I have been working in student affairs at a university for over 20 years and have had lots of interaction with parents of students over the years, but that interaction has normally been in some very specific contexts. First we see the parents of prospective students at recruitment events like the Ontario Universities Fair where they are usually asking most of the questions while their child stands silently behind them, or is looking uncomfortable and embarrassed by some of the questions that they are asking. We meet some of the parents of our new students at residence move-in while they unload cars, carry boxes, make beds, hang posters, fold and hang clothes and then reluctantly leave. This often involves hugs and tears….rarely are the tears shed by the students. We also see beaming, proud, happy parents at convocation as they accompany their child to collect their graduation gown, hold flowers to present to the graduate after they cross the stage and take and pose for pictures to record the day that marks the achievement ending many years of hard work.
Besides these sort of bookend interactions, the beginning and ending of the students university experience, I have interacted with many parents who are not happy about something and call to complain, advocate, and sometimes threaten due to a grade or academic or financial policy. These are the most challenging situations to deal with since we actually have to follow the privacy laws of our province and country and often cannot discuss the details of their adult son or daughter’s finances, grades, or other circumstances, freely with them. Most of these issues get resolved and most of the time I understand their anxiety…they love their kids, they wants what is best for them, they have spent 17, 18, 20+ years trying to eliminate disappointment, heal bruises, move obstacles and smooth the way for success. This is especially difficult if their child is at a school some distance away. They are doing their very best to support and assist their kids but I and my colleagues or our processes and policies are often seen as the barrier to success in the parents eyes.
What has been really fun about this chapter of my project has been seeing the role that many of the parents of my teammates play in supporting their athletic endeavors. Getting to meet and interact with the parents of our students in a different context was something that I didn’t expect when I started the project this year. I had no idea that they would be so present. This should not have surprised me. When I was growing up my brother was a very talented baseball player…he eventually played for the Canadian Junior team for two years. My parents were both high school teachers and summers in our family were spent traveling around Ontario to different ball parks to watch Cam play. I am reminded of these days when I see Kat’s parents, and Sof’s parents and Mac’s parents and others in the stands for every game. They have been watching their daughters play basketball since they were young girls and they are this team’s most dedicated and loyal fans.
Some of the Ontario based parents made the trip to BC and Pennsylvania for exhibition games during the pre-season. Jamie’s mom in BC has been in the stands for some games in Ontario and she and Jaime’s grandmother invited the whole team over for lunch when we were in BC. Kat’s mom bakes brownies or some other treat for the team every game day and delivers them in a big Tupperware container that gets passed around the dressing room after the game. Sof’s mom often brings a bag of Lindt chocolates for post game distribution in the dressing room.
In the little video below of Sof at the free throw line look at the 2 ladies in the crowd just to the left of U of T’s #8 when the ball goes in the basket (one is wearing a pink scarf)…two giant foam fingers go straight up…that is Kat’s Mom and Sof’s Mom…
I see the support that these parents provide to their kids and hear the students talk about their parents and the support that they get from them. What is really cool is that I feel supported by some of them as well in this undertaking. A bunch of the moms started following me on social media. Not only did I have to face the fact that I am so much older than these students but I suspect that I am older than many of the parents as well. But since the parents are closer to my generation I suspect that most of these moms are the well able to understand what I have signed up for in trying to keep the same schedule as my teammates.
I so appreciate their support of this project. I enjoyed meeting Jaime’s mom, and her mom’s mom in BC, Sof’s mom sent me a lovely note after I posted her profile, Cara’s mom is always one of the first people to like my Instagram posts and Coach Carly’s mom started following me on Facebook. They are not the only moms who are engaged in this project. My mom is paying close attention, watching all the games on the i-pad we got her for her 80th birthday last year and I think is enjoying talking basketball with her only non-athletic daughter. She played basketball in university and coached high school girls basketball during her entire teaching career. She knows basketball and can answer all my technical questions when I don’t want to display my ignorance to anyone else.
So that’s all…no more insights…just a shout out to all the parents who drive their kids to practice and cheer at games and celebrate the success of their young athletes….especially the moms…my teammates’ moms, our coach’s mom and most of all to my own mom.
On behalf of all my teammates…thanks for your support.