Ties That Bind

Ties That Bind

It's midnight in London. A student on the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin program there can't find a taxi. She calls her mother back in the States to see if she can fix the problem.

By David Treadwell | Photos by Fred Field

Naomi, too, is delighted with Colby—and with the regular contact with her parents. "I communicate with my dad a lot. I tell him what's going on here; he tells me what's happening at home—and he makes bad puns.—

She believes that it's important for students and parents to stay in touch, especially early in the college years. "College students need support; parents are feeling a sense of loss. It's important to know what's going on in each other's lives.—

Micaela Pierce, 7, gives her sister Ashley Jones-Pierce ‰06 a last hug before heading home with their mom, Debra Pierce of Newton, Mass
Ellen Mohl found out what was going on in the life of her daughter (Lena Barouh '07) in an unexpected way. While skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho, her cell phone rang. "I was in a chairlift going up the mountain, and Lena called to say she felt sick and asked what she should do. I told her to go to the infirmary, and she did and learned it was just the flu. I laughed at the time, but it was all right. I was still a mom.—

Dan and Paulette Kasperski discovered an interesting way to stay in touch with their son Steve Kasperski '05, at least on Saturday afternoons in the fall. "While others were probably a lot more successful in communicating with their son or daughter on a frequent basis than we were—boys don't communicate well—we did use the Internet on a regular basis to listen to Colby football game broadcasts, both at home and away,— they wrote in an e-mail. "Because we live in Illinois, this helped us immensely in keeping track of Steve's activities (middle linebacker) on a real-time basis every week and allowed us to share in his life at school.—

Susan Malick speaks like the veteran that she is in playing the parent-of-a-college-student role. Son Nick Malick '05, her third and youngest child, just graduated from Colby. "We come from a small town in the San Francisco Bay area, so we wanted our three children to step out and broaden themselves. Our children don't want us to be underfoot.—

As advice to parents just entering this transitional stage, Malick would tell them what she and her husband have tried to do: "Remember that this situation is intensely personal, varying from family to family and student to student. Try to take the cues from your child.—

Nick Malick believes that the amount of contact with his parents over his four years at Colby has been just about right. "We usually get in touch about once a week, but it can be four or five times a week if I'm having a problem at school or they're having a problem at their end.—

The younger Malick, like his mother, has advice for parents: "Try to hold off calling too much, especially the first year. Give your child some space. Let them try out who they are. If they're really having trouble, they'll get in touch with you.— At the same time, Nick advises students to call parents sometimes just to connect, not just when they're in trouble.

Such connections can produce lifelong memories. Sue Leighton Smith, mother of Jennifer Leighton '05, recalls one such moment. "Our daughter called from the Coliseum in Rome to say that she was standing with her Colby friends, looking out over all that amazing history while the sun was setting. This was her first trip to Europe, and how exciting for those of us back in Connecticut to share that with her 'real time'.—

So would anyone begrudge parent or student that shared experience? Hardly. Sometimes parents need to be there; sometimes they need to let go. Knowing which path to take and when, parents and educators say, requires wisdom, intuition, experience and, perhaps, even plain old luck.