash of naked showering co-ed could be seen.

    So this dad went on the war path and forced the school to close off the shower bay with a solid door. Our floor was the only one affected. Guess when and where the first sexual assault happened?

  12. Elizabeth – westill do this drop and run at family movie matinees. The benefits of small town life. I swear Nova Scotia hasn’t changed much since the 60’s!

  13. When I was an RA at my school, I saw a lot of this firsthand. Noteworthy is that our administrator told us during training that she had had parents call her about ridiculous things like laundry, etc. Also, a professor told me that a parent had once called HIM asking him to give her son a wake up call so he didn’t miss the professor’s class. I went to a conservative, private school that had room checks every week, but it was mostly a maintenance thing. They did, however, lock the dorms at 10:00 at night, and if you wanted to get in past then, you had to go through security and sign in. If you were later than 2am, you had to wait until 6:00am or call the RA. It was ridiculous, but it was a private school and we chose to attend (I almost didn’t go there because I figured I was an adult and if I wanted to stay out until 4am, I should be allowed. I had no desire to, but it was the principle of the thing!). Williams Baptist College in Arkansas if you want the source.🙂

  14. oh, and we did have one mother who became a student so she could move into the dorm with her kids, but there were some extenuating circumstances in that case, so I don’t think it is entirely a FR issue.

  15. I went to university far from home specifically so that I could avoid this type of helicoptering. My parents were worse than most. (At the age of 19, they were still doing the whole “eat your chicken or you can’t leave the table” thing. I was a vegetarian outside the house. Let’s not even get started on what happened when I decided to wear a hat in church.) Then, to top it all off, when I dropped out of university and moved away, they kept bugging me to come home and go to university.

  16. I was definitely a free range kid growing up. Half way through my junior year in high school my mother got a teaching job 3 hours away from where we lived and instead of us moving to this new city, I convinced her that my high school gave me the best preparation for college and that I was mature enough to live by myself so she rented a small house for me in walking distance to the school. I did my own shopping and cleaning, had a bank account to pay for things I needed. She came “home” every other weekend to check up on me and she called on the phone a couple times a week but by no means every night.

    Ironically, I had a long standing agreement with a family friend that I could live in her house if I got into the college in that town, which I did. I moved in and a week later my mother, step father and sister moved in too. I never gave a second thought to living with my family during college. It was financially the best arrangement for all of us. The only time I can remember my mother interceding on my behalf on anything school related was when the bus didn’t come and I was going to be late for an exam, she drove me to campus (after we changed a flat tire!).

    I didn’t see any examples of hovering parents in college, I suppose I might have seen some if I have been in the dorms. I remember thinking one of my classmates a little odd when she explained that she was reliant on her father editing all her papers. I’ll take as many additional pairs of eyes to proof read a final draft as I can get, but to edit it?

  17. Back in 1987 I was between my junior and senior years of high school and was accepted into a summer program for high school students at a university in another city. I was 16.

    The summer program also accepted college-age students.
    On the flight up I discovered a young woman sitting near me (she was 19 or 20 IIRC) was also going to that program, and that her mother had come with her to help her get settled. The mom seemed a bit surprised that my parents had let me go up by myself, but since the program itself was rather expensive, and I had proven myself to be a pretty level-headed kid they let me go by myself without incurring the extra expense of a ticket for a chaperone. Besides, I think they figured that if I were going to spend the entire summer in a large city “by myself” (limited university supervision notwithstanding), I could handle a 1.5 hour flight and cab ride to the university by myself.

    Of course, the flight encountered some sort of problem and we came back to our takeoff city. I figured “oh well, they’ll work it out and I’ll get there eventually” and called my folks from a pay phone just to let them know what was going on (since they were expecting a “safe arrival” call when I did get there, I let them know that I was delayed). No panic, just a courtesy call so they would expect my final call later than planned. Shit happened, I dealt with it, and I did get to my destination, just later in the day than planned.

    On that “we’re late” phone call, my mother encouraged me to stay connected to the college student and her mom to share a cab – not only did it save money but it gave her a bit more comfort since I was now arriving at night rather than during the day. But really, I would’ve been fine navigating the whole situation by myself, considering that I pretty much did.

    When I started college a year later, my parents dropped me off and stuck around for a couple hours before heading back home. I remember being surprised by how many parents stayed for the entire weekend! I remember being a little lost those first few hours, but I settled in pretty quickly and most of my calls home were to tell my family just how much fun I was having!

  18. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how times change, yet don’t.

    My mother took ‘three streetcars’ to get to and from her private high school in Chicago in the l930’s…Sounds very ‘free range’! But, she didn’t date in high school, didn’t drive, and received lots of warnings and ‘how to navigate the city safely’ lectures from her police captain uncle. And, when she graduated from college, she moved in back home with mom and dad, and didn’t move out until she married, which was very typical then for young, unmarried women. So there’s more freedom, and less freedom…

    Re the college scene today, I tend to agree with some of the comments above. I think that there have always been, to some degree, over-protective parents of college age kids. The HUGE difference today is that with a year of college (private, or out of state public) ranging from $35,000 to $50, 000/year for tuition, room, board, supplies, and books (yes, it’s true for those of you who do not have kids in this age range) these parents who are spending fortunes to educate their offspring now have considerable clout at colleges and universities. And some might argue, with that kind of money being exchanged, as they should.

    The colleges/universities bitch about the ‘helicopter parents’, as well they should, but if they were not in the business of pirating small–or not so small-fortunes from parents and students for BA/BS degrees, they would not have to listen to these parents, or grant any of their kooky demands.

    In other words, the phenom of the intrusive parent is, in my mind, very much tied to the extraordinary out of control jumps in college costs in the last several decades.

  19. I guess I don’t see much issue with #3. The college is trying to sell something, and a good environment is part of what it’s trying to sell. Any college that even has the ability to make students clean their rooms (as opposed to getting laughed at or flipped off if they suggest it) probably has an upfront understanding that there is some degree of in loco parentis already active. If that’s what the students and their parents chose going in, then that’s the sort of people they want to attract in future. In loco parentis was the default setting for colleges back when kids were all free range, so I don’t think one necessarily conflicts with the other unless it’s excessive.

  20. Wow, when I went to college (in the late 90’s) the only thing that they made a point of was telling us “if you’re under 21 you can’t have alcohol in your room….but we’re NOT ALLOWED to look in your closets..wink wink”

  21. When I went to university – I had to sign a bunch of papers so the University could contact my parents (4 hours away) and cousins (30 min) away if I had a medical crisis (several interrelated medical problems that can be life threatening). I was an adult and they couldn’t tattle to my parents.

    One time it probably looked like helicopter parents though. I lived in the dorms and had a meal plan, before signing up each year I confirmed in writing that the food service would NOT be using peanut oil. (NOTE: I wasn’t trying to get peanuts banned, peanut butter was offered every meal. Food that contained peanuts was served – it was the use of peanut oil in the kitchen because this would make all the food that used oil deadly potentially deadly to me with no warning)

    Senior year school starts and I’m dragging I have eczema like I’ve never had it before -even inside my mouth (should have been a clue). Well something on the ice cream bar is mislabeled and I land in the ER. An employee helped get me to the ER. He then asks how come I’m one a meal plan, what with them using peanut oil because of President of university’s heart condition.

    Yikes – turns out they were using it in his food and there was cross contamination. I call my parents for medical advice. Mom calls the my doctor’s service and he contacts the ER and tells them I’m comming back in and they give me medication for several days and run some other tests I need. Meds I had been give for the eczema have to be stopped for 24 hours before new meds are given.

    I bounce ideas of how to handle the school off my father. We agree I’m 21 and will handle it myself. I make an appointment with the Dean of students. While I’m waiting for him, a call comes in the office gets all in a flutter and the Dean of Students goes running out of the office.

    When he comes back, I explain the problem and he says, “You too”. This has been taken care off I’ll give you money to eat out for the next 48 hours while the kitchen is cleaned and I promise this won’t be a problem ever again. He hands me a couple hundred dollars.

    Confirming who I as and who Dad’s boss was.

    The rest of the story….
    The school was in the middle of a fundraiser drive. They called my Dad’s Boss because he had given a matching donation the year before. Well Dad had been venting about the whole peanut oil in the food thing at work – and Dad’s boss was very protective of sis and I. So when they called asking boss for money – he hit the roof hard and got my Dad in on the call. (Boss was owner/ Dad was President of Company)

    In my and my parents’ defense – they called him asking for money.

  22. You forgot to mention the countless undergrads who get their parents involved in grade disputes with professors. Parents just love being over-protective, because then they feel useful and needed. It must be hard to realize your kid doesn’t need you anymore, so they just keep making them dependent. Poor castrated kids…

  23. When my mom and I went on a tour of the college I was going to go to, she was just amazed at the other parents. So many wanted to know how the college would be enforcing curfew, how they could decide what classes their child would take, how to ensure they stayed in the right major and how to get the report cards sent to the parents rather than the student. Some were pretty upset to find out that even though they were paying, they had no right to any of that.

  24. I was just thinking of something like this earlier today as I watched a bunch of high school kids (actually about 50 or so) mill around the neighborhood after a parade or something they had. I started wondering what all the helicopter parents plan to do when their kids go off to college.

    I remember my first week in 1995. My parents drove me over, helped me drag my stuff up 3 flights of stairs, met my roommates’ parents, took me to lunch, roamed around the campus (by themselves…it was the first time any of us had been there) and then left me for the night. The next morning they took me to breakfast and we said our good-byes and that was that.

    My roommates’ parents all stuck around for a few days, ate every meal with them, etc, etc. And then the first week they each called home at least 2 or 3 times a day. They even cried at night because they were so alone without Mommy and Daddy with them. I didn’t even have a long distance plan the first 2 months of school so I had no way to contact my parents even if I wanted to. My mom called once a week to make sure I was okay.

    That all got me thinking about kids today. Most of the orientation classes were sent on this scavenger hunt around campus and the “square” (the downtown area of town). My group didn’t do it but I had already explored the town on my own. I can only imagine parents today forbidding their adult children from wandering off campus. Or making them so scared they wouldn’t even think to try. I moved out of the dorms a couple months into my sophomore year into a tiny apartment a block off the square. It was bliss. I was 19 and I lived there until I was married and due with my oldest child (it was way too small for 2 people let alone a baby, lol). I was 23 then.

    Then there was the whole issue with half of my freshman class not even knowing how to do their own laundry. They had never had to take care of themselves before and were totally lost. It was kind of sad to see a 6’3″ tall 18 year guy staring at the washing machine and sheepishly asking if anyone knew how to work it. They seemed so desperate and embarrassed. Of course a 1/3 just took their laundry home to Mommy every weekend so she could do it. I bet those kids are still having Mommy wash their stuff…or their wives.

  25. “Then there was the whole issue with half of my freshman class not even knowing how to do their own laundry. They had never had to take care of themselves before and were totally lost. It was kind of sad to see a 6′3″ tall 18 year guy staring at the washing machine and sheepishly asking if anyone knew how to work it.”

    Neither my roommate nor I had ever done much laundry before this fall (we both hail from pretty free-range families, but at least in my case, my mother is a neat-freak who has every bit of the fabric in the house cleaned before you can even *say* laundry.) So we did something that was obviously indicative of our vast genius. We…figured it out. Laundry, I thought, was pretty straightforward.

    Just today, though, I hear a group of people complaining that it’s apparently confusing and hard. And I’m in the sciences. Quantum physics isn’t too much of a problem, but…clothes in, detergent in, button on…is??? Of course, we as a generation do spend an awful lot of time in the academic classroom and not much in the worldly one, so perhaps quantum physics actually *is* an easier problem to tackle.

  26. If the sources are so “reliable” then surely any decent writer or journalist would cite them. Why haven’t you? Pretty dodgy “integrity” on this blog sometimes…

  27. “Just today, though, I hear a group of people complaining that it’s apparently confusing and hard. And I’m in the sciences. Quantum physics isn’t too much of a problem, but…clothes in, detergent in, button on…is???”

    This had me laughing. Before my husband went to college he had never done a load of laundry in his life. So, when he wanted clean clothes, having really no idea what else to do he (drum roll, please) read the care labels! And followed the directions! By reading the washing machine settings!

    Weird, huh?

  28. “If the sources are so “reliable” then surely any decent writer or journalist would cite them. Why haven’t you? Pretty dodgy “integrity” on this blog sometimes…”

    Well, for one thing, she’s an actual reporter, so not all of her sources are pre-published . . . . All sources, at some point in time, came from actual human beings who are not cataloged for the convenience of the general public.

  29. Un freakin believable….my kids will not be calling me daily, coming home every weekend, or expecting me to solve their problems for them when in college. In fact, although I’m sure I will miss them, I am looking forward to having one less body in our small house!

  30. I was wondering what your stance is on the whole H1N1 vaccine debate. Do you think the vaccine is safe? Do you think the media is hyping up the pandemic?

  31. I’ve noticed that a lot of COLLEGES are still treating their students like children. In especially private institutions, there are still ridiculous rules and penalties for curfew, dress code, etc. It’s like even the colleges are still trying to convince young adults that they are NOT adults, and still need to be closely supervised in every decision or thing they do. when will we be ALLOWED to grow up?

  32. @mammatiamat….actually Lenore didn’t write that piece, I did! I”m her guest blogger for one more day. Lenore is definitely a journalist and I am more of a…thoughtful writer bringing up some points to ponder. But really, those stories are true–true in the sense that they were told to me by friends. But you are right, journalism it isn’t. I do think it is outrageous that parents would do this to their children–not let their children grow-up in a myriad of ways–and that is the story I wanted people to think about. Lenore has a piece today, 10/27, and will be back full time on 10/29.

  33. @wellcraftedtoo…I’m so glad you brought up the concept of whether there was truly more more “free-range” in the past–excellent points about the cultural constraints that young adults–especialy women–were under. I wanted to talk about that too, but then the piece would be way too long. I still think, though, that despite those constraints (for example, marriage as a career), the main point of parenting was to ensure that the child could navigate his/her world on his/her own. I just don’t think that is the case now. (I also agree heartily with your college tuition/parent involvement point.)

  34. I’ve been teaching at the college level for 10 years now. It is scary how every year the parents are more intrusive, and the students are more helpless. The students expect professors to remind them about everything, their parents ask me what their textbooks will be so they can buy the books for their little snowflakes, a student doesn’t turn in any work, flunks, and then his mommy calls the dean to complain – I have seen all of these. Students are constantly walking around with cellphones glued to their ears saying “Hi Mom…” These parents are doing their children no favors.

    When I showed up to college, it was me, my carry on, and 1 bag (which the airline lost for 2 days) on the plane. I had never visited the place – we could barely afford college, let alone visiting 6 different campuses around the country to figure out which one would pamper me the most. The person driving the shuttle from the airport was aghast and asked “What if you don’t like it?” I replied, “For $20K a year, I am going to love it, or my mom is going to kill me!” College was my problem – and I rose to the occasion because my parents lovingly expected me to.

  35. What really concerns me, as a mom of three who grew up in a college town and who has worked in HR, is what kind of employees these kids are going to be? If they expect Mommy and Daddy to fix every little problem? What’s going to happen if, although they have the credentials on paper, they have no idea how to run their personal lives and didn’t really earn the credentials they’re supposed to have (because cheating is so widespread)?

    It could look like: project is due. Arrived late in wrinkled, stale clothes because they were left in the washer too long because Mommy wasn’t there to take them out. Arrive hungry and sluggish because forgot to go grocery shopping so all that was left in the fridge was mustard and beer. Had to wash hair with laundry soap because forgot shampoo. And project is technically done, but was obviously done by someone who has no idea what they’re doing.

    So when this person gets fired, they first turn to their parents, who call HR, all upset. Does it get them anywhere? Not at all. So, just maybe, the person sues on basis of hygiene discrimination.

    And this may, or may not, be the first big wakeup call this kid gets. Some people will slide into looserdom and drug abuse because partying is about the only thing they can do without Mommy and Daddy’s help, especially now that they’re 21.

  36. Okay, I’m reading the book and trying to unclench while whittling away at the cord over here but I got in hysterics laughing when I read this. This morning I was guilty of fully dressing (shoes, socks, uniform and hair) both kids while they slept to save time. Noting it was time for a change in this method I stopped myself from brushing the teeth of two sound asleep children. My offspring will be waiting in their dorm rooms looking confused and wondering how to use buttons and zippers. I am truly pitiful, but trying hard to change!

  37. I didn’t catch who wrote the comment about the coed floors, but that is a great point. My university’s dorm had coed floors with the exception of a few single sex floors. I did not realize how odd this was until speaking about with friends at other schools who said that their parents would never let them live with boys on the same floor.

    For us, it was never a big deal – more of a dysfunctional family than anything else. In my four years the only sexual assaults that I was aware of took place on the all girl floors. On our floor, the doors were always open and you were sure to run into someone on the way in or out.

    Now, I would feel far safer if my children were on a coed floor in college. I understand it is like having your own built in surveillance unit, for the small price of lack of privacy that occurs at college anyway.

  38. I lived on a coed floor, with coed bathrooms. Some people initially freaked about the coed bathroom thing. But then someone else said, “Well, your bathroom at home is coed, right?” Amen.

  39. I can see what Brenda’s saying about co-ed floors having a sort of built-in security, but where my daughter goes to college, the single sex floors all have card access. Men (including fathers and brothers) are only allowed in during certain weekend hours on a sign-in basis. So there’s more than one way to have security. And the girls like being able to run in and out of the bathroom in their towels. 😉

  40. Our floors didn’t have any card access of any kind (single sex or otherwise). Besides, I haven’t heard of a security system that college kids didn’t find a way around. Kids are very clever when it comes to getting the opposite sex into their rooms.

    For my friends that lived on the all girls floor they really hated never knowing when a boy would pop up (generally a marine, we were near a base) or into their bathrooms. Where as on a co-ed floor each gender had their own bathroom and we knew enough to take a robe into the shower for the walk back to the room. Which, was always delayed by those conversations that you get distracted by in college.

    I know it isn’t for everyone – being an only child, it was the first time in my life I felt like I had brothers watching out for me. A very nice feeling. They may have picked on me a little, but god forbid if someone else picked on me.

  41. “Weekend, one college made the students clean their dorm rooms and someone came around with a checklist to make sure everything was in tip-top shape”

    West Point?

    Re: the co-ed bathroom idea–I hate it. That’s ridiculous. Yes, I grew up with “co-ed” bathrooms at home, but it never involved having a young man taking a shower in the stall next to me, and then having to walk out wrapped only in a towel past him to my room. When did basic modesty become such a crime in our society? And who wants to pee in a stall next to someone of the opposite sex on whom they might happen to have a crush? What happened to mystery? This modern co-ed bathroom thing is a bit asine. And, frankly, boys can be stinky.

  42. And who wants to pee in a stall next to someone of the opposite sex on whom they might happen to have a crush? What happened to mystery?

    Gee, gay folks do it all the time and nobody seems to think they should do anything else. If you, at 18, are still so turned off by basic bodily functions as to be unable to pee – not visible to anybody else! – in a stall next to somebody you may be attracted to, well… that’s a lot like looking at 22 year olds who can’t buy condoms. It’s a little sad.

    Plus, co-ed bathrooms (or private single bathrooms) are incredibly useful in preserving the dignity and safety of one small group of people: Transgendered individuals. (Transgendered people have been arrested for using the “wrong” bathroom… which is, depending on the cop, either the one for their biological sex or the one for their assigned gender. Can’t win for losing.)

    So long as there’s the option for single-sex floors (and bathrooms and all) I don’t see the point in calling the equal *option* for co-ed choices “ridiculous”.

  43. I have a 15 year old and sometimes he can be very mature and other times he is a little boy again. Our plan right not is two years of community college after High School and then off to the college of his coice. My thought is when he turns 18, it is about time for him to start acting like an adult, because he is one.

  44. We worked out the bathroom situation very simply. Several of the bathrooms had only 1 shower. If you heard the shower going, you didn’t go in. One had 3 stall showers with changing rooms. Once you were in the shower, no one could see in, and everyone wore bathrobes. If you were really squeamish about showering next to a guy, you waited for one of the single shower bathrooms. We all lived. And no RAs or parents had to get involved.

  45. @Deputy, and in re to my own comments above–You know, there really IS something to this whole huge increase in cost of college and parental willingness to get involved thing…

    I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘hands-off the schools’ kind of parent (I was raised to RESPECT teachers and school administrators). But the comments on this post have made me remember how, to my own surprise, I called and complained on behalf of my daughter not once, but two times in her early years at a huge, prestigious, and very expensive West Coast university (which shall remained unnamed, and of which I hold a good amount of respect for academically, at least).

    The first time, she was a freshman, still in a dorm, and could not–despite multiple attempts–get her roommate to stop having her boyfriend over for the night. When my kid finally confided to me, in tears, that this boy was sleeping in a bed no more than 3-4 feet from hers, I hit the ceiling, called the dormitory supervisors, and read them the riot act. They were very cooperative, and I ended up wishing I’d called sooner, but I had not as I hadn’t wanted ‘to interfere’, and wanted my daughter to handle the situation, if she could.

    I know that one last straw for me was hearing how claustrophobic the living situation had become, but I also know I was REALLY bugged by the fact that her dad and I were shelling out more than 10 big ones for the dorm room that this boy was now ‘squatting’ in!

    The second time I went into parental overdrive also involved housing, again, very overpriced. In her second year at said university, my child lived in–briefly–one of the co-op houses in her West Coast college town (those of you from CA have, I’m sure, a good idea what town I’m speaking of). Said co-op was supposed to be a bargain compared to the grossly inflated rentals available in this town, and it was a bargain, relatively, in terms of money. In terms of the accommodations–well, let’s just say, even many messy 19 year olds are not happy in the co-ops.

    What my kid couldn’t get used to was that the loft bed that came in her room (which she shared) was so high that she couldn’t sit up in it without hitting her head on the ceiling! Anyone who knows teens knows that many, if not most, live pretty much on their beds which double as library, desk, dining table, and living room, and this situation really bugged her.

    When I realized that our so-called ‘bargain’ rent for this room would have paid for something double the size back home, and that her own complaints had gotten her nowhere, I called on her behalf. This time, however, my complaints were not greeted kindly, and the two roommates were forced to bring another bed into the room, convert the loft into a storage shelf, and basically crawl over and around the two twins to navigate the room–until they left at the end of the semester for ‘better’ housing…

    Would I have gone to bat for my kid if, in either instance, the prices we were paying were something along the lines of the free and easy days of MUCH more affordable higher education? Perhaps, eventually…But I can’t help but think that the high–oh, let’s be honest–the SCANDALOUSLY high prices we were being expected to fork over definitely made me MUCH quicker to intercede on her behalf.

    Granted, these weren’t academic issues, and I do have trouble imagining getting involved with issues like that, but if someone had said to me years ago that someday I’d be calling a major university on behalf of my child, I’d have thought, no way! Money can def tilt the balance!

  46. […] in a culture that, if parents such as myself didn’t speak up against it, will conspire to eunuch our children’s abilities to actually grow up, go out, and be part of the world.  Safety. My. Ass. (hey hand-wringers, do you really care about kids’ safety? Have you […]

  47. Time for a new blog: Free-Range Adults!

  48. wellcraftedtoo Sometimes family sticks up for family – and some times there is a significant difference in age. That isn’t anti free range.

    My Mom about took the head off one of my sister’s professors who informed Mom and Sister’s friends that if sister didn’t show for the final. Why wasn’t sister talking the the professor – she was semi-conscious in the hospital with 105 fever and raging infection due to a cyst rupturing.

    A cousin and I went to the same sleep away camp. I walk into my cabin the 2nd year and am ordered out by cousin. I order cousin out. Councilor Dusty hauls both of us out and tells us we were put in the same cabin so we would learn to get along. We tell her we are cousins (was in our paper work). She looked stricken.

    I have coordination problems that involve both gross and fine motor skills and I sleep walk. I was assigned a top bunk. I complained (I was 10 yo) and asked for an empty bottom bunk. I was told no. I was given demerits for not making my bed properly. I was given demerits for falling out of my bunk. Cousin and I are going at each other hammer and tongs day in and day out – we both got demerits for that (deserved)

    One night there is a shot or back fire. I come out of the bunk. Fly 1/2 way down the cabin before I hit the floor. Dusty starts to yell at me. Cousin gets in her face with a fury few have seen.

    Cousin (11 yo) orders the adult to put me in the lower bunk NOW and to stop yelling at me for things I can’t help – like sleep walking. That she is lucky that it was me not my little sister – because then you would be dealing with bad bruises and broken bones.

    That if she doesn’t move me Cousin is going to write her parents, my parents, our mutual grandmother, her paternal grandmother, both her sisters and their husbands, their husbands’ parents, and my Godparents (our great aunt and uncle) and they would show up in mass to sort her out. I was given the lower bunk that night. (Her middle sister and middle sister’s inlaws were listed as emergency contacts for both of us in case we had to be taken to the Hospital. They lived 2 hours from the camp and our parents were 4 or 5 depending on how low they flew. )

    Next day we were hammer and tongs at each other again. Outsiders didn’t get we were family and even when we didn’t get along that didn’t mean an outsider got away with hurting one of us. At the ages of 15 and 16 we had one last humongous fight. Walked downstairs told our mothers/grandmothers to stop comparing us – went to a movie. She and Sis are my best friends.

  49. After reading most of the responses, I feel better about letting my just turned 17 years old son tour across the US with his band…Come to think of it he is the most responsible of the 3. Hummm

  50. I’m a slightly older college student (I’m 25). Because of financial aid reasons and frequently unsafe travel conditions during the (very long) winter, I live on-campus.
    I listen to so many of my neighbors who don’t know how to deal with even pseudo-adult issues (like laundry, or discussing academic concerns, or dealing with a roommate conflict), because Mommy and Daddy have always taken care of things for them. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve reminded to look at the syllabus when they vaguely remember something about a test or paper coming up (the majority of the professors include some kind of description of major assignments, due dates, etc), or suggested that they talk to a professor when they’ve failed the second test (and there are only four, including the final) and that they do this before calling and crying to their parents about unfair teachers.

    A lot of them complain about not having any money, when they have a job (that they decide to skip almost as often as they do class) and a regular allowance from Mommy and Daddy. You know what? I have a job, too, but no allowance. And you know what most of my paycheck goes towards? Health insurance. The rest takes care of those silly little things like shampoo and laundry detergent (and coffee). I don’t go out multiple times a week, I don’t buy video games etc. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally make pitiful faces at my parents when I need or would like something I don’t have money for (I asked my mom a few weeks ago if she could check out the cardigan sale at Old Navy, for example), but I’m living pretty simply because it’s all I can afford.

  51. My sons are 18 and 20. I never knew I was free-range until I ran across this blog a year or so ago. But they played outside, at night, in the dark – tag and war and hide and seek – all up and down the street. They were kids. It was fun. I can’t see a problem with that. Now that they are grown, well, I followed my oldest to college (3 hours away) because we needed my truck to put stuff in, helped him unload, took him to lunch, gave him a hug, and drove home. He never expected any different. He is also paying for his last two years of college himself – that was our deal – it makes him much more thoughtful about switching majors, etc. He may call me to use as a sounding board but he makes his own decisions. I love my kids and am proud to see them grow into young men that can make thoughtful decisions. (I was glad to see this topic by the way – the topics on this blog usually deal with younger children, but I read it anyway because it’s interesting to me.) P.S. They learned to do their own laundry as young teenagers.

  52. @kherbert–I like that, ‘family sticking up for family’.

    Yes, it is REALLY hard sometimes to just stand by and watch your kid–especially young adult kids, who you think maybe/ might be/ should be able to handle the situation–struggle, and get taken advantage of by others. Very tricky to figure out just when or even IF to intervene…

    Looking back I’m OK with how I handled those situations. Now said kids are 20 and 23, and both are so feisty sometimes with ‘persons in authority’ that I’ve told each one they’d make damn fine defense attorneys (no interest from either–yet).

  53. The key word in the story about the 13 year old was “he”. A girl in the 1940s would have experienced no such freedoms. In fact, a 21 year old female college student on every campus with which I’m familiar would have been treated like a middle school student today. Rigid curfews. check-in and check-out procedures, lights out, room inspections, have to procure parental permission to date, could be kicked out if suspected of drinking alcohol. A girl in the ’40s who did not go to college would be expected to live at home, under her parents’ rigid guidelines. If she didn’t, she would be considered loose or at least unfeminine and overly bold. If she were raped, it would be considered her fault and could ruin her life. If she were caught transgressing in any of the ways we consider to be normal kid experimentation today, she would fall from all grace with society. Sure, she could ride the tram to her secretary job without Mommy holding her hand… but as soon as she achieved that coveted MRS. degree, she was expected to leave that job – or again, something was wrong with her.

    You know, I totally agree with your central premise, both in this post and in general; but promoting the past as a halcyon hey-day without regard for its significant warts puts a bad taste in my mouth.

  54. I used to work at the front desk in the dorms (answering phones, checking out keys, etc) and I can confirm many a helicopter parent calling in to check on their little snowflake.

  55. @GirlThursday…not sure if you’ll check back on this blog (I am cleaning up my desktop and just wanted to see what else people had so say before I deleted the link…) but wanted to say thank you so much for your points. Excellent! I was just thinking that it is very easy to say that things were better in the past and worse now…or vice versa, depending on your point of view and the topic. One risks being naive and superficial…yikes!

    Your point about the differences in freedoms for boys vs girls was right on. But I still feel my point is valid. The very fact that girls did ride the tram to work without their mommies holding their hands –or calling to “check in” via cell-phone–is a fairly grown up activity. I would venture–not journalism, just an opinion–that young adults today, because of cell-phones frankly, remain connected with their parents for way too long. I would also say that getting that Mrs. degree is a sign of adulthood. (I know, I know, the gal in question is replacing one patriarchal system for another…but that’s for another blog!)

  56. My mother who works with college students at the University of Virginia frequently comments on seeing students who can’t perform the most basic life functions like getting dressed without consulting with their parents on the phone. sigh.

    I often feel that my children (9,11 and 14) will feel uncared-for when I make them do things for themselves like make their own after-school snacks. But what I tell them is that I need you to do for yourself what you CAN do for yourself so I can do the things that you can’t. And I expect that what they CAN do will be an ever-expanding category. Plus, if they make their own snacks or keep track of their own possessions we all have time for the better stuff in life.

    I too arrived at college (back in 1978) unable to do my own laundry and having never taken a public bus. I wish I had known these basic survival skills. So I now make sure that my kids take on skills as soon as it seems that they are developmentally able. Plus, I expect them to understand team-work. At 9 you may not be able to do something for yourself but Mommy is not the first line of defense in all tasks. There’s 3 of them and I want them to be able to help each other do things together that they cannot do separately.

  57. Ok, I’m so late in leaving a comment(just discovered this site two days ago) but I just had to say: The first story sounds EXACTLY like my ex-boyfriend. His mom would wake him up every day for college. I won’t even get into all the other stuff..

  58. I had a friend who was interviewing a university student for a summer job. And whose mother not only took him to the building, but refused to be separated for the interview proper!

    They were both shown the door without further ado.

  59. A interesting post there mate . Cheers for that !

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