I was on Skype a few weeks ago with my son Tyler. Between talking about his schoolwork and his roommate, he mentioned to me how one of his former classmates at ISM is complaining about her mother. His friend is a first year student attending a large Canadian university where she lives in an apartment with her brother. Her (Their) father is also with them while the mom is in the Philippines taking care of an elderly parent. The mom calls (or Skypes) every day, constantly checking up on her two children. Now she's taken to telling her daughter that she needs to get home from the university by 5:30 pm every day. The kid is going absolutely bananas. Tyler and I laughed a bit and after we disconnected, I thought about it for a bit. The obvious thing here is that the mother here has not learned to truly let go of her children. This is not surprising given the culture here in the Philippines where children normally don't leave the house until they are married...and sometimes not even then! I guess she hasn't learned the fine art of letting go.
Whether or not we choose to let go, we must understand that the college experience in the US/Canada is vastly different than the college experience in the Philippines. If you've been following the blog, you probably know how different the admissions process is in the States from here in the Philippines. But the real differences lie in the every day experiences of the typical college student.
In the US/Canada, most colleges are residential. In the Philippines, it's very commuter oriented. In the US/Canada, most students live in residence halls (dorms). In a lot of schools, freshmen are actually REQUIRED to live on campus even if their home is a five minute drive away. Because of this, the social scene on campus centers around the residence hall. On others, it centers around the fraternities and sororities. This brings me to my first point: unless cost is a huge issue, all students (especially international students) should live on campus. It's tempting to have them live with a relative nearby but I think that's a really bad idea. They'll have a more difficult time integrating with the life on campus, they won't make as many friends and I think their college experience will be greatly diminished. Some students opt to leave the dorm after a year or two and live with three or four friends in a shared apartment or they rent a house together. This kind of living fosters independence...there's nothing quite like having to cook and clean up after yourself. Students will appreciate having their maids at home after they've cleaned their own bathrooms once or twice.
It's not easy letting go, I will be the first to admit that. It's not something that's learned overnight either. For me, the process took years and years. In my biased, unlearned opinion, the best thing we can bequeath to our children is good judgment. I think the best way for children to learn good judgment is to practice it every day. You let them be responsible for their own actions and let them be punished by the natural consequences of their bad calls. As parents, we naturally want to shield them from the world but I say, that's the worst thing we can do for them. Let them fall, let them trip, and let them skin their proverbial (and literal) knees. In doing so, we learn to distance ourselves from our children's lives. We love them, yes...but we are not them. Important distinction there.
After all that, it's still not easy. I remember when I finally had to leave Tyler behind at his University, the final goodbye as it were. He walked me all the way back to South Campus Hall where I was parked. When the time came for parting, no hugs, no tears...just a high five (we're both men after all) then just like that, he was gone. I turned to see if I could see him walk away but the pillars blocked my view. I finally caught a glimpse of him, hands in his pockets, bouncing every so slightly with each step. He didn't look back. Not even a little bit.
I still struggle with it. When we Skype and he's almost an hour late, it takes a lot not to berate him for his tardiness. Usually, I'll get a "Sorry, Dad, I was working and lost track of time." Or if I notice he is on Facebook at 2:30 in the morning. I once chided him to go to bed when he replied, "Are you seriously remote controlling my bedtime from 10,000 miles away?" Indeed!