Editorial: Don’t forget the reason behind the visit

It’s once again Parents Weekend, which will undoubtedly find students performing certain rituals to get through the ordeal. Many will race home from classes Friday to make sure they can clean up their rooms and pile enough books on the desk to prove that they are indeed inundated with work. They will smile broadly when the family arrives and, regardless of how they really feel, they will pretend that this is the greatest event all year and not complain too often about all the work they have to get done this weekend but won’t be able to. They will party extra hard Sunday night when they have left, early Monday morning classes be damned.

What’s wrong with this picture is the heart of what is a perfectly natural part of growing up and going away to school: the struggle for independence. Allowing parents to roam the campus at will is at the least construed as a threat to their freedom to live as they chose and at worse cause for some to be resentful and bitter towards the people who are likely paying their tuition.

But this isn’t what Parents Weekend is about. It’s not a forum for mom and dad to complain about the strange smell coming from the closet or the row of “decorative” bottles on your bureau. It was designed because parents do indeed miss the children they send off to school. Any student whose parents have pulled a no-show on Parents Weekend will tell you what it’s like to be “forgotten” that one weekend. Attempts to hang out are thwarted and parties are avoided because of time needed to spend with family. Perhaps being left alone is the best way to really discover how important our parents are to us despite the miles between students and families.

The University provides a fair amount of activities for families to engage in together. The Saturday night main event this year will be an address by Frank McCourt, whose memoirs dwell on the importance of family to children and adults alike. And if sports provide a fun diversion, the football game is a great place to create memories.

But even if the offerings of the school aren’t tantalizing to your tastes, take advantage of the surrounding community and treat your parents to a day in your life. Go to the mall, explore the Main Line, take the train into Philadelphia. Eat dinner together. Introduce your friends to your parents. And leave the homework for when they go back to their hotel or head home. You will make their weekend.

After all, this is supposed to be their weekend. We as students tend to place such a strong emphasis on ourselves that we don’t often enough peek outside our shells to consider the people who aren’t a part of our direct, everyday lives.

So even if it’s only for a few hours that you’re with family, don’t treat Parents Weekend like an annual process that involves going through the motions, catching up on life and giving hasty, eager farewells. Instead, look forward to their upcoming visit and give your parents the chance to understand why it is that you’re always too busy to call them everyday.