CARNEY: Learning without parents

On Thursday evening, I saw my parents for the first time in two months. I was excited to see them and nervous about how the weekend would go. I also had a chemistry test Friday that felt a lot realer than sitting down to eat with Mom and Dad. We met each other for dinner at Claire’s — my mom rushing over and exclaiming how happy she was to see me. It was wonderful to be with the two people I’d never been away from for longer than two weeks, but also incredibly strange to have them in my new home.

I do feel like Yale is home now, but the rural Ohio town I’m from is still home to me too. If two homes can exist for a person, then two versions of a person can certainly exist too. This weekend, I realized how different many of my friends act around their parents. Sure, we’ve been holding back on the curse words in front of them since middle school, but once we get to college the divide becomes extreme.

The mother of one of my friends decided she wanted to stay in her daughter’s room to “be her shadow.” Unsurprisingly, I barely saw my friend all weekend. Her mom doesn’t understand that drinking happens in college. She’s not the only one with misled parents. Many of my peers underwent amazing transformations Saturday night from dinner-with-parents clothes to costumes far too small for the weather.

There is not too much I’m hiding from my parents — I even explained the concept of liquor-treating to them — but telling them the details of my life here did not make dinner Thursday any less stranger. It is not just about what they know and don’t know. It’s about two entirely different worlds. It was as if there was something fundamentally off about the scene, like seeing Gandalf in an episode of “Sex and the City.”

One of my best friends from home came to stay with me two weekends ago, and that, too, felt bizarre. I had entered a new world, made other friends. My best friend was surprised about my new friends; she really liked them but they were not the kind of people she thought I’d get close to. Maybe they were not the people I would have been close to back home, but here I can’t imagine spending so much of my time with anyone else. To be honest, there just were not too many people like them in Ohio anyway. As I spent time with my parents this weekend, I realized that even if I haven’t changed, everything that surrounds me has.

They talked about the pets; our bird died and they hadn’t told me. We talked about my siblings. We talked about all the friends of mine who are still in my hometown, living lives very much like the one I lived for the last four years. My peers were having similar conversations all across campus ­— the same peers that had experienced their first naked party or trip to DUH a few weekends before.

College is a time for experimentation. Being away from your parents, hometowns and old friends is a big part of what makes college so conducive to learning who you are all over again. The hard part is reconciling who you were in Ohio, Singapore or Haiti, the person you are on Parents’ Weekend and who you’ve become in Yale’s dormitories and dining halls. One of the best things about Parents’ Weekend was realizing that I haven’t changed all that much.

Despite whatever I had been doing for the last two months, despite wherever I had been living, the two people sitting across from me at dinner on Thursday night were still the ones who had raised me. A person can have two homes; I do. I’m even sure there are more than two versions of me, more than two versions of most of us. We go to class, we go out, we even eat with our parents sometimes.

Maybe we’re allowed to try out being a lot of different people right now. Maybe we won’t ever have to settle for one home, one self. I have no idea what I’m going to be after college. I do know it is going to be more than daughter, or friend, or surgeon, or writer, or scientist. There will probably be a lot of things my parents don’t know about me, and that’s okay.

Abigail Carney is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at abigail.carney@yale.edu.

Comments

  • lakia

    Sort of sounds like something someone from “Occupy New Haven” might say. Sort of sad. Really.

  • River_Tam

    Is this the effect of helicopter parents or was I just really abnormal for not being angsty over growing apart from my parents? smh.

    It’s part of life – you get raised by your parents and then you leave the nest. They’ll always love you, but they won’t know you as well as they did when they wiped and smacked your bottom.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The goal of the family is to successfully get the kids out of the house.

  • MorseGurl2013

    Wow. This article beautifully illuminated the way I felt about my parents (and siblings and dog!) coming to visit me this weekend. Thanks, Carney for this precious piece of insight.

  • MorseGurl2012

    Dear MorseGurl2013,

    I concur. But I would like to remind you that dogs are not allowed in suites. Please respect those who have dog allergies and would like to avoid any potential outbreaks. Though it may have been parents weekend, it is important to remember that parents, students, and dogs all had to share the same campus.

    Respectfully yours,
    MorseGurl2012

  • MorseGurl2013

    Don’t be rude.

    And isn’t imitation the greatest form of flattery?