2012-08-15 / Opinions

Care packages that care way too much

By LENORE SKENAZY


Lenore Skenazy Lenore Skenazy A new service called “mygofer” is telling moms that they can “make or break their college student” by sending the kid basics such as food and soap — or not. Without mom to rescue, apparently these young adults will starve — and stink.

The idea is that if and when modern-day children are finally allowed to leave the womb — er, home — they still should not be expected to fend for themselves. “HELP THEM OUT, MOM!” reads the mygopher ad copy. “Clearly they cannot be trusted on his or her own yet.” (The grammar alone is killing me.) “Shop for your busy student and have the items delivered right to their campus.”

The benefits of doing this? “No off-campus shopping = more time for rest, healthful habits and studying.” I leave you to supply your own guffaw. Also: “Send them reminders of home — favorite brands and foods.” Because it’s so hard to find an Oreo once you leave Topeka. And: “More of the money you give them is freed up for fun, not necessities.” Uh, that’s exactly what I do not want happening.

“College is a time for coming of age, making big decisions and becoming independent ... and while all that is important, it’s a lot for a student to handle!” (Especially if he has to spend all his beer money on food.) “Let them know they’re loved by Mom, not snubbed by Mom.”

Because only a mom who snubs her kids would expect them to learn how to buy a bottle of shampoo without her.

Now clearly, there is nothing wrong with a good ol’ care package once in a while. Fondly I recall the time I was a food writer and asked readers to send me homemade care packages so I could judge which cookies stayed freshest in the mail. Greatest assignment of my life! But the mygofer service is not a treat; it’s a crutch. And generally, who uses a crutch?

Someone disabled. Someone needing extra help. Is that really how we’re supposed to see our kids? Even after they’ve sprung the nest?

“God forbid they have to exert any effort to fulfill their needs,” says Hara Marano, author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.” Almost a decade ago, Marano started researching what she came to call a crisis on campus: the new fragility of college kids. “I spoke to hundreds of people — heads of campus counseling centers — and they all told me the same thing: These kids have no coping skills,” Marano says.

Since then, the crisis has only intensified. “You have parents finding ways not to leave orientation,” Marano says. “Some schools have hired bouncers!” At the University of Chicago, there are now two bagpipe processionals at the end of the welcoming ceremony. One leads students on to another event, while the other, Pied Piper-esque, leads parents away from them. Over in China, where the one-child rule has led to even more hovering, parents are moving in to their children’s dorms and staying — for weeks! To combat this, Wuhan University converted a huge gymnasium into a temporary “dorm” for parents. In pictures, it looks like an emergency shelter — hundreds of desperate people thrown together.

What exactly is the emergency? Oldest one in the book: letting go of the kids. Maybe that always has been hard, but it’s even harder when pop culture starts telling you that “good” parents never let go. No, they send food and soap and the implicit reminder: You’re still my baby.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now.”

©2012 Creators

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