It takes a village idiot…

stock-illustration-25264645-diversity-tree-hands-illustrationI like that my kids go to a diverse college, one that seems to represent the real world as much as a college can. They may choose to spend a lot of their time with people who are a lot like themselves in values or views or interests, but they also have friends, acquaintances, and every day exposure to those who differ in everything from religion to politics, birth countries,  socioeconomic class, and of course, ideas. They encounter the carefree, the hardworking, the entitled, the entrepreneur, the liberal, conservative and everything in between. There is the genius, the artist, the geek and the environmentalist. Kids who want to change the world and those who don’t know how to change a set of sheets.

There are some brilliant professors and some overworked teaching assistants, some lazy students and driven go- getters. This is a big school and like the real world, whatever you look for, you will likely find.

Including jackasses.

Generally, I don’t like to focus what I don’t like, but sometimes it takes writing it down in order to just let it go.

stock-illustration-26038210-car-accident-at-the-pathway-going-to-farmMy two daughters had the car that they share vandalized. Now technically, this is still my husband’s car since he bought it used, in good condition, put a lot of love and care into it to make it better still, and handed it off to our daughters to use at college. In fact, he had just put four new tires on it, a water pump and battery and did some front end work. It was the car our graduating daughter would be launched into the world with.

Then in the dark of night, on campus, possibly as an April Fools celebration, someone decided it would be amusing to stomp on cars  in the large parking lot, and this particular car was totaled. Large footprints on the rooftop, which is now caved in, multiple scratches and dents all over the car, a damaged hood. It went from being a nice car to a wrangled mess. Totaled.

I assume the perpetrator was not alone (how much fun would be without your buddies laughing along with you?) I am also assuming he was not sober. (I say he based on the size of the footprints; of course I could be wrong, but I’m going to use the male pronoun here).

Let me just say that I do have this in perspective. It’s just a car. No one was hurt. Everyone is alive and well and no one’s life has been altered, not even close.  It was just a senseless, random act of destruction. And if there was other damage that night, those victims-of-vandalism will recover as well. I am looking on the bright side here. We’re talking cars, not people. Vandalism, not assault.

Having said that, I want to indulge in a vent. It peeves me when parents raise delinquents without realizing it. Or they realize it but don’t take action to correct it.

Parenting can be difficult. I get that. I also get that things happen beyond our control. Biology and circumstances and a million other things can conspire to make raising a child very challenging. Many parents are struggling to raise happy and decent kids when the tide is against them. Add to that the fact that we all make mistakes. And our kids make mistakes.

Things can go wrong. I have empathy for this. I really do. I also understand that decent kids can do dumb things in college and still grow up to be good and highly functioning adults.

But when kids blatantly do bad things to other people, you’ve lost me. stock-illustration-8895909-fast-carNow I know deep down this Car- Stomping-Delinquent has lost touch with his worth. He sees himself as someone who destroys others’ property for kicks. And so he is. Or maybe he was so drunk that he doesn’t remember the incident, in which case he sees himself as someone who drinks to oblivion. And so he is that.

Did his parents think shipping him off to college would solve the problem? Or just solve the problem of getting him out of their house? I don’t really think that any amount of academics will correct his character. Or his substance abuse. Or his acting out. Or whatever this is. College is an expensive way to cross your fingers and hope your kid will grow up and out of their dysfunction.

Yes, I know it takes a village to raise a child.  But unless utterly incapable, parents are the first and most consequential part of that village. Yup, that’s right, I’m blaming the parents. They brought a person into the world and it was their job to recognize how things were going. And to correct things along the way if need be. Sure, he’s no longer a minor and ultimately responsible for his own behavior. He’s society’s problem now. Good luck to the village.

My kids were taken aback by the vandalism. It was an unfortunate and unfair event. Sometimes that happens in life. Sure it was inconvenient to stop in the middle of a full day of classes to fill out a police report. And take photos to send their father. Yup, here it is, Dad. This is what your project looks like now, after probably four minutes of someone’s intoxicated fun.

He’s over it now as well. Our insurance will even cover the cost of the damage. But somewhere out there is a lost kid, without a consequence (he wasn’t caught). Perhaps the best hope for him is that he is caught after his next offense, or the next or the next, and the consequence is severe enough to force change. I don’t know.

I think kids generally live up to what is expected of them: decency, effort, play nice with others. Contribute to society or at least do no harm.

The village is trying, it really is. Parents have got to do their part. Let’s all do our part to help kids know their worth and reach their potential, because this crazy, wonderful world we live in needs a lot of things, but another village idiot is not one of them.

College in a nutshell

The college search should be simplified. As a society, we have made such a fuss about it, such a monumental drama; a lengthy, stressful, anxiety inducing task.

It’s a lot of work to apply to college, I know. But we don’t have to make it even harder on ourselves or our kids by making it into more than it is. It’s a four year education. Four short years. And it’s not going to entirely mold junior into the person he is meant to be. If you zoned out for the first eighteen years of his life, writing a big check to a fancy college- or to any college- is not going to make up for this time.   And if your child has a certain temperament, let’s say a challenging one, that’s not going to miraculously change in these four years. And if she is a party animal, searching recklessly for happiness, college isn’t going to save her from that either. There will just be less supervision.  And if she’s already happy and good? Then she’s happy and good.

So let’s stop making college into something it’s not. It’s not a stand in for parenting. It’s not a guarantee for success nor a ticket to happiness. It’s a campus, some classes, peers galore (is it really the best thing to lump them all together with very few adults for them to interact with? I wonder about this one, but whatever); it’s a great privilege, an opportunity, and a financial decision.

We start the process way too early, in my opinion. Talk about rushing things. Do kids really need to start touring campuses sophomore year? That’s age fifteen, or sixteen for some. They aren’t even driving yet, and it’s just two years after middle school. Middle school. Think braces and skinny jeans. Most kids don’t know what they want to do when they grow up at this point, because they are busy growing up. At least they were until they started to hear the anxious, overzealous roar of the adults chanting College. College. College. Let’s start obsessing now. Do you know how many times these kids could change their minds about what they want to study between age fifteen and eighteen? Do you know how clueless they may be about which college is best for them? And about exactly where and how much of your hard earned money should be spent? I think we should all just chill out until at least junior year. And even then, let’s stop acting like which college they go to is the most important decision of their lives. What they do while they are there, or what they do afterwards, may be crucial, but where they do it is probably not.

Because mostly, it’s about the food. Why does it seem hardly anyone takes the food into consideration when searching for a college? These kids are going to be eating there three times a day, minimum. Food is a big deal. It affects mood, health, weight, brain function. Heck, it affects happiness. I was thrilled to read that my daughters’ university was ranked second-best in the nation for their campus food. I love knowing they have high quality fare at their fingertips at every meal- locally grown fruits and vegetables, delicious and diverse meals prepared by top notch chefs.

Four years is not long, unless you are feeding yourself crap. Then it is many, many days, several times a day, down the road to sluggishness, moodiness and weight gain. Now this is life changing. Habits are life changing. Lifestyles are life changing. So please, let’s stop freaking out about where our kids are going to go to college. It’s making them anxious and ungrateful and hurried.   And it’s making us crazy. Take a deep breath, and if you’re going to go on a tour, start with the dining hall. Afterall, you are what you eat.