Many of you may know I work for a University. I mingle with Deans, faculty members, administrative staff and students on a daily basis. Working in communications, my job is to hear people’s stories and retell them in an interesting way for various audiences, whether that be prospective students, donors, media, researchers or the general public. As part of my job, I do a lot of interviewing – mostly researchers, but sometimes teaching stream faculty and sometimes students themselves.
One of the stories I hear often from seasoned faculty members is how much students have changed in a decade. Students now show up to the first week of classes with mom and dad in tow, often carrying their backpacks (I am not exaggerating or joking). They show up during finals week with parents nervously pacing in the halls while students write the exams. Administrators get inquiries about the status of an application from parents and not students. They get feedback about assignment grades from parents. To hear faculty tell it, this is all new within the last decade. Students used to be autonomous, knew how to take care of themselves. They took responsibility for their education – or at least for themselves. I’m not here to comment on the why this is. That’s not what this blog post is about.
I’m here to say – I’m going to do my best to make sure Evelyn isn’t one of those students in the future who cannot speak for herself; who cannot communicate with professors on her own; who cannot show up to exams without me holding her hand. Helicopter parenting isn’t a style that I wish to adopt, because I think it does a huge disservice to kids and parents alike. I want to raise a child who uses her own mind, her own strength and her own sensibilities to navigate the world. I want to raise a child who can do her own laundry, make her own lunches and who calls me after an exam and tells me how it went, rather than leaves the exam hall to find me after she’s written it, relieving of my pacing and pearl-clutching duties.
Some day it will break my heart to watch my child leave the house knowing she will never again live with me, yes. But it will also make that same heart of mine soar with pride. I want to see my child thrive, live a brilliant life and be successful in whichever way she defines success.
I read an article on the NPR site the other day:
No parent, teacher or caregiver has the time or patience to respond perfectly to all of the many, many, many opportunities like these that come along. But a new book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, is designed to get us thinking about the magnitude of these moments. With this book, the researchers are putting forward a new framework, based on the science of learning and development, to help parents think about cultivating the skills people really need to succeed.