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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    More than just a phone call

    Family Weekend is a strange beast. Despite my time at UA, I’m still not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be doing. My mom seems to be really excited about the barbecue and jazz band, while I’m just left sort of nervous about having to explain why my apartment is so messy. But regardless of what will happen and what I’m supposed to do, getting ready for Family Weekend has made me think a lot about how college has changed my relationship with my family. I’ve realized that despite my parents’ fears, college has brought me closer to my family rather than further apart.

    I haven’t always looked forward to family visits while in college. A major factor for me in choosing a college, as it was for many of my friends, was maximizing the distance from my gene pool. I’m embarrassed now to say that during my first year in college, I made a point to call my family as little as possible. Brand it an act of autonomy; I thought growing up meant growing apart from my family, and I was as eager as a Boy Scout to earn my Independence Badge.

    During my second and third years of college, however, I realized the naivete of this attitude. As I began to experience more serious life challenges, like difficult relationship choices, wrestling with deep spiritual questions and academic and career decisions, I began to see my parents as a source of experience and insight, a voice of truth beyond the tumultuous times of university life. I still remember the first time I called my mom about a relationship problem. Beaten and exhausted, I felt like I was throwing in the towel. I had tried on this whole college thing and came to my mom a dejected pup with both ears boxed.

    It is still a wonder to me how one week, parental advice can be so shockingly stifling and then only a few months later become a breath of refreshing air. This is one of the perpetually perplexing aspects of growing up, and parents deserve some explanation for our behavior. Unfortunately, all I can offer is an enormous collective apology to the parents reading this: We’re sorry. We know, we’re fickle, we say we hate you, we run from you. But we can’t deny it: We need you.

    So often college students try to bear the burden of growing up and finding truth by themselves. This is a heavy load to bear, especially when it entails failure and self-doubt. The UA makes a valiant effort to fill this parenting gap, but it’s never quite the same. There are counselors and psychologists, teachers and mentors readily available. But there is something intangible about family that age and experience alone do not

    account for.

    Advice from parents carries a certain weight because of the sheer history of collective experience. Families are bound together by a combination of unavoidable, difficult experiences and joyful childhood pleasures. Shared family experiences, especially those painful to endure, are the crucible of family bonds. One of my most vivid childhood memories is the night my older sister passed away in her sleep from a serious fever. The concept of death was hard to come to terms with at the young age of 8. But almost as difficult as understanding the death of my sister was experiencing the deep struggle and sadness of my parents that night. Growing up has meant gradually becoming aware of the simple fact that, yes, parents are humans. They, too, were in college at one point. They, too, struggle with life’s painful obstacles.

    When I go home now, reminiscing about those difficult times, as well as the joyful times, has helped me to realize the huge importance of sharing experiences. Family has helped lighten the difficulty of painful memories while adding a whole new depth to joyful memories. Don’t get me wrong: Experiencing things on my own definitely has been good for me. I now better understand what it takes to keep a living space in order, keep the dishes clean and keep food in the fridge. This is how growing up should be: Independence is the time to understand the sacrifices and choices your parents made once upon a time to get you where you are today. Think of it as remembering the part of your life you

    never experienced.

    Parenting clearly does not end when the child moves out of the house; rather, it becomes a new challenge. Dealing with fickle, impulsive, life-seeking students can be difficult. I know – I’ve been dealing with myself for 20 years now. But remember, parents are trying to make sense of this life as much as we are. So take this to heart this weekend, fellow Wildcats: your parents want to make sure that this new life is good for you, not just buy school T-shirts and admire classrooms. Be honest. You only have a friend to gain.

    Matt Rolland is a junior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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