View From South Campus: The Importance of Family Weekend

I know this is old news (props to those of you who inquired about my little
hiatus last week—way to keep up! Also, I humbly bow before the individual who
asked me if I was moonlighting as the sex columnist. I’m terribly honored that
you think I have enough time on my hands to run two columns simultaneously, but
regrettably must inform you that this is far from the case [and that,
furthermore, I don’t think I will ever match the singular erotic passion of
Sizzlin’ Sensations {at least, not in any public forum}]), but can we talk
about Family Weekend for a hot second? The weekend before last saw droves of relatives descend upon
the Claremont Colleges, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and Botoxed, eager to see what the
kiddies are getting up to.

I have to say, I dug the concept when
I heard about it. One of the weirdest things about the initial transition to
college was the experience of completing a semester without anything even slightly
resembling a parent-teacher conference. I’ll admit that I was pretty stoked to
take Mommy by the hand and lead her down the hallowed halls of our institution,
pointing out our brightly-colored bulletin boards and play areas. It wasn’t
until my mother actually got here that I realized there was more at stake here
than was the case in kindergarten. Here, our bulletin boards are rife with
protest flyers, party announcements sporting photos of young people in
questionable positions and the occasional security warning about scary men
trying to break into the Claremont McKenna apartments… not exactly construction paper hand turkeys.
And more often than not, we think it’s probably best to keep our “play areas”
hidden from the hypervigilant view of mom and pop.

There’s always some friction when
worlds collide, and worlds certainly did collide on Family Weekend—if you
ever want to know the definition of cognitive dissonance, imagine your grandma
chillin’ on the Pitzer mounds or counting out quarters to get into Frank
brunch or meeting your couch potato roommate’s paralegal parents. It can be
jarring, seeing these specters of your childhood gone by stomping all over your

But it can also put you back in your
place (and no, your place is not your
turf). If there’s one thing I learned this Family Weekend when a minor
unrelated personal crisis of sorts happened to strike and I found myself
thanking God/Allah/Zoroaster for my mother’s timely presence, it’s that “this
childhood” is far from gone by. My college experience is not solely mine; it involves
a long-standing and continuous partnership characterized by responsibility,
mutual respect and ongoing communication (and I’m not even delving into the
financial element) with the members of my home planet. Being thousands of miles
removed from my family as I am, sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re on the
same team and that they’re a huge
part of it (we’re talking first-string quarterback status). It’s a
collaborative process—or at least, it should be.

My mom and I went to an internship
talk hosted by the Pomona College Career Development Office (CDO), and though the
room was packed with neurotic, info-hungry parents of first-years, I think I was
one of only three students in the room. These parents were asking about
work-study, how to log on to the Internet tools we use every day here, the hours of the CDO—questions their kids
could easily have answered, had they been there. They were also asking about
what they should tell their children,
methods of encouraging them to get involved in career planning. To me, it just
seemed like a recipe for miscommunication. Why aren’t parents and kids and
college staff having these conversations together?
I can just imagine that paralegal parent going back to that kid on the couch
and informing him of the steps he needs to take to find the right internship in
a certain field, ensure life success, etc. I know how quickly that can regress into a hostile diametric situation. I know parents and kids aren’t talking
collaboratively, because if they were, those parents wouldn’t have asked the
kinds of questions they did. And I know how hard it can be to have those talks,
to concede that all this wonderful supposed freedom is really just a semblance
of total independence—as well it should be. Because sometimes, you really
just need that caring family member (or legal guardian, or grown-up friend, or
not-so-grown-up-friend—whoever plays that quarterback role) to help you to make
things better when they’re not looking too hot.

So, going into this next week, take
some time to think about your real
partners in crime—the folks back home, the folks of “the past”—and take
some time to involve them in the present. Consult them before you make a big
decision (there’s no binding contract that says you have to take their advice [unless of course there is in
your case], just talk to them). Call
them up when something awesome happens to you, because they want to know. And
seek help when you need it, even if you don’t think they’ll be able to do
anything. Seriously, you might be surprised.       

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