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Parenting A College Student

Bonding-1985863_640Parenting is often not easy. Each age has its particular challenges. A few years ago (more than I care to admit), we dropped my youngest son off at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or IUP. One of their shortcomings was a lack of enough rooms to house all of their students, so it was a given that most students would live off campus after their freshman year. Thus, it was no surprise when in late winter my son called me to talk about next year’s housing.

He always had a particular way of talking to me when he wanted me to agree to one of his schemes, so, as always, I knew from his tone that something was cooking. His plan was that he and a bunch of his buddies were going to rent the second floor of a property in which 10 sorority sisters would be occupying the first floor.

Now, I learned early on in my parenting career that, when in doubt, always default to “No”. You can always change your mind, and even give the kid’s self-confidence a boost by letting him/her think that he/she convinced you. However, once you say yes, you cannot easily walk that back. So, being the experienced parent I was, I said no, and, looking for support and validation, asked, “What does your mother say?” She thought it was a great idea, he said. Thanks for the support, Mom!

He’s always been a great salesman; he began his sales pitch with how the guys could look out for the women, and the women could keep the guys in line. Sounded like a pretty good gig for everyone, and I was secretly coming around. Then he said, “I’m almost 20, and I’m responsible.” Good argument, except that when we dropped him off at school 6 months earlier, he was 17.

I said, “Hold the phone. Back up. How did college add 2 years to your age in 6 months?” He said he was rounding up! I pointed out that we could as easily round down to make him 16. He conceded the point, but in the end, he convinced me that his plan had merit, and the following year he and his buddies did live above the 10 sorority sisters, and it worked out quite well. A lot of good friendships were made, the women made sure the guys had cakes on their birthdays, and the guys did look after their “sisters”.

A lot of years have passed, and I am now a grandfather of 2 great-grandsons. I still believe the best parental default is “No”, but I find that a grandfather’s default is, “Sure!” It’s the law – the grandfather’s code; you can look it up.

Bill Poole

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