Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Graduation Speech I'd Give -- To Parents

T and I fighting over who deserves
the certificate more
Welcome.  We’re so happy to see you all here because these kids up front with the funny hats and long robes really didn’t know how they were going to get all their crap home tomorrow.  It’s been a long four years, full of ups and downs (the downs mostly in your bottom line because all of your offspring really were having the time of their lives).  I wish I could give each and every one of you an 8x10 embossed certificate marking your tremendous achievement – not killing your young in any of the previous 22 years no matter how many times you felt like it.

In recognition of all you’ve achieved in the past, I think this year I want to direct my graduation address to you, the parents.  I’ve watched thousands of parents come and go during my tenure at the head of this institution.  I wish I could have talked to each of you individually.  If I had, here are five pieces of advice I’d pass on to you:

1)  Parents, it’s time to land that helicopter.  Give your precious baby two weeks – tops – at home and then tell little Jill or Johnny that it’s check-out time, the lease is up, this building is condemned.  Whatever it takes to get them out and fully on their own.

You may think that, with this economy, it’s better that your child stay home and save money until he or she can get a good job and get a secure financial footing.  Think again.  Did he save any money while in college?  Then why do you think it’s going to happen now?  Unless your child is contributing each month to mortgage, water, and electricity payments, there won’t be any saving going on, unless it’s saving up for that big screen LCD television for his room or her girlfriend trip to a condo in South Florida because she soooo needs it after 4 years of torture.  If you think it’s cruel and heartless to kick the kid out, then give her a lump some to set up an apartment and then let her sail off into the big world on her own.  The only way to learn to live in the big, wide world is to live in the big wide world.

You may say, “Oh, my child has college debt and living at home will help with that issue.”  I say, “Living at home and debt are two different issues.  They are college graduates.  It’s time they live like adults, not like college students home on Christmas break.”  Find another way and time to address the debt.

2)  Don’t offer any advice about anything unless your graduate asks you.  Three months ago, before graduation, they didn’t think you knew anything about “the way things are” now.  Three months after graduation they’ll still be thinking that until they have a boss your age who says the exact same things you’ve repeated ad infinitum.  So save your breath.  A real adult asks for help when he needs it.  When he comes to you for advice you know you’ve done your job well.

3)  If your child decides that, instead of getting a serious job with benefits after graduation, she’s going off to hike the El Camino de Santiago then wish her well.  If she’s doing it all on her dime (she is, isn’t she?), you should have no real opinion.  If you really must stick your nose in, perhaps you could offer to buy her some trip insurance in case of emergencies, or see if you know anyone who knows anyone in the region so she can have a friendly telephone number to carry with her.  Not everyone who gets a job immediately succeeds and not everyone who doesn’t ends up a failure.

4)  If you can’t hold back from offering advice, then while they’re waiting for that elusive fast track to a career (of course, while holding down a restaurant job or working as a cashier at a Bed Bath and Beyond because you’re not paying the bills.  Remember?) suggest that they learn a new skill.  Maybe they can learn some html and set up a better website for your church.  Or they can learn how to do spread sheets and inventory your CDs or your salt and pepper shaker collection.  Or they can pick up some construction skills volunteering for Habit for Humanity or building sets for community theater.  Who knows?  Along the way they might meet someone who’s looking for someone or they might find a new passion that brings new opportunities.

And finally
5)  Realize that now is the time for you, also, to figure out what you’re going to do for your future.  Today marks the end of your career as life managers for Sissy or Bill.  It’s time to find your own “something new.”  Buy yourselves a plane ticket to somewhere interesting and don’t come home until the coast is clear, until these college graduates have moved on down the road to their own lives.  Then pat yourselves on the back for a job well done and commence to following every dream you had held in reserve so that your babies could follow theirs. 

What advice would you offer to newly minted “parents of college graduates”?  What would you say is the maximum amount of time they can have their old room back before you convert it into a home gym?  Share your graduation advice and stories in the comments box.

Stephen Colbert imparts wit and wisdom to the Class of 2006 at Knox College.  Watch and learn  what the rules of comedy improvisation can teach these students about life


Anonymous said...

I love this advice!!! I wish you had written it last May (2011). This past year with my college graduate has been a real "journey".

Thanks for giving this advice. I have questioned every move I've made for a year!!!

I'm free now...grad finally got a job and has moved out!

thank you thank you thank you

Nadine Feldman said...

Love it! Ours are still shocked -- shocked, I say! -- that we decided to move cross-country. We have dismantled their bedrooms, though we've left some photos scattered around. I think they expected us to keep a shrine to them!

Tami Clayton said...

What a great speech! I loved it! My kids are not college age yet, but for one in particular, when the time comes, this will be a good reminder to her and me. :)

Bella said...

Julie, all parents should heed this wonderful advice! I would tell parents that if their son or daughter needs a loan to say, pay the first month's rent on a new apartment, to draft up a contract. This should include a moderate interest fee and a payment plan. Collateral is most welcome but not necessary. I say this because my sister is up to her eyes in debt after funding my nephew's shenanigans. I insisted she get their promise to "pay her back" in writing and she never did. In the meantime, she's saddled with the debt and they keep spending their money on themselves. When it comes time for the Son to move out, I will be more than happy to help him, but a contract will be part of the "help" plan! :)

Annette Gendler said...

Julie, I will have to book mark this to read in about 6 years (hopefully!).

Carrie Anne Schmeck said...

One way to help yourself give wings to the grad is to downsize your home. We moved (not really on purpose) but now there is no room at the inn for Grad #1.

Love your advice about letting them fly and wishing them well. We had to learn our own lessons and make our own mistakes when we were their age. Why rob them of life's best teachers?

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