“Give Me the Microwave, Mom, You Gotta Go!”

We’re happy to welcome back guest blogger Tracey Jackson. She is an author, screenwriter, filmmaker and mother of two. Tracey has just completed her first book, Between a Rock and a Hot Place, a funny, fearless, no-holds-barred look at turning fifty.

This month tens of thousands of parents will schlep cars full of X-long sheets, printers, sneakers, laptops and clothes, sometimes thousands of miles with the intent on helping their wee ones (now almost adults) move into their dorms. But as was reported in The New York Times last year, many schools have invoked a policy where the mandate is drop off the stuff and skedaddle.

Seems like a very curt goodbye for a live-in relationship that has been going on for 18 years.

It’s a very tough issue to address. Are they doing the right thing or not? Is this the institution’s sticking their nose where it does not belong or are they doing what they feel is best for the student body, the school and the student? Is a quick good-bye better than a long dramatic one? But then you have the parent’s side: Who are you to tell me how and when to say good-bye to my kid? In many cases, I’m footing the bill. Do they not realize this is the hardest thing most parents have ever done in their lives?

I know for myself dropping my daughter off last year was as traumatic a time as I remember going through. I was so devastated by having to leave her on the curb I spent six months blogging about it in a blog called Freshman Mom.

It is—for most of us—a defining moment in our lives and while necessary and important for them, the selfish part of us does not like what it defines, the end of an era and the completion of a part of our parenting duties. Our lives and relationships with our children will never be the same again. They will be different and in some cases better, but parenting them, as we know it is now in many ways over.


There is a good reason for it though. I think that in this case many non-intrusive parents are paying the price for the uber-hover parents. The ones who since pre-school have not stayed one centimeter out of their kid’s lives; the parents who call the coach when they don’t think their kids getting enough time on the field. The ones who drive the schools crazy with endless questions, and tell the teachers what to do, and how to do it. They do the homework, read every book their offspring reads, yes Virginia there are parents who do this. I have gotten into heated discussions with them at my younger daughter’s school. I don’t have time to read the books I want to read and now you want me to work my way through Twilight? They have their kid’s hooked up to a GPS and know their every move.

If these hovercraft parents were able to control themselves and edit their behavior the institutions would not have to dictate their flight patterns. But sadly, they don’t and because of that the rest of us pay the price.

I’m not advocating that parents should not pay attention. I’m a big believer in being attentive to what is important and in keeping my children safe. But at the same time I feel we should give our kids some autonomy so they don’t feel as if we are suffocating them and then all they want is to get as far from us as possible.

Carol Maxym, PhD, who wrote the book Teens In Turmoil feels that if you do not give children places where they excel without your intervention and parts of their lives they can call their own, they will find “secret places” and often times, those secret places are the very places we do not want them going to, drugs, alcohol, self-inflicted pain.

And if we don’t know how to respect their boundaries and what lines to cross from here on in, someone will be there to do it for us, be it the schools, a boss or a mate.

In the end we are often the architects of our own fate. Never is that more true when it comes to our kids and their burgeoning adulthood. If we do it right then we won’t have others telling us to move on – not only is our presence no longer required, it is not wanted. And ultimately that is the worst kind of good-bye.

Related Links:

Pressure to Succeed: Are Our Children in a Race to Nowhere?

Is Your Child Away At College? Let Him Know You’ve Got His Back