The Truth, The Whole Truth, And, Um . . .

August 14, 1994|By Mike Gluck

"Veritas Vos Liberabit."

The truth shall set you free. So goes the motto of the Johns Hopkins University. I'll admit that I was impressed when I first moved onto the campus just three years ago. But it wasn't long before I realized that the concepts of "truth" and "freshman in college" don't go together nearly as well as, say, "no Friday classess" and "keg party on Thursday."

For while the truth may have set me free, it would have made my parents' hair turn gray. The truth is that parents don't want to know the truth about what their sons and daughters are doing while away at school.

A few weeks from now, thousands of moms and dads will pack up the minivan and drive their perfect sons and daughters to a campus that looks just like it did in the glossy brochure. Mom will find her child's resident adviser, the person in charge of keeping the dorms from turning into something out of "Animal House," and will ask that person to take care of her baby. Mom simply cannot understand how the child for whose benefit she spent 57 hours in the delivery room is the same child who is now starting college, since wasn't it only yesterday that Junior was standing at the bus stop, waiting with his lunchbox on the first day of kindergarten?

The resident adviser will nod his head, as he has been paid to do, and will reassure Mom that, while college may be fun at times, the first priority is always education. Resident advisers get paid a lot to say this.

Meanwhile, Dad, trying to appear at least slightly more &r composed than Mom, will pull his kid aside and slip him or her 20 bucks ("You know, for pizza or something"). Then, while keeping the obligatory fatherly hand on his offspring's shoulder, Dad will implore said offspring to study hard and stay out of trouble. Dads do this. Trust me.

The truth changes, however, approximately 10 seconds after the final minivan drives off into the sunset. I cannot say exactly how it changes, as I would rather not give my parents a nervous breakdown before they have chance to pay off my student loans. However, I will offer some advice for you moms and dads who are sending children off to college for the first time.

First of all, while you may miss your son/daughter terribly while he/she is away at school, please keep in mind that he/she does not miss you. A son misses home in that he misses having his laundry done and meals cooked for him. He does not miss you.

Daughters are no different. If your daughter says she misses you, it means she needs money. If she says she really can't stand being at school and wishes she could be home because she misses you more than she can say, it means the guy next door -- the one she has a crush on -- lost 40 bucks in the weekly poker game and asked her for a loan so he would have enough to tip the Domino's delivery guy.

Since we're on the subject of money, if your child ever happens to make a direct request for money, do not ask why. Because if you do, you're likely to get a response such as, "Well, it depends. How much is bail in Iowa?" This is a joke, of course, since they usually don't even set bail unless you commit a felony, at which point your son or daughter knows to bypass you and go directly to his or her grandparents, who are somewhat hard of hearing and also tend to be more sympathetic than you when legal matters are concerned.

As a parent, you will probably find yourself wondering why your son or daughter rarely calls home. But the question you should be asking concerns the exception to the rule; namely, why your child does call home, often at seemingly random intervals.

Let me start by telling you that there is nothing random about a college student's calls to Mom and Dad. Your son or daughter may not call often, but be aware that a freshman plans to call home in the same way that the Allies planned D-Day.

For example, suppose your child decides to have a few close friends over for a small get-together on a Friday night. Now, what would happen if you decided to call your son or daughter during this important social event? Perhaps you would hear voices in the background. Loud, slurred voices saying things such as "Who finished the tequila?" and "Boy, am I glad my parents can't see me now!" You might begin to think that the headache your child complained about last weekend wasn't really from studying. And you would start to worry. And your child does not want you to worry.

Which is why, when the party is on Friday, the smart student calls home on Thursday. In military terms, this is known as a preemptive strike. Don't expect a long call -- your child will probably stay on the line just long enough to let you know he is doing well. Of course, he won't let you know what he's doing well. Then again, you probably don't want to know.

In the end, it's best to let the truth set your sons and daughters free. Let them have their motto. Their day in the sun. Or in the dean's office.

If you really feel left out, perhaps I can suggest a motto that you can follow. It's a saying that has served my mom and dad well through many miles in the minivan and more than a few collect phone calls. It's the rallying cry for parents of college students nationwide. Learn it now and learn it well.

"Ignorance is bliss."

MIKE GLUCK, a senior at Johns Hopkins University, is Sun Magazine's summer intern.

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