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Auntie SparkNotes: I Don’t Want to Call My Parents Every Day at College

Hello, Auntie!

I’m going to my freshman year of college soon and my parents want me to call/text everyday. I don’t want to. They say it is because they want to make sure I’m safe and not in an emergency. This could be a result of me not calling when I had overnight orientation. I think this defeats the purpose of me living on campus (to learn how to be more independent). They both are very opinionated, and I tend to be very dependent on their opinions/advice. I will probably call twice a week and text every other day, but they want it everyday! I KNOW I need to learn to make decisions on my own. How do I calm their fears and help them let go a little?

For starters, Sparkler, you present them with an in-your-own-words version of the following announcement:

“Mom and Dad, you’ve spent eighteen years showing me every day how to make good choices, so that when the time came for me to do it on my own, I’d be ready. Now that time has come, and it’s your turn to trust that you did a good job raising me, and let me take the reins. I promise, if I have an emergency, I will call you right away. Otherwise, I will call you once a week or when I have something to talk about. Okay? Okay.”

Not that this will have the hoped-for effect on your parents. That’s the bad news, I’m afraid: There is no likely outcome here in which your folks are persuaded, through love and logic, to gracefully and happily release their death-grip on your life and relinquish you to adulthood. A parent who requires daily assurances of your “safety”—and who can’t handle having you out of sight and/or contact for one single night of college orientation—is a parent with serious control issues. It’s a safe bet that your parents aren’t going to like hearing this. And based on your description of your current dynamic, you’re probably not going to like saying it! It’s not what you’re used to; it’s going to be hard, uncomfortable, even scary.

But you’re right: You need to learn to make decisions on your own. And in this case, that learning process starts with a decision to say “no” to your parents—which, you will note, is a very different thing from convincing your parents to say “yes” to you. It’s not your job, or your place, to try to make them less fearful and more comfortable with you being out of contact for days at a time. Whatever your folks feel about seeing you grow up, it’s their issue to cope with, and that process begins with you leaving them to it and living your life. Besides, you have your own coping to do: Just as your parents need to get used to a new normal where you’re not calling to check in every day, you need to get used to the unfamiliar sensation of muddling your way through a decision without asking for your parents’ input. Depending on how badly they handle this transition, you may also get a bonus crash course in the fine art of ignoring an un-asked-for opinion when they try to thrust it upon you. And when you make mistakes—which you will, because you’re human—you’ll need to resist what may be a pretty powerful urge to revert back to the old dynamic wherein you rely on your folks for guidance in every last little choice you make. (Note: For this reason, I’d also strongly suggest that you limit your contact to a once-a-week phone call and only occasional texting, at least for the first semester. Anything more than that is likely to undermine your efforts to establish a little bit of healthy distance from your fam.)

The good news is that beyond this brief, rough period of transition is a really great future, one in which you’re making choices and living your life like a motherfranking adult. And the firmer you are when it comes to setting boundaries vis-a-vis staying in touch with Mom and Dad, the sooner you get to a place where you feel confident and comfortable about being in control of your day-to-day business, and where your parents, rather than fretting over how you might have managed to wreck your life and/or be murdered by bears in every minute that you’re out of contact, will look forward to hearing on a weekly basis about what a damn fine job you’re doing of adulting.

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