(This article appeared previously on HuffPost50.com.)
Colleges send out lists telling students what to bring to campus. This list, in the hands of a helicopter parent, is a meaningless document undoubtedly meant for someone else’s kid. You might be a helicopter parent if:
1. Your version of a first-aid kit bears no resemblance to the school’s. The school suggests your child coordinate with her roommates and only one of them bring one of those pre-packaged first aid that contain little packets of aspirin and antibiotic ointments. You guffawed so loud when you read that part that they heard you in the next state.
Some suggest that it is preferable to just equip your child with a credit card ― something that never goes out of style.
What exactly will having one aspirin do for your daughter when she has menstrual cramps? It will do nothing, that’s what. While you are at the big box store buying industrial size containers of Motrin, Tylenol, Excedrin for migraines, Vitamin C (make that every vitamin known to man), cough syrup, Band-aids and one of every ointment on the shelf, be sure to throw in a lifetime supply of tampons. Better to be safe than sorry. Plus, what if one of her roommates uses the aspirin first?
2. You need space bags. Space bags are those packing devices that you vacuum the air out of and thus condense the size of the bag (and wrinkle everything in the bag, but I digress). There is only one justification for a space bag and that is: You are packing too much. And yes, you will undoubtedly need space bags to fit everything into your son or daughter’s trunk. We understand and get you.
3. You’re a Californian with a student headed to a state with weather and you think no fewer than three winter coats will suffice. California helicopter parents are generally confused by winter coats. They do not understand the difference between a down parka and a long wool coat. So they will buy both, plus a down vest and something called a peacoat that was originally worn by Dutch sailors. Winter weather shopping will also spur boots for rain, snow and staying indoors, gloves, scarves, long underwear, waterproof socks, umbrellas and a bunch of other weather-related things that Californians have no actual experience with. But that should not stop a helicopter parent from outfitting their child properly.
Some suggest that it is preferable to just equip your child with a credit card ― something that never goes out of style ― and let her buy what she needs once she has experienced what freezing really feels like. And if you’re lucky, she will hate it and make the reasonable decision to transfer to Cal for spring semester.
4. Your student is headed to California and don’t know that anything at all you send will be too much. Californians don’t actually wear clothes. They do buy them, but that’s more for sport-shopping, not actual adornment. Regardless of what jealous New Yorkers will say, flip-flops are appropriate in most social situations. But every backpack absolutely needs to have a portable charger and place for earbuds to connect.
5. Half your kitchen is being sent ahead by UPS. So what if your student hates kale smoothies? He needs a Vitamix of his own in his dorm room. Without it, how will he possibly eat enough greens each day? He will eat too much fried food and junk, get sick and then be unable to find the first aid kit/mini-pharmacy you so thoughtfully left for him.
6. You have been collecting Bed, Bath & Beyond 20 percent off coupons for six months. Occasionally you can get a 20 percent off your entire order coupon. When this happens, you have struck BB&B gold and will be the envy of all the other helicopter parents who will want to know how you pulled it off but, alas, you honestly won’t be able to remember. You are under a lot of stress; forgetting is understandable. You instead raise the theoretical question of, “Why don’t they just reduce everything by 20 percent and be done with it?” Learning how to distract was one of your first lessons learned on your journey to becoming a helicopter parent.
7. You knew about the BB&B college registry before your daughter did. In fact, you took the liberty to sign her up for it and started checking off the boxes of things she needed or wanted ― just to get a jump on things. Surprisingly, she did not appreciate the effort, nor the purple bedding you had your twin XL heart set on. It even had matching towels.
8. A pasta maker is going with him. Sure, he loves your homemade pasta. And of course the swill they serve in the campus eatery will never match what you can do for him at home. But a pasta maker may be a little over-the-top. After all, you need a wide countertop to roll out the dough and frankly, his desk may just not work. Perhaps you should rethink this one.
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