Surviving Parent Phone Calls

Your parents are constantly wondering how you are doing in college. I personally know this because on a weekly basis my mom forwards me articles about kids getting arrested for partying too hard with a note on the bottom asking if I need more socks. But your parents don’t just care about your liver, they care about you. Especially if you’re the first child to leave the nest, college is a huge adjustment on both your part and your parents’. So it’s natural for them to ask tons of questions about your new life, even if you’re not still a freshman.

So, while I strongly advocate for picking up the phone when they call, that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t be awkward at times. Parents aren’t ignorant to what college life entails—they’ve heard stories, toured the campus with you, watched TV, and maybe even attended college themselves. So they’re going to ask the questions about the stereotypical college life. You don’t have to lie, in fact you shouldn’t lie, but depending on your relationship with your parents, you probably still want to answer a bit more neutrally so they don’t freak out and drive up with the minivan to take you home. Here are some tips on handling some questions that your parents may ask.

Have you met any boys?

Yes, Mom, I go to a co-ed school. To not meet boys I would have to stay in my room, and even then I’d probably still meet boys when they run for student government and go door-to-door campaigning (or when they show up at the wrong room late at night looking for a different girl.)

Most times, I think my mom wants me to get a boyfriend more than I do. And although her heart is in the right place in wanting me to be happy, it can be frustrating getting constantly asked if I’ve met the love of my life yet. Not to mention, I keep my love life far away from my parents and even get flustered talking about it with my friends. So, even if I’ve hooked up with guys and actually developed an interest in specific people, I give my mom the most satisfyingly vague answer I can: Yes, I’ve met some boys here. A lot of them are nice and cute and I could see myself developing a relationship with them in the DISTANT FUTURE. But for now, the guys I know best are just friends.

My mother then pokes for names, hometowns, birthdays, asking me to forward her pictures—any detail she can. You don’t have to provide these, just your general contentment with your options is enough.

Why are you spending so much money?

Living is … expensive. And that’s what you’re doing at college—you’re essentially living on your own. Though there are many ways to be a cost-savvy collegiette, you will still have to spend money—especially in the beginning of the year when you’re still figuring out which items you need. Besides, Nutella, sparkling water, cozy sweatshirts, Chobani, cab rides, movie tickets, and morning lattes don’t come cheap nowadays. And Pinkberry? About $6 for a small.

Try to present your case to your parents as logically as possible. Use examples of some essential items you bought, explain why you needed that item, and assure how its purchase was a good investment. Use every ounce of strength in you not to be whiny or get mad at your parents’ accusations about wasting away cash. (Just maybe don’t tell them some of that cash was spent on the biggest jar of Nutella the campus store had the night before your midterms.)

So, what did you do last weekend?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Only kidding. Alright, so let’s say you went out last weekend. You drank with your friends in your room, and then headed out to a couple parties. Maybe you drank more than you should have, maybe you kissed someone you shouldn’t have, or maybe you threw up somewhere you shouldn’t have. It’s not ideal, but it happens.

But, what to tell your parents? As long as you’re safe and healthy, there’s no need to say you’re the reason for a new greenish stain in a freshman common room (and you’re a sophomore.) Say you were hanging out with your friends, and then you socialized in a larger group. Don’t be afraid to say the p-word and admit you went to a party. You don’t have to tell your parents it was an absolute rager, just that it was a party. They’ll appreciate the honesty.

Maybe even tell them you drank a bit too much that weekend. Spare them the details, but say you didn’t feel too hot the next morning and you’re lucky that nothing worse happened. Talk about how you’ll moderate yourself in the future (again, honesty points.)

The extent to which you tell your parents about drinking completely varies on your relationship with them and how they view drinking. My parents know that alcohol is part of the college culture, and while they don’t advocate underage drinking, they know it happens. I do tell them if and when I drink upon being asked, I just spare some of the details. My parents appreciate my honesty, and it puts them at ease that in addition to worrying about how I’m doing at college, they don’t have to worry about me lying.

Moral of the story:

Let your parents know what you’re doing. It’s hard to remember that they have no insight into what your life is like at this point, which is a stark contrast to growing up. Let them know that you’re being a person, taking on actual responsibilities that actual people have to deal with.

And lastly, don’t call your parents just to ask for money. Just call them. Maybe you can ask for money later, but they’re certainly not going to give it to if you’ve become a stranger to them. So be their child, and let them know how their child is finally growing up.