A how-to: Getting rid of the parents

Daniel Deibler | Forum Columnist

I carry my bags to my new home at Wash. U., set up my room, pack away my clothing and casually throw my depressingly empty bags above my closet. I hug my mother and say goodbye to her in a suitably emotional fashion that doesn’t reveal my excitement at her departure. As I lay on my bed I think about college life, and what is store for the next four years.

Suddenly, my reverie is broken by a scratching at my door. My immediate thought is that in the wild of the Midwest, small animals roam freely in college dorms. I open the door—and immediately am thrown backwards by a sobbing woman, who upon closer inspection I realize is my mother. (Suggestion: Try looking through the peephole on your first day. You will avoid being tackled)

It is a process that every student must go through at some point during the move-in experience. Our parents have finished helping us set up our new lives and have decided that we need just a little bit more preparation.

They normally begin to toe this line when the smaller stuff, the school supplies and toiletries are being unpacked. They begin to give small suggestions about how to live in what is ostensibly your home. They transition to last minute advice about your personal life. (Hope that their guidance remains vague, specifics can be uncomfortable.)

The moment of truth comes when nothing is left to do except say goodbye—and they refuse to go. Their delaying can be quite subtle. They could try to reorganize everything in your room to “maximize efficiency.” Or, they might suddenly notice something lacking in your dorm—and decide they have to buy it for you. (You can use that to your advantage of course. How often can you make friends by giving away that third desk lamp?)

My goodbye to my family may have been easier than most emotionally, most likely due to the pony I never got when I was five (I love you Cinnamon), but it takes a concerted effort to get rid of them for good.

It requires directed questioning, “What time was your flight out again?” or “Don’t you need to be home for something?” are both effective in reminding them of the existence of the outside world.

It requires some understanding of the process they are going through. “Mom, Dad… I understand that you will miss me, but I think it is time for me to start my life on my own.” (Faking understanding can work too.)

It requires, most of all, emotional conviction. That is not to say it is bad to be sorrowful. Change can be difficult. Nevertheless, if you break down during those crucial minutes of the final goodbye, you will never be left alone. Like any decent general, they are looking for every moment of weakness. They will capitalize on it and force themselves into the breach of your open door. They will exploit your natural hesitation just to be closer to you.

If all else fails, it may even require a blunted pitchfork (a fairly easy way to get your point across to the parents without actually hurting anyone).

We need to make sure our parents understand before they leave that while we love them dearly, we are beginning to embark upon our own lives for the first time and that eventually they absolutely have to go.

We have to make them see that as emotionally jarring as leaving behind your child in a foreign city can be, it is something that needs to be done so that their emotional development can actually progress.

We should remind them of the time that they first left home for an extended period and ask them to recall the reasons behind why they left their parents behind. We need them to realize that their departure is ultimately the best thing for all of us. It’s not as though we are going to be using any fireworks, so it is finally time for them to let us celebrate our Independence Day.

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