Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Helicopter Parenting Goes off to College

Indulgent mama kitteh from I Can Has Cheezburger?

There's humoring one's children. There's hovering. And then there's outright helicoptering.

So this morning, I get an email from the mother of a student who's enrolled in one of my classes winter quarter. She wants to know the names of the books for the course so she can buy them for him. The email concludes by saying I should "feel free" to contact her via email or phone.

Now, I realize that the money for my students' textbooks normally flows from their parents. That is, if they're lucky enough to have parents who are both solvent and supportive. But geez, there's a world of difference between paying for your kid's books and actually buying them for him.

This is not the first time I've had a mother contact me about book purchases. (And yes, so far it's always been mothers, not fathers.) When I spoke with the bookstore manager this morning, he said there's been a real uptick in mothers buying their kids' books.

What's more, some of the parents pay with their credit card but have the kid actually go to the bookstore. However, according to the manager, they don't trust the kid enough to give him or her the card or the number. The cashier then has to speak to the parents on the phone - usually with lines of other customers snaking out the door - to complete the sale.

Yes, I'm totally judging. As the store manager said: "Who dresses these kids in the morning?"

Of course, it's not just the parents coddling the kids. We professors coddle the parents. After speaking with the bookstore manager this morning, I fired off an email to mother with a list of the books and information on where to buy them. So yes, I'm an enabler.

Then again, with all the budgetary pressures my university faces, we can't afford to piss off parents. So coddle we must.


Sugarmag said...

Hiya Sungold, wow that is ridiculous. My parents paid for my textbooks too but my mom just gave me a credit card-with my name on it! And I mostly did not abuse it ;). As a professor though I think the only thing you could do is provide a list of the textbooks, it would be rude not to. Likewise if someone emailed you and said that they were not even enrolled in your class but were just plain interested and wanted the list of textbooks you would probably provide it. Isn't all that on a website somewhere, though?

Sungold said...

As far as credit card abuse goes: The store manager reminded me that parents can buy prepaid cards for their kids. That limits the damage they can wreak.

Of course I'll be polite to anyone who wants a list of the books - I'd give you a copy of it too, if you wanted! It's not on the web.

But. This morning I got another email from this mother, wondering what room the class will meet in. Her kid's registration materials didn't indicate the room. So I told her ... and then suggested, still politely, that her son might want benefit from directions on how to find this on the web.

I'm waiting to see who shows up on the first day of class: the son, the mother, or both. :-)

Not-So-Normal-Mom said...

I am an English tutor at the local JC, and I am constantly surprised at the times I see mothers AND fathers on the campus. Of course, it is often the day before school starts, and they are holding their kids' hands and walking them to the classes so that they know where to go. They are also with them in line at the bookstore, cash in hand. Your post has prompted me to talk to my English professor buddies to find out how often they get emails like this one...I'll let you know! :-)

Sungold said...

I actually see new students' arrival at the the start of freshman year as a different thing - it's sort of a rite of passage and so it's appropriate and emotionally satisfying for parents to accompany their offspring. No reason why a JC should be any different than a four-year residential college in this regard.

But. If parents keep showing up for subsequent terms, their kids probably know the campus map far better. Then it's not about serving as a combination GPS system and piggybank; it's about an inability to let kids start living in their own space, taking responsibility and no doubt making a few mistakes along the way.

I always wonder about the kids in these situations. If my parents had hung around, I would've sent them packing, much as I love 'em.

A dear friend of my sister has the original helicopter mom; way back in the 1980s, she *invented* the sort of turbo-hovering we commonly see today. My impression of their relationship is that if you grow up with a parent who's always managing your life, you won't tell them to butt out because you realize you actually don't have the basic skills you need to get by.

Do let me know if your professor friends are seeing similar trends. I'd be interested to hear!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting again. I'm always glad to hear from you.

Oh, and one last thing: I just stopped by your blog, and it sounds like congratulations are in order on your adoption. Yay! Here's wishing all of you much joy and many blessings as a family.