When it comes to parents’ weekend, I am extremely fortunate for two reasons.
First of all, I have parents who can afford, both in terms of money and time, to make the trip to Wesleyan for the weekend (in their case, across the Atlantic), even if it’s just to check in on me and see which building my Tuesday Psych lecture takes place in.
Secondly, I have parents who really wanted to visit, and made a point of planning their trip in advance so they could make the most of it. This included, but wasn’t limited to, proudly marking “going” to Facebook events, enthusiastically circling things in the parents’ weekend booklet (with much insistence on the interactive Gamelan workshop, which was amazing by the way), and posing for one too many selfies on Andrus field. You know, all those parent things that induce eye-rolls in the moment, but that we’re ultimately very lucky to have.
Although I am grateful for them, there’s also a caveat. My parents are recently separated, so we deemed it best, for all of our sakes, that only my dad attend the festivities. My mom had dropped me off on move-in day, so this was only fair.
Despite the apparent order and symmetry of the situation (one parent dropping me off and helping me carry move-in boxes, the other flying in to say hi and drive me to Target a month later, no overlap or conflict, yay), you can imagine that I was less than thrilled when the idea was pitched to me in July, about a month before leaving for Wesleyan.
After a painful two years of witnessing the lead-up to, process of, and aftermath of my parents’ separation, I wanted nothing more than to leave home and find other things to care about. Whether I was consciously thinking about it or not, college represented the ultimate escape, a convenient and much-awaited way to leave it all behind. So, the prospect of having a living reminder of this uncomfortable part of my world barge into my new life just as I was settling in wasn’t exactly appealing.
Before leaving home, I wondered what the people I’d meet in college would think when only one of my parents showed up. I anticipated uncomfortable conversations, and wondered how to broach a topic that I didn’t have much practice broaching. Most of all, I dreaded having to go to campus event after campus event with one parent instead of two.
Thankfully, most of these worries were rather misplaced. Upon arriving I quickly realized that my situation wasn’t all that distinctive, that having one or no parents attend wasn’t actually that uncommon, and that I was, as usual, much less under the scrutiny of others than I thought.
In fact, the first month of college was “easy” because it existed on a different plane than my life until then. My life back home, including my parents separating, was in one mental drawer, and my wonderfully weird, busy life at Wesleyan was in another. My mom dropped me off on move-in day, but that was before I’d had any meaningful experiences here, so it fell neatly into the “pre-Wes” drawer.
But when parents’ weekend rolled around and I met my dad, for the first time in over a month, the carefully organized drawers started to spill into each other. Wesleyan now carried concrete reminders of what I’d been hoping to leave at home.
That being said, it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. Maybe the month I’d been away had dissipated some of the weirdness and I’d grown more accustomed to interacting with one parent at a time. But it was still weird.
Even in the midst of this confusion, I know that on a lot of levels, I have it easy. I cannot know and can’t faithfully depict the experiences of students whose parents can’t afford to visit because of money or time, or those whose parents don’t make visiting a priority. I can only imagine what it’s like to read the emails, see the schedule of events, or watch families walking around in matching Wesleyan apparel, knowing that your family is too far or too busy to visit you. To see all this commotion and know that you’ll have to content yourself with a phone call next week, that your family won’t really see Olin or commend the vegan options on the menu in person. That two major parts of your world, family and school, would barely overlap if laid out as a Venn diagram.
It’s worth remembering that parents’ weekend isn’t just parents’ weekend. It’s separated parents’ weekend. It’s divorced parents’ weekend. It’s single-parent weekend. It’s deceased or ill parent weekend. It’s parents-who-can’t-afford-to-visit weekend. It’s parents-who-don’t-make-this-their-priority weekend.
So, maybe that embarrassing extra selfie on Andrus wasn’t so bad after all.
Elodie Frey is a member of the class of 2022 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.