Freud: To parents of graduates, it’s going to be OK (column)
The year in preps
Thursday, May 24: The moments that mattered.
Friday, May 25: The best games of the year.
Saturday, May 26: Freud’s commencement address to the students.
Sunday, May 27: Freud’s commencement address to the parents.
You have successfully raised a human organism for the last 18 years, and now you are ready to unleash him or her on the world.
You’re proud of your child and, dare we say, somewhat petrified.
You’ve said and repeated and pounded into your child axioms, which you hope hold. From the book of Nick Freud, we give you, “Do your work before you play,” “Think ahead and anticipate every possibility,” and “Hope for the best; expect the worst.”
Yours have been doubtless in the same vein.
But you do have to let go, and it is scary. No, I don’t have kids, but you might have noticed that it’s my job to watch them.
You have to have faith in the universe that it’s going to be OK. Easier said than done, I know.
They will fail
Yes, it’s going to happen, and you won’t be there to fix the mess. That’s their job now. They have to go out and do their thing, and they won’t be perfect, far from it.
To put some context into my experience, I’m an only child of two brilliant, but different parents. Pop was the bad cop; Mom the nice one. Both thought the other was parenting incorrectly. Pop thought Mom was the softie, always letting me get away with murder, while Mom thought Pop was downright mean at times.
They both were incorrect. Pop was a hard ass, but he knew that the world can be a cold place and you’ve got to be ready. What Pop didn’t know is that Mom saved her punches, using rare emotional outbursts to emphasize the important things.
I screwed up, and your kids will screw up. The idea of college is to go somewhere where they get not only get a higher education in the classroom, but also in life, in a relatively safe space, pardon the expression.
By design or happenstance, they will learn the need to organize their lives — getting to class on their own without the help of their parents. (My father coming into my room, bellowing Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” was one of his favorite ways of getting me to wake up.)
They’ll learn to handle money. They may screw up on that front, but the upside is that they may get a part-time job and learn the value of money.
And they may take a gap year or two. I’m a big fan of the concept, something that was only starting to emerge as an accepted thing in the early 90s, when I began school. I was not ready for college when I went and the process took longer than the expected 4-5 years. (This was a great horror to Pop, who went to school for seven years, but had a double major in undergrad and then law school at Yale. How could anyone from his loins not complete college in four years? Inconceivable.)
We all grow at different rates at different times, if you haven’t figured that out already.
Faith in the universe, people.
They do hear you
If you haven’t realized this already, your intelligence as parents has been shrinking during the high school years. It will continue to do so as your kids go to college. Right now, they know everything, and you are all old fuddy-duddies, who don’t know about how things work in the “modern” world.
This is temporary. Your intelligence will return when you child gets to their junior and/or senior years, by which time, they will realize what you’ve been saying all along is true. This is natural.
In the end, you, as parents, will be proven right more often than wrong, as the kids make the mistakes of which you’ve warned.
And as a son of two parents who obsessed over their only child, the message is getting through even though it doesn’t seem like it.
Parent: “Why did you not do well on that assignment?”
Child: “I don’t know.” (Complete and utter you-know-what. They know.)
Parent: “Remember do x, y and z.”
Child: “Whatever.” (Said with nonchalance.)
Pop dropped dead of a heart attack in 2006, and I still hear him, perhaps more so than ever. Please rest assured that you do not have to stage your heart attack to get this effect.
Despite the all the eye-rolling, shrugging of shoulders and “whatevers” they give you, they are hearing you.
Genetics: The Great Revenge
Whether the child is yours biologically or via adoption, you do rub off on your kids. I am a slob as a reaction to both my parents — neat freaks — but I still think like them and realize how annoyingly right they are.
Despite the muck that is my desk, everything is organized in its own way, so that I “plan ahead.” Even though I did play golf before coming into work today (Thursday, May 24) — “Do your work before you play,” — my story for Friday, May 25’s edition was already filed and we’re working on Sunday, May 26th’s section on a Thursday. (See, Pop. We’re good.)
Yes, your kids will have different interests than you. My father hated baseball, preferring opera. You might have noted that I like baseball quite a bit, but still default to the opera and classical music and sitting on my rear end reading a book, just like a Freud male should. The same goes for crossword puzzles, baseball and voting Democrat on my mom’s side.
You’ll see this in your kids, too. Sometimes they will seem like alien beings, but you’ve laid the foundation. They’ll find their way.
Just be there
When I went to school, long-distance phone calls were still a costly venture and the Internet/email was just becoming a thing. I can’t imagine texting/phoning every day with my folks when I was in college.
Perhaps, a compromise can be made — a daily text to make sure that you know your kid’s still alive, but phone calls not every day? (This is taken from the book of Elsa Freud, who starts calling the FBI Missing Person’s Bureau, if I haven’t communicated with her sometime before 6 p.m. She’s 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds and not slightly overprotective of her tiny 6-foot-1, 220-pound, 46-year-old baby boy.)
I get that you want to hear from them, but at the same time, they need to be out on their own.
And when the stuff hits cooling device, the good news is technology has made this a smaller world. A lot of our kids go to schools that are far enough so they don’t come home every weekend, but close enough that they can return if they really need it. And if you need a flight on short notice, that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet.
You’ll be there just in case.
Remember, not only have your kids accomplished something in graduating, but you’ve also been laying the groundwork for the last 18 years. Well done. Take a bow.
It is going to be fine. Have faith.
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