Clarke: The participatory parents

A reflection on Parent & Family Weekend.

Morgan La Casse

Morgan La Casse

Sidney Clarke

The University hosts an event on campus called “Parent & Family Weekend” annually. The program aims to acquaint parents and family with everyday student experiences by inviting them to tailgate at sporting events and attend seminars about student health. This year’s exhibition, held from October 25 to 27, also included activities such as a planetarium show at the Bell Museum, movies at Coffman and yoga classes at the Rec.

In actuality, Parent & Family Weekend is a romanticized tour of our lives, a reassurance of sorts, that we are still functional human beings since being removed from their immediate care. We try not to get caught lying about the inordinate quantity of grilled cheese, Ramen and alcohol we consume on a weekly basis. We clean up our rooms, pretend we vacuum every weekend and deftly skip over the story about the cockroach in the student lounge. Then, for the grand finale, we force them to take us grocery shopping and try not to get too visibly excited about the purchases, such as the name brand shampoo.

But to some, Parent & Family Weekend holds a very different meaning. 

For those whose homes may be far from campus — either out of state or internationally — Parent & Family Weekend may be a cruel reminder of how distance impacts their relationships. To nearly 7,000 international students on campus this year, “home” is no less than a flight away and could hardly be reached over the course of a weekend. 

While I applaud all the parents with the ambition and genuine concern to attend “Coaching for Student Success” and “Your Student’s Transition” lectures, I know that many others lack a fundamental interest or have limited access post-secondary knowledge, in either the program or the students themselves. To our peers whose childhood bedrooms became office spaces within the week they moved out, whose parents continually decline opportunities to listen or those with parents whose breadth of educational knowledge does not extend past their high school diploma, Parent & Family Weekend is equally painful.

Of course, others have chosen a different destiny and actively campaign to keep their parents separate from their college lives. Many students fight to preserve this campus as a safe haven and an opportunity to become their own person. But family relationships are complicated and weekends that flood our campus with parents and family members can be especially difficult for some. 

Although events like Parent & Family Weekend only function for a very specific demographic of students, the overcrowded bookstores and slow-circling mob of adults floating between libraries may seem to indicate these unstated constituents as a standard of normalcy. The program itself has no intrinsically malicious intent, in fact, participants every year report satisfaction. However, it embodies an essential division between students. Especially with the impending holidays, the phenomenon of the habitual “Parent & Family Weekend” will only intensify. 

I am beginning to realize that every weekend is in some sense a parent’s weekend. I can hardly remember a time that it hasn’t been. From grade school art shows, to low budget middle school drama productions of to freshman orientation and eventually to college graduation, parents — whether they showed up or not — have been participants. It is our responsibility as a student body to reject the uniformity mindset which ostracizes students from differing backgrounds, and instead, respond with compassion.