I read an article on Salon this morning by a college professor regarding what she sees going on around her: kids utterly dependent on their parents, still, in college, and parents intent on following their childrens' every move via cell phone or Facebook:
College is a perfect middle ground for this age group: Students are forced to make their own choices and take responsibility for them, but help and guidance are there if they need it. What I see, though, is that the self-reliance they should be developing is thwarted by parental involvement. An academic advisor at Drexel told me the other day what she is most surprised by is how students “tolerate parental interference.”
A few people have asked me why I set the young adult novel I'm writing in the year 1990. My truth was that a lot of the plot twists couldn't have happened if cell phones and texting existed. Kids today seem a lot more transparent than they were when I was in high school. It was possible for someone to intercept the note you wrote your best friend about the cute guy, but short of taping it to the hallway wall, there wasn't really a way to mass publicize it. And your parents found out what you were doing from gossip -- they usually didn't have cold, hard, photographic evidence.
I wonder if it's harder to separate ourselves from our kids now because we CAN keep track of them easier. We CAN give them cell phones and insist they pick up when we call in order to have such cell phones. We CAN follow them on Twitter or friend them on Facebook or what have you. We're told we SHOULD at least be aware of what they're doing online -- I worry for me, though, will that be the gateway drug to stalking my kid?
One of the hardest moments for me as a parent so far was the first day my daughter went on a field trip with her daycare to an amusement park. She was riding up there with another parent, a parent I didn't know. And it was AN AMUSEMENT PARK. On a very, very hot day -- I think it was more than 100 degrees that day. I worried she would get too hot, get dehydrated, get kidnapped, fall out of a roller coaster -- there were at least three thousand things I worried that day. I could've volunteered to chaperone that field trip, but I forced myself not to because it would just feed my need for control.
Of course my girl arrived home sweaty, slightly sunburned and full of stories of adventure, high speeds and junk food.
It was so hard to not know.
If I have that much trouble with a field trip, I know I'm going to be a trainwreck the first time she leaves home without me. If I thought I could track her movements with GPS, I probably would. But that's the point of the whole Salon article -- there's a reason kids move out of the house when they're old enough, and it's this: They need to have their own lives.
I'm sure if my parents could've tracked me better in college, I would've behaved worse, not better. With them to rebel against, I probably would've rebelled. As it stood, I barely missed a class and got straight As, because I knew there was no one to make me do my homework and I saw kids around me failing out of college right and left because they couldn't discipline themselves.
I better bookmark this post and make myself read it every night when my girl goes to college, because I'm sure I'll have accidentally left a GPS chip in her luggage.