{92} Friend’s Prompt #15

“what your new student should have learned / known _before_ you dropped them off with us”

Context: I work at a university. I am not faculty, I am professional staff, and I work in the student disability services department directly with students.

It’s pretty simple, really. You’re not going to like it.

What I want new students to know already, before I meet them, is that their parents/guardians/family is wrong about damn near everything.

Sorry, TimH. Not what you wanted to hear, I’m sure. But there it is.

What I know is that students walk into our hallowed halls with their heads filled with everything their parents told them to expect. What they should demand and what they should not tolerate. What they should major in, what their career should be, and who they should date. Whether they should join a sorority/fraternity or not. How to view minorities and how to think about politics. What their uncle told them his college experience was like, and why theirs should be the same.

And no, chances are good that you, good parent, are not actually wrong about everything. But your babe in arms is not so much “in your arms” anymore, and what I see too much of is good kids floundering around in a crib built to protect them but which has turned into a cage.

Kids scared to major in art because it’s too “queer.” Kids terrified of making a bad grade because their parents have convinced them it will ruin their life. Kids afraid to come out of closets, or afraid to become activists, or afraid to even just change political parties. Kids who study accounting when they want to become addiction therapists. Kids miserable in pre-med when they want to do oceanography. Kids afraid to try anything new because not doing it perfectly will disappoint their family, and things like philosophy and science are hard.

[these are all real-life examples I’ve collected over the years]

I’m not even talking about the children of helicopter parents…to be honest, they either crack or rebel at some point. No, I mean students who come into my office feeling trapped, who are used to being told what to think and do and how to feel, and don’t even realize they are feeling the pinch of growing pains.

Please, stop giving them the answers you think they need to be successful.

Instead, tell them that you don’t have all the answers, so they need to ask their own questions of everyone they meet. Tell them to find themselves in those questions. Tell them that life is confusing and hard but that searching for the answers to their questions will make them into amazing adults.

Tell them that the world is a terrible, beautiful place and there are no guarantees, but they get all the medals and ribbons and balloons for showing up to do all the serious, hard work of being human.

Tell them they are free to fly, and then let them go.

Originally published at ::::KimBoo York.