When I was in college I spent countless hours on the floor in my room of the sorority house pecking out my English paper on a Brother Word Processor. Only one girl in the house had a desktop computer, so for the majority at that time Brothers were the best thing going. Inevitably though in the wee hours of the night before the paper was due is when the cartridge ribbon ran dry. This meant running to the office supply store at daybreak and then very carefully (under the gun of a ticking clock) finish typing. But you better not make a mistake!
If you also had a word processor you know a mistake meant potentially retyping the page from the top. This was because the word processor had no delete button. Instead it required backspacing to the error and hoping the correction tape hit in just the right spot. White Out was an option too (do they even still make that?), but an exact realignment of the type guide after the error was still needed to keep going without restarting.
How nice it would’ve been to carry around a laptop in our backpacks. No cords even restricting work to our rooms. This would’ve been especially great on those nights my room (located right at the top of the stairs) was full of friends watching Friends and I had a paper to do. But then when I wanted to stay in my room because it was too cold or rainy how awesome to have had WiFi and Google and not have to trek over to the library for research!
Thinking about these things now as “hardships” makes me laugh. It’s all we knew so it was just what we did. But somewhere along the way grit has gone by the wayside. Today when the going gets tough, many college kids can’t cope as evidenced by university counseling centers nationwide struggling to keep up with the demand for mental health services.
Now I do think college students are under way more pressure today – thanks to our culture of comparison and standard of perfection. So it is not that I don’t think college is hard (even if the technological changes make life easier). COLLEGE IS HARD. But I’m afraid we haven’t prepared our kids as well as we could for the reality that not only is college hard, but life is hard.
I know there are ways I accommodated our daughter to make her life easier and less stressful. My intention to help came out of love, but I wonder now if my helping became enabling?
One friend described the two like this:
“Helping is doing for someone what he is not capable of doing himself; enabling is doing for him things he could or should do himself.”
By not requiring our children to do chores or to sacrifice their time and desires for the good of the family, we allow them to live self-centered. In catering to their every whim, we foster an attitude of entitlement. When we swoop in to rescue them from consequences and never allow them to fail, we leave them ill-equipped to handle adversity on their own.
This is not setting our kids up to be college ready!
Instead we need to teach them to deal with adversity, to see the world does not revolve around them and things are not always easy. So next time you are tempted to take things into your own hands by emailing the teacher/coach, calling the school or gossiping with other parents, encourage your child instead in how to handle the conflict on their own. This may mean for them a difficult conversation with a friend, teacher or coach. It may mean you helping them accept second string. Or it may mean backing the teacher for giving them a late grade (even a zero) if work wasn’t turned in on time. But I firmly believe what they will gain is for their greater good.
To raise kids prepared for adulthood, we must rethink what we’re doing to get them there. Because honestly, shielding our kids from hardship and responsibility, not holding them accountable and allowing them every indulgence is not real life. Real life is hard. College is hard. Relationships are hard. Work is hard. Let’s start doing the hard thing this school year and give them proper training ground while in the safety of the nest.
Did you miss the other two posts in this mini college-related series? Check them out here: Your Identity is Not in Your Greek Letters Embracing a New Normal After a Child Leaves for College