College is hard – on parents.
It’s not so much the cost, though any hopes I had of one day owning a beach retreat faded when my daughter earned a qualifying score on the ACT. It’s that her mom and I can’t be there to help and comfort her when she runs into problems.
I was reminded of this recently.
It’s that time of year at Western Carolina University when students register for spring classes, and like most schools of any size, Western staggers registration so that students don’t overwhelm the system. When I was at UNC-Chapel Hill, if memory serves, the university chose a four-digit number, and the closer your Social Security number was to that random number, the better chance you had of getting the classes you wanted. I assume Western Carolina employs a similar system.
Unfortunately for my daughter, she wasn’t the first in line, and more than once, my daughter texted or called me in a tizzy. The courses she needed to stay on track toward her education degree were filling up quickly, and she was afraid she would get closed out of those classes.
Her mother and I were powerless to help from six hours away, not that we could have altered the registration protocols had we been on campus in Cullowhee. But we couldn’t be there to even attempt to help or to comfort her with a hug; the best we could do was offer spoken or texted words of encouragement. We did that, but I felt like I was letting my daughter down. I was powerless to help, and I had never felt so helpless.
Her mother and I couldn’t help either with the flat tire, a relatively new tire by the way. The tire was too flat, our daughter said, to drive the car to the nearest service station. She was left to try to change the tire on her own, and she and a friend were able to get the hubcap off, but they’re weren’t strong enough to loosen the lugs. It’s not that I am going to win any strength contest, but I would have tried to get those lug nuts off. Again, I felt I was letting our daughter down.
But part of parenting is letting go, allowing your children to stand or fall on their own. Just as parents eventually let go of their kid’s bicycle, they must also be willing to let their children solve their own problems, while hoping they have prepared them for the challenge.
Fortunately, I have long preached to our daughter the need to be able to take matters into one’s own hands. Through friends on campus, she found someone who knew someone who works at a garage, and he was able to loosen the lug nuts, though for some reason, he was unable to get the tire off the hub. As for the classes, she devised a plan to get them.
I was proud of our daughter, and I told her so, though taking matters into one’s own hands doesn’t guarantee immediate results. At last report, the tire was still on the car, awaiting a visit from someone who won’t charge an arm and a leg to diagnose and fix the problem. As for classes, she missed out on a couple but later secured one and is on the waiting list for the other.
But our daughter tackled the problems on her own, and that’s a big step, though she did tell her mom that she’s now worried she won’t graduate in four years.
That sound you hear is my beach house dream crashing on the surf.