On not being moved into college

| Staff Columnist

Mike Hirshon | Student Life
During those occasional, but not uncommon, moments when I find myself seeking perhaps a bit more attention than is due to me at the moment, I know exactly how to effortlessly reorient the room’s spotlight. All it takes is six words—six words which you’ve heard individually countless times before, but somehow, when strung together in this particular order cause the sharpest of gasps and the most sorrowed of moans: “My parents didn’t move me in.”

A scream is heard in the distance.

No. Nope. My parents didn’t move me into college. I flew all the way from the East Coast at the start of my freshman year alone. My parents asked if I’d like them to come, and I declined—or I never asked them, I’m not sure. In any case, I had one suitcase, two arms and two parents. You do the math.

So, I arrived on move-in day, moved in, immediately fell passionately in love with my roommate (and her parents), and my college experience was off and running, sans any breakfasts with Mom and Dad. Now, one and half years later, they have yet to visit, and I’m doing fine. I have had no reason to ask them to stop their work, clear their weekends, book a hotel and buy plane tickets, and furthermore, I have two older sisters who have had such reasons.

It’s always striking to me how shocked people are when I tell them this little fact about myself. They feel such pity; their lower lips tremble by their noses, and their eyes grow as wide as the coffee cup they hold, each slurp an attempt to solicit confirmation that my parents really love me. The conversation always ends awkwardly, and I’m left unsure if I’ve proven that I’m not neglected.

A few afternoons ago, my mom called me; her voice was hushed in whispered urgency when I picked up. “Can I vent?” she asked, sounding rather like she was presently stuffed in what she believed to be the soundproof space underneath a desk. I acquiesced. She went on to tell me of a family friend’s daughter: the sweet girl, a graduating high school senior, was going to be denied her first week of college—orientation, move-in, classes, the whole shebang—because her parents were going to be out of the country to bring her 21-year-old brother to a program abroad. This was not the girl’s decision. Her parents would rather she miss what is arguably the most important week of freshman year than send her off into her awaiting adulthood in solitude. My mother and I hung up the phone, equally devastated.

This is hardly the first article to try and pry away the rigid security blanket around our generation and cry, “Hey! There’s a kid in here!” but I can’t help but stare in awe at the great distances that umbilical cords now travel to campuses. Washington University is perhaps particularly susceptible to this practice, as it tends to address parents as secondary students instead of just faceless wallets (as they should be!). In the process of attending a Wash. U. summer program, I needed a parental signature to both apply and confirm my spot, despite my 18+ legal status as an adult. When I visited Student Financial Services last year, it took great lengths and specific directions to get the counselor to send information directly to me, instead of just to my father.

I have a particularly strong view about my dependency. The view is that I don’t like it. My mother is constantly reminding me that “I’m still just a kid!” and “I’m supposed to need my parents!” Be that as it may, I don’t need my parents for things I don’t actually need them for. Just as the term “PTA” was rather foreign to my family 10 years ago, the phrase “Parents’ Weekend” is just as unfamiliar now. I wonder how much this school and the parents themselves exacerbate a 20-year-old’s dependency.

It should be said, however, that I recently learned that a play I wrote will be read in a festival next October. I asked my parents to come to see it. My life will not crumble if they don’t make it, but it would still mean something to me to see them in the audience. So for this occasion, I kick my soapbox aside, and as it falls inverted, I realize that sometimes, I need my parents too.

Selena is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at sslane@wustl.edu.

  • constance lane

    Selena you might note that for three generations no parent in this family has ever moved a child into college. In my opinion a student doing this on his or her own is a right/rite of passage. I would also like to take this opportunity to say that shoving kids into the unknown helps develop not just independence in the kid, but also personality, that most valuable of all — bar none — human traits.