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Call Your Mother

We'd packed the family minivan to capacity, with clothes, a mini-fridge, and extra-long sheets. After a 12-hour, 600-mile haul up I-81, we were in remote Ithaca (Gorges!), with several-thousand other families. Almost as soon as I'd unpacked my stuff, my dad was ready to hit the road for home. He thumbed through my copy of the course catalog. He paced around my cell-like room. And he encouraged my mom to hurry up. She wasn't interested in leaving. Not yet, at least. Couldn't we reminisce about one more vacation, birthday party, or family feud? Did I need anything else from Target? Had my financial aid come through? My dad, a professor, doled out fatherly and academic advice. My misty-eyed mom told me to call home. Then they were off. E-mail and cell phones made it easy for us to keep in touch. We exchanged short messages and quick phone calls. My former bedroom would make a nice study, my dad said. My mom reported that my younger siblings were more voluble than they used to be. In a few short weeks, I realized that life at home continued, much as it had, without me there. For a fleeting moment, I was sad. But there were books to read, classes to take, and six-packs to down! Then and there, on a fall afternoon, I recognized my new independence. And I realized that there would be — and should be — anecdotes involving six-packs that my parents would never hear.*

On today's show, we're talking about letting go. How involved should parents be in their kids' college lives? If they sign tuition checks, should you write — and sign — letters to them? Did you call your parents from school? Every Sunday? Every day? Should your mom know your class schedule? Or your professors' email addresses?

* Not because I don't remember them, of course!