A friend of mine who lives in Arizona called me the other night. Her son, the same age as you, was home for the college winter break and she was frustrated. Her formerly delightful child had changed some. Truth be told, she said, he was being rude and a royal pain in the patoot.
As we chatted, I realized no one had reviewed the Five Rules Every College Student Must Know with her son. A terrible oversight. I take full responsibility.
So without further ado, here are the
Five Rules Every College Student Must Know.
Children always need their parents and parents always need their children. Not always as in “every minute of every day” but always as in throughout our entire lives. As children grow up, the relationship changes, but it never disappears. At 2 months old, you needed someone to feed you and dress you and entertain you when sleep was not on your schedule (which was most of the time). At 12 years old, you needed to talk about friends and the Evils of Lunchroom Behavior. At 15 years old, we talked about driving, girls, food, and responsibility (and with Pi the impact of pink versus black nail polish). These days, we talk about college, responsibility, the future, jobs, girls, and food. Ok, some themes don’t change.
The point is no matter how old you get (personally, I intend to stop aging right about now), you will always be important to us. Hopefully, we will always be important to you.
We all have bad days. When I was a growing up, every now and then Grandpa would come home and say, “I am good and angry. It has nothing to do with you, but go easy.” Since we didn’t have no stupid children in our house, we went easy, he recovered from whatever had upset him, and life was good.
I knew I too occasionally used that type statement, but I didn’t realize how impactful it was (or perhaps how often I’d said it) until you came home from school one day and said, “I’m really angry. It has nothing to do with you, and I apologize in advance if I yell.” I was so proud of you for being able to identify that you were upset and still have the presence of mind to realize that just because people were in your general proximity didn’t mean they were responsible (and that you really didn’t intend to take it out on us).
We all have bad days. It’s not necessary to share the mood.
Rudeness–especially ongoing rudeness–is never OK. There is no call for rudeness, especially directed at your loving (and generally perfect) parents. There are no scientific studies (at least none that I’m aware of) showing the value of being a snot to your parents. There are no curricula (at least none that I’m aware of) for the first semester of college in which you are taught to be obnoxious to those who brought you into the world. There are no machines (at least none that I’m aware of) that somehow remove the phrases “please,” “thank you,” and “how can I help?” once you begin your college career.
This is your home, not a hotel. Hotels are great (as long as you can get a room). Other people clean the bathroom, other people make the beds and vacuum the floor, you can call room service and they’ll bring you all sorts of yummies. Of course, you’re generally confined to just one room (yours), the breakfast selection is limited (but if you’re a huge fan of bagels-from-a-bag and make your own waffles you might be set), and you have to pay astronomic amounts to spend the night with your head on a pillow that some stranger used the night before.
Home doesn’t come with all the servants (at least your home doesn’t), but it does come with food you can help yourself to, cars you can (sometimes) borrow, and rules. The rules, the chores, and the love are always here–no matter what. When you have your own home, you can make the rules (or not), eliminate the chores, and live however you like. And if you think that’s likely to happen, I will giggle until the cows come home because it’s amazing how one’s perspective on these things changes over time.
I’m sorry goes a long way. There are times when we are emotionally exhausted. When we’ve had to work really hard for a long time to hold it together. (For your sister, this was a daily occurrence when she was in pre-school.) Then we reach a safe spot and don’t feel the obligation to continue to have such a tight grip on ourselves, and we lose it.
Losing it looks different for different people. Some people yell, some people sulk, some people check out, some people become mass murderers. Some people aim for all at once. If you can recognize what’s going on in advance and warn the general public that you are a walking Mt. Vesuvius about to blow, that helps. If you can’t, and you end up spewing emotional lava all over your friends and family, don’t forget to apologize once the eruption is over. (Not right away, because you probably still have molten rock in your teeth. But as soon as you return to human status.) An apology makes a big difference.
To you, and my friend’s son who is now back in California getting ready for his second semester, I wish you a wonderful second half of your freshman year. You can do it, kid. You rock. (Not the molten kind.)
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