If there’s one thing I’ve inherited from my parents, it’s a fine-tuned bullshit radar.
We’re the family on campus tours that hangs out at the back of the group, rolls our eyes at the chipper tour guide’s impassioned GW commentary and peels off early to grab a burger somewhere. We all feel deeply uncomfortable with any attempt to get us to do audience participation, and University-sponsored events seem to be filled with it.
That’s the reason why I’ve never cared to invite my parents to Colonials Weekend – I just don’t see why they should come to events we wouldn’t enjoy anyway. I have no desire to drag them to a Dean’s Breakfast at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, force them to sit through a lecture from a GW professor, or, worst of all, take them to “Dancing with the Parents/Students,” which I haven’t been to but which sounds incredibly awkward. I know I would hate these events, and it’s safe to say my equally cynical parents would, too.
But not buying into Colonials Weekend means we’re forced to pick a different time to see each other, which can be difficult. We procrastinate picking a weekend or buying plane tickets because it’s always a headache, and we get busy with other things. Then all of a sudden it’s midterm season and Thanksgiving seems not too far away, so we just don’t bother.
Despite our best intentions, without designated dates, plans to see each other sometimes fall apart.
That’s why this year, I’ve had a change of heart: I’d encourage students to make an effort to invite your parents to spend a weekend here on campus, if they’re financially and physically able, of course.
If you can swing it this upcoming Colonials Weekend, great. If you can’t and you’re a student with a few years left on campus, plan for next year. If you’re a senior with no Colonials Weekends left, make an effort, if you can, to go home for some long weekend this semester, which is what I’m doing.
GW doesn’t have a fall break, and this year, Thanksgiving comes very late, in the last days of November. The minute we get back, we’ll be thrown right into finals. If you’re anything like me, you might spend much of Thanksgiving working instead of relaxing with family like you should.
You may be great at keeping in touch with your parents with phone calls, Skype and email. But there’s nothing quite like having them physically visit campus to experience your lifestyle here, to roam your turf with you. You can share a tiny slice of your life with them, and that’s so much more meaningful than the superficial, how-was-your-day type questions you’d ask over the phone.
That’s the real purpose of Colonials Weekend, once you cut through all the buff-and-blue bullshit. It sets aside a weekend to spend time with your parents. Skip all the programming if you think it’s dorky, but make an effort to tend to a relationship that may have dwindled since you last saw each other in person.
As college students, it’s tempting to distance ourselves from our parents to show we can make it on our own. That goes for freshmen, who are doing it for the first time, as well as for seniors like myself. For us, the pressure is so high to show we’ll stay afloat come graduation that we’re more tempted than ever to cut ties.
But we still need our parents for more than a few reasons, not the least of which may be financial. GW’s student loan default rate is far lower than the national average, largely because our students tend to come from families that provide a good deal of financial support.
And since the economic downturn of 2008, more students are moving back home after graduation – with the wait for a job opportunity sometimes lasting as long as five years. These so-called “boomerang kids” make up as many as one in every five millennials. There’s a very real chance our parents will be a big part of our lives again in the near future – say, as our landlords.
Inviting our parents to D.C. is obviously about far more than ensuring we have them as a safety net. It’s about not letting a once-important connection fade, keeping our most important relationships healthy and not letting our parents fall by the wayside no matter how busy we might get.
You don’t have to don your Colonials gear and parade your parents around campus if you don’t want to.
Robin Jones Kerr, a senior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.