September’s PSA: Beware of college-bound parents

The last word about dads on Father's Day

This month, all over America, parents are packing up their kids
and delivering them to college. You’ve tenderly purchased and
packed seven pairs of pristine undies, which, if you happen to have
a boy, was a total waste of time. No laundromat in the country will
see one article of your son’s clothing.
This month, all over America, parents are packing up their kids and delivering them to college. You’ve tenderly purchased and packed seven pairs of pristine undies, which, if you happen to have a boy, was a total waste of time. No laundromat in the country will see one article of your son’s clothing. There aren’t enough quarters in the world to entice your testosterone-fueled boy to hang out and watch the spin-dry cycle. Nope, he’ll just pile his stuff in a corner of his dorm and drag it home at graduation for you to wash.

Now, I’m not saying girls won’t give you grief, too. But they are, shall we say, a little more evolved in the underwear department. Girls subscribe to the tried-and-true “I-wore-my-cute-thong-for-an-hour-so-it’s-time-to-throw-it-out-and-go-buy-another-one” technique. And with the prices they charge for that postage-stamp sized lingerie, you could practically afford to send her kid sister to college, too.

But your youngster’s under things become the least of your worries when you arrive at school to drop off your child. While you glimpse disaster lurking around every corner, your kid is checking out the local talent. Cute girls. Hunky guys. Which sorority to join? Which fraternity throws the best parties? Sure, your college-bound kid will deny this, but – hey! We used to be young, and we know how it works.

Now this scenario undergoes a huge and strange metamorphosis if you’re a parent who decides to go back to college, which is what I did several years ago. I mean, can you think of anything more mortifying to your kid than heading back to school yourself? Nope, me neither. So with one daughter already graduated from college and the other about to, I decided to go back to school. Piece of cake, right? Going to college as an adult would be SO much easier. I totally had the underwear laundering thing down and, seriously – how many keg parties would I be invited to?

The dicey part was that I was going to the same university as my younger daughter. And she was the upper classman. Yeah, it was a little weird.

My spouse was supportive of this endeavor, though, and helped me track down old (and I do mean old) transcripts and the like. He even accompanied me to an event on campus where prospective candidates learn a bit about their desired field of study.

We must have looked like we’d been ditched by our future-freshman offspring as we strolled around the campus. And once inside the building where the separate schools were represented, I was flabbergasted at how many 17- and 18-year-olds there were in that neck of the woods. I mean, the place was overrun with them!

Eventually we located the School of Journalism area and were greeted by one of its students: a bubbly girl with some major tattoos and a pierced tongue. Wow. Things had changed. Sort of. Admittedly, when I went to school in the late ’60s, college kids weren’t exactly going through a preppy phase.

“Hi!!!” exclaimed Bubbly Tattoo Girl when I approached her with some questions about the journalism school. “Oh, sure, I can give you some information. Is your child with you?” she asked, looking between my husband and me for perhaps a bashful offspring lurking in the background.

“Well, no, actually I am the child,” I replied, “and unlike my children, I’ll be paying for my own college education.” She apologized profusely and sent us off with fistfuls of pamphlets. An image of what it would be like sitting in a classroom with 18- to 20-somethings flashed through my mind, but I was determined to see it through.

And I did. My daughter and I even tried to add a class together. Thankfully she had moved beyond the “I’m so mortified about my parents that I am seriously disowning them” phase. And although we were unable to take a class together, it was fun occasionally hearing a shout of “Hey, Mom!!” from across the campus. Yeah, everybody knew who was being addressed.

The ironic thing about going to college when you’re older is how peculiar it is to be in a history class where you’ve actually lived through the history. Holy cow! There’s a history class about the Vietnam War, for Pete’s sake. I mean, that’s practically current events, right? Watergate? Yep, been there, done that. And once, in a class on mass media, I was asked to share my recollections about the assassination of President Kennedy. I wasn’t exactly blending in.

But my latter college years were very, um … educational, and I didn’t mess up too badly except when I accidentally walked into the men’s room because I was in a hurry and didn’t read the sign carefully. But I certainly did a stellar job keeping up with my laundry.

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