EC: Phone Home

by Beacon Staff • September 16, 2009

You may plan to hit the gym tomorrow and the three days after that (lower your expectations); get involved with EmComm or Rareworks (the common room scene is also fun) or soak up Boston (please use the buddy system).,Fair new students, with your first week of classes nearly behind you, you may stay up until 4 a.m. just because. This will only last a few weeks, though, because it is pointless and stupid. Also, your roommate will murder you.

You may plan to hit the gym tomorrow and the three days after that (lower your expectations); get involved with EmComm or Rareworks (the common room scene is also fun) or soak up Boston (please use the buddy system).

You may even plan to call your parents with diligent regularity. But then again, maybe you don't. You just arrived at Emerson, and you're trying to figure the place out. Is this the best time to cling to Mom and Dad? Probably not.

But please, don't forget your poor folks. Just as college presents incredible academic, career and social opportunities, it presents a unique relational opportunity: The chance to shift from your parents' child to their friend.

How your relationship evolves depends on how you relate to your parents, ranging from the incredible love and support I experienced to the heartbreaking emotional and physical traumas of others'. In light of this, some will use college to fade out of their parents' lives. But most of us will miss them, and they may miss us even more.

If you don't get in touch with them for a while, they may worry. Your parents could be holding vigil right now, praying to the College Gods that you don't go bankrupt, wear your skinny jeans too skinny or pop up in the wrong section of the newspaper (the police blotter or the obituaries come to mind).

A parent's imagination can run wild especially if you rarely call them or don't return theirs. So pick up the phone. Try to chat briefly with each parent three times a week. Sometimes, you can't fit in long conversations.

That's fine. Calling just to say hello is thoughtful, and your parents probably don't have forever to talk to you either.

These calls may seem trivial, but they can lay a communication foundation that will help you stay close to them for the rest of your lives, even if you live across the country.

You should also visit home when you can (which I do at least often enough for my mom to cut my hair), and introduce your family to your friends. If they live close by, invite your family to Boston for coffee or a weekend lunch. They'll love the thought of you wanting to see them.

Most likely, they'll stop nagging about your eating and sleeping habits after a few months. Your conversations will become more relaxed and casual. Sensing your growing comfort, they'll trust you're okay. They'll understand that not every quandary will require their advice. They'll let you figure out a lot on your own.

But when you do need them, your parents will be there, ready to offer a pep talk or advice--not always the advice we want to hear, but most often the advice we need. When I struggled through my first semester, my mom's love and encouragement kept my chin up. Now a senior, I'm perfectly comfortable and very busy, so I don't call as much as I used to. Still, I know my parents will always make time to talk, like when I had my first senior freak-out last weekend.

When we do get time to chat, it's nice. We joke about all things college: messy parties, late nights, exasperating professors, great friends. We joke about my childhood, how stubborn I was (and still am, says my mom). I ask my parents about their careers and about my aunts and uncles, balancing the conversation. They talk freely about their hopes for the future. They still annoy me sometimes, but it's a far cry from high school, when at the dinner table, they would ask, "How was your day?" to which I would curtly reply, "Fine."

College can offer the best of both worlds: the freedom of leaving the nest and the continuing support of your parents, but more as councilors than as tyrants.

It may be strange to think about, but some of our parents were once in college. Like us, they were striving hopefully toward an exciting future. Their parents missed them then, and they miss you now. So, this weekend, for the love of mini-fridges, call and let them know you're okay.