Overheard at Starbuck's: A Parents Call

Ashley Thorne

Last night I hunkered down with my laptop and a mint tea in Starbucks for a couple hours. I was in the middle of New Jersey and the baristas were chatting with customers about the coming snow storm. Sitting two tables over from me was a middle-aged couple; the wife was on the phone with her college daughter. I couldn’t help overhearing bits of her end of the conversation. 

“Do you think classes will be canceled with the snow? Oh really, they’ve already canceled them?”  

“Are you coming home this summer? No, you’re going to take classes? [Sounding sad]  Oh. What classes are you going to take?”  

“Have you figured out who you’re living with next year? So you still need a fourth person... Is he a good guy?” 

When the woman ended the call, she relayed to her husband that the daughter was thinking of having a male roommate. “You’re going to let her live with a boy?” the dad asked. “Well, he’s one of Cam’s [apparently a roommate] best friends and she says he’s a good person. It should be fine.”  

“I don’t know about that...” said the dad.  

“Right now there’s a lot of drama going on with her roommates, but she couldn’t talk about it because people were around,” said the mom.  

Hearing this conversation made me pause. I don’t have children yet, and only a few years ago I was the college kid chatting long-distance with my mom about roommates and classes. I never really thought about those conversations from the parents’ perspective. The sadness in the mother’s voice when she heard her daughter wasn’t coming home for the summer and the father’s concern that his daughter might have a male roommate reminded me of my own parents’ loving care. Perhaps for the first time, I considered college from their side.  

Parents play a huge role in their children’s college education. They take their sons and daughters on campus visits (see “40 Awkward Questions for College Tours”), bug them about turning in their applications on time, give input in the decision process, and in many cases, pay part or all of tuition. But their involvement doesn’t end when they drop the kid off for freshman year after assembling dorm furniture and giving a “Make wise choices” pep talk. They go home to an empty room and one fewer place setting at the dinner table. They long to know whether their child has good friends, enjoys classes, gets enough sleep, and keeps out of trouble. 

When the University of Delaware was running its ideological, coercive residence life program a few years ago, the main whistleblowers were fathers upset that their daughters were required to answer inquiries about their sexuality. Parents are the ones who hear firsthand about discrimination in the classroom, ideological indoctrination, and endless manifestations of political correctness and folly on campus (“Hey mom, guess what? It’s sex week here!”). 

If you are a parent or grandparent of a college student, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have a memorable comment your child has said about his or her college experience? How have your conversations with your college student led you to think about the state of higher education today? How is it different now from what it was when you went to college?

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