Focus on the Family

Looking back on Parents’ Weekend, I can’t say that I’m sad to see it be finished. Don’t get me wrong; I love my parents, just not the weekend dedicated to them. My parents arrived, like many others, on Friday night. I gave them a tour around campus and talked about the usual things. My grades were an especially hot topic of discussion this year because, according to my parents, I “could be doing better,” and I’m “at the time of my life when grades matter the most.” I wasn’t happy to hear them harp on about this. After all, does anyone actually enjoy this conversation? But I didn’t see much point in arguing so my night continued peacefully. After a quick trip to Paresky Commons, my parents and I made our way to GW. Even though we had gotten tickets ahead of time and arrived there 45 minutes before show time, the line was already winding from the doors of Tang to the theatre classroom and back again. Clearly we weren’t going anywhere any time soon. Earlier that Friday, my Spanish teacher had showed us a presentation on international trips and the idea had intrigued me. With time to kill, I brought up the topic of going to Spain for five weeks this coming summer. My mom gave me a wry look that clearly conveyed her disapproval, but kept her thoughts to herself. After the show, my parents departed for their house in Maine and I to my dorm. The next day came and went in a whirlwind of 20-minute classes, meals in the Cage and athletic competitions. In what seemed like a blink of an eye I was sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s car, on my way to Maine. The mile markers, illuminated by the car’s headlights, zoomed by outside. A palpable tension could be felt between us but I couldn’t put my finger on the specific reason for it. Eventually I chose the direct approach and simply asked my father what was bothering him. He informed me, in the way that only a parent can, that my mom and he were put off by the fact that one of the first things I had talked about with them with any sort of vigor was my idea to go away from home for even more time on a trip to Spain. I responded by telling my father that I wasn’t the only one to blame for the tension, the very first thing my parents had mentioned was how my grades need improving. This bickering continued for the better part of an hour-and-a-half car ride. My parents and I had fallen victim to the hype of Parents’ Weekend. By not communicating our expectations for the weekend before it was upon us, we paid for it during the weekend. My parents had expected that the weekend would be all about them. They would be the focus, the stars, and I would do whatever made them happy. In their minds they had sent me off to boarding school and didn’t spend much time with me. This was their chance to make up for lost time. As for me, I had envisioned a relaxing 3-day weekend consisting of football, FIFA and catching up on homework. Both of these visions were unrealistic. I had selfishly marginalized my parents by putting my needs above theirs. They are on campus only a handful of times a year, and it is the least I can do to make them happy. At the same time, my parents had expected too much out of me. They had come into the weekend thinking of making up for two months of missed bonding moments in two days. The problem is that a bonding moment can’t be synthesized. Moments that genuinely bring people together happen spontaneously and without any warning. When one tries to force it, the result is only ever awkwardness and tension. I suppose, then, that it isn’t Parent’s Weekend itself that I dislike, but rather the stresses that can accompany it if handled incorrectly. However, if it is handled correctly, Parents’ Weekend can be fantastic. Towards the end of the time spent with my parents, my father and I went on a walk down the beach next to our house. Through open and honest dialogue, we came to the realization that the only problem between my parents and me had been an inability to communicate what we really wanted. We both agreed that the blame was to be shared and we would try to be more open in the future. After this conversation, the barrier that had been between my parents and me shattered. We were finally able to communicate what we truly desired. We were finally able to talk as a family. We were finally able to be a family again. Zach Merchant is two-year Lower from Lebanon, PA.