This whole "Freshman Orientation" in the middle of the summer - with concurrent "Parent Orientation" is a new business. We did not have such things back in the Dinosaur Era when I matriculated at my Institution of Higher Learning. I flew down a week early to attend Project WILD, a pre-start of school wilderness program run in conjunction with the North Carolina Outward Bound School. My parents drove down to meet my grimy, bedraggled, but very proud self at the end, helped me move in, gave me a hug (after I'd had a shower!) and then drove away.
The best parts of the day were:
1) presentation by the avuncular head of Campus Police, who addressed the parents and students together about safety policies, alcohol and drug policies, and skinny dipping in the large fountain in the middle of the quad policies. I am relieved to report that Daughter has no desire to skinny dip in aforementioned fountain, but had thought about a surreptitious clothed swim. (Go for it, honey. (Clothed!) You only live once!)
2) excellent presentation by head of the school's new Title IX department, who spoke to parents only. "I don't want to scare you, but statistics show that one in five college women report having experienced sexual violence."
Dude, I was already scared enough about sending my daughter off to college with all the date rape stories. In fact,I'm getting her one of these.
What I loved about both his presentation and others was the message, "You are losing control of your kids, but you aren't losing influence. TALK TO THEM about things like using alcohol responsibly, and parents of male students, have a conversation about consent."
I LOVED THIS. It wasn't just "Girls, don't drink and be slutty hos, because it'll be your fault if some guy can't control himself when you're passed out."
It's "Hey parents - TELL YOUR SONS THAT IF A GIRL IS DRUNK, TREAT HER THE WAY YOU'D WANT SOMEONE TO TREAT YOUR SISTER."
They even posted a great definition of consent:
But then things started to fall apart.
We had a half hour presentation on...Dining Plans. Really? I read all that stuff in the brochure when we signed up. Did I really need to sit through a half hour Powerpoint presentation about it?
And then we got to the Q & A, and the helicopter parents started piping up. A parent asked, I shit you not: "Do the washing machines in the dorms take quarters or (the college name) points?"
*Sarah's head explodes*
Your child is 17 or 18 years old, and about to embark on their college experience - an experience which yes, is about academics, but which is also part of preparing them to stand on their own two feet, employ critical thinking skills, problem solve, learn life skills, and enter the real world of earning a living and supporting themselves.
Part of this is LETTING THEM FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THE FRICKING LAUNDRY MACHINE FOR THEMSELVES!!!
It really isn't that complicated. And if they can't figure it out? Let them learn to ask questions - to advocate for themselves. That, too, is an important life skill.
We can set the expectations for ethical behavior, and what it means to be a good human being, and model that behavior. We can't say one thing and do another.
We can let them know that they'll make mistakes, because everyone does, including us, and we'll be here for them when they do.
But above all, we have to let them go figure out things for themselves. That's what it's all about.