Tag Archives: Helicopter Parents

Why Colleges May Offer “Parent Only” Dorms by 2025



Why are we, parents in the U.S., a decade ago and still now, so ridiculously over-invested in where our offspring go to college?

Nearly ten years ago our daughter spent her spring college semester studying in Florence, Italy. Beautiful Firenze! My husband and I visited her in early March.

From my albeit brief experience as a world traveler, I can confidently tell you that parents in other countries may not be quite as invested in their kids’ college acceptance outcomes as we are.

Wrapping scarves around our necks in Florentine fashion to walk around the city every morning, my husband would ask for “caffe macchiato” and I said “prego” to every shopkeeper.  I’m sure we did not fool anyone into thinking we were Italians, but we liked to pretend that we were.

Being on vacation for a week that March distracted me from what was really on my mind. Waiting for college admission news for our younger child back home, then a senior in high school.

So while I was standing in line to get in to see the statue of David, admiring the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and discovering the varied delights of crostini and ribollita,  inside my head I was partially back at home waiting for the mail to arrive.

This was in the day before email notifications of college admissions so I was visualizing thick envelopes (yes!) and thin letters (no) –  and worrying.

Whenever we travel, my Detroit-born husband likes to point out what kinds of cars the locals drive. He has gotten me in that habit, too. On our Italy trip that March it struck me what the cars I saw did NOT have.

Not a single car had a college sticker on its’ bumper or rear window!

How was that possible?

And in the other parts of Tuscany that we toured in our tiny rental car, we did not spot a car window or bumper sticker that said “Universita degli Studi di Firenze” or “di Siena” or “di Pisa”.

I remember thinking, if only we could never leave Italy, where there did not seem to be a parental obsession with where their children went to college. Unlike back home where parents wore college identifying caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts and drove cars sporting omnipresent rear window and bumper stickers as if we were the ones enrolled in college instead of our kids.

Our vacation ended, as all vacations (sadly) do, and we had to return to the land of overly-abundant college affiliation indicia.

Why do so many of us point with such pride to our kids’ Higher Ed affiliations in what we drive and wear as if we were the ones who actually did the hard work to get admitted?

Earlier this fall – prior to my recent Fabulous Fibula Fracture  – I had started to volunteer with a terrific college access organization which helps first-generation kids apply to, find financing for, get accepted by and once there, stay in college.

I can’t wait until my ankle is healed enough so I can hobble on back to it.

In this program I work directly with high school seniors. Not that I have anything against parents –  heck, I am one – but having been through the college admission process 2x, I would not want to deal with any parent who behaved as I did.

Thinking back to those past Octobers and Novembers when we were in the absolute thick of the college admission process, when the “C” word was like a curse word at our dining room table, I know that I was not at my best and highest self.

Those fall days when my kids snapped at me if I asked innocent questions such as “Good morning” or “How are you?”  – which my children wisely recognized as Mom code for “Have you finished your applications yet?”

The tension in our house was palpable. Luckily, my kids were accepted at great colleges because of what they, not me, accomplished.

This fall of 2015 the media reminds us that parents are even more involved (if that is possible) with their kids’ college choices. If this over-involvement trend continues, where might it lead to in another decade?

I see the future:

By the year 2025 The National Association of Over-Involved High School Pre-College Parents  (“NAOIHSPCP”) will have successfully lobbied for and won the right to be College Co-Attendees!

  • New “parent-only-variants” of the SAT and ACT will be adapted so parents will be able to submit their own corollary college applications.
  • Parents will be required to write their own “Why I Am Unique and Have Passion So You Should Admit Me” essays.
  • And by the 2025 colleges will have created specially configured dorms so parents may live on campus near their offspring.

Satirical, maybe – but really, if this hyper-pride-in-where-my-kid-goes-to-college trend continues on its current trajectory, perhaps Parent-Only dorms will be the Next Big Thing?

Take it from someone who’s been there, done that -> Rip up your NAOIHSPCP membership card now while your pre-college child is still talking to you.

Remember: Your kid is the one going to college, not you. Repeat as many times as necessary. And one small bumper sticker per family only, please.












Filed under College, College, Education, Family, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Travel

Up to Here with Helicopters! (Confessions of a Former Parachute Parent)

no helicopter parentingI have had it up to here with “Helicopter” Parents  – with the name, with the description, with the concept, with the articles praising them, defending them, explaining them.

(Nancy – tell us how you really feel!)

For those of you not living within the reach of any media, “helicopter” parenting is a term coined in the early 2000’s in connection with the college application process to describe parents who constantly “hover” over their kids, overly-controlling and excessively-involved in all aspects of their lives.

My two kids were in high school in the early 2000’s – but I was much too busy to hover! (Wasn’t I, kids? please submit your rebuttal comments in writing at the bottom of this post.)

I had a full-time job the entire time my kids were growing up, a house to take care of, volunteer groups to show up for, friends to see – and, last but not least, a husband who wanted my attention every now and then.

But – True Confession: I was, often, but not always, just a step above the hovering helicopters. I liked to call myself  a “parachute” parent.

Parachute parents don’t hover or linger but we did swoop in from time to time to solve a problem we thought our kids couldn’t manage on their own and then we lifted ourselves back up awaiting the next parachuting opportunity. And what did I learn from my parachuting days when my kids were in their teens and early 20’s?

That I shouldn’t have done it. Each time I parachuted in to fix something – what was the message I was sending to my kid? – I was telling them that they weren’t able to solve their own problems. But I was undermining them. I was depriving them of the chance to figure out a solution.

Which, of course, is the exact opposite message we want to send as parents, isn’t it? And for years I was as guilty of parachuting in and out as often as the most helicopterish of parents. I would defend myself (as I am doing here) with this very Talmudic (o.k. to look that word up) exercise to explain why parachuting was somehow more acceptable than helicoptering. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Pro Tip: neither parachutes nor helicopters should we be.

Even jokingly. We owe it to our kids to let them fly the nest unaccompanied, to let them learn to handle the tough stuff on their own. They are way more resilient than we may like to think.

Yet this helicopter thing just won’t go away.

Today I read (yet another) article about “helicopter” parenting. In a semi-joking, semi-serious way, the author defended the concept. About how helicoptering intentions were honorable and it was only out of love that they made an appointment to meet with the head of the math department to complain when Emily or Josh was not put in a sufficiently advanced pre-calculus class. Or why it was necessary to “edit” (a/k/a write more than a few sentences) their college application essays.  Or to FedEx rolls of quarters to them while they were away at college so they could do their laundry and not have to walk that very long distance to the bank near campus to get their own quarters.

Or when the helicopter parents visit on College Family Weekend and actually do laundry for Josh and Emily who were too busy “studying”. (After all, What’s a Mom for?)

And when these same hovered-over, parachuted-upon kids graduate from college and leave for their first jobs, new cities, own apartments, the most helicopterish among us mount a new line of defense. They miss their kids so much that they delude themselves into thinking that the best way to stay close to their kids is to find new high-tech ways to hover. To “stalk” them on Facebook, check their twitter feeds, text them constantly, follow them on Instagram.

Really, fellow-parents, doesn’t this extreme “keep in touch” behavior fall into the “Get a Life, Mom” category? Our kids know how to reach us if they need us. Trust me on that. Shouldn’t we lessen up on needing them at about the same time that they lessen up on needing us?

My husband reminds me that he was a “1st generation to college” kid. He went on his own to a distant college in a state his immigrant parents had never heard of. While his classmates from Scarsdale showed up on the first day of school with their parents in their packed station wagons, he flew by himself, carrying one old suitcase across the old campus and miracle of miracles, managed to settle in without parental assistance. He then spent the next four years of college on his own talking to his parents once a week, if that. His Mom and Dad saw his university for the first – and only time – on the day of his graduation, 40 years ago.

Obviously we cannot return to the old days with their more limited methods of communications. But just because current methods of technology – email, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — snapshut, whatever is coming next –  now make it possible for us to parachute in or hover above, let’s rise above those urges, shall we? We aren’t doing our young adult kids any favors. Let them show us how capable they are of independent existence.

That whirring sound you hear? Could it be the sound of the helicopter parents lifting up into the clouds to disappear forever?


Filed under Adult Kids, College, College, Communications, Email, Letting Go, Moms, Parenting, Women