Parents are Doing it For Themselves

I’m going to estimate that I’ve seen approximately 30 individual students in my little corner of the college in the first two weeks. Business is picking up, which is nice. However, one thing that is blowing my mind on daily basis is the amount of parents in the student body.

Gross generalizations and sweeping assumptions are sure to appear in this post. I will attempt to avoid these nasty distractions but I can make no promises. No puedo hacer algunos promesas. (I knew all of that except the word for promises. I’m so proud of me.)

I have met one student who identified themselves as childless.

Everyone else who has walked through these doors, regardless of age, is a mother or father, sometimes of multiple children.

Certainly, there must be reasons for this. It’s not the case that 97% of the general population changes diapers and memorizes all the characters on Wow Wow Wubbzy, right? Why so many moms up in my grill, then?

This interests me. It’s like anthropology, but not really, since I have no idea what anthropology really even is. I just like to say that because it makes uninvited curiosity sound cool and important.

So I have two anthropologically sound notions regarding the cause of high numbers of parents attending the writing lab at this college:

  1. Socioeconomics: household income skirts the poverty line and the town boasts a high Latin American population. I’ve heard in the past that lower income = higher birth rate, and I saw and met a ton of young gals with kids in Mexas. So I’m going to go ahead with those assumptions and say that these two things contribute to the amount of parents I’m encountering. (It’s SCIENCE.)
  2. Community College: I’m not working at Harvard, people. This is a community college. It’s the first step (sometimes the only step) in higher education. It costs less than Harvard, is closer to home than Harvard, and doesn’t require SAT scores in the 2200s (that’s about 1480 for you old heads). Community college seems like a great place for a mom (or dad) to start back, doesn’t it?

Also, although I hesitate to put it on the official list, since it’s pure conjecture, rather than just partial conjecture, I would venture to say that older students are not nearly as gosh-darn cocky as kids straight out of high school.

I know for a fact that me, myself, when coming out of high school, I thought I was Sierra Hotel. No one could touch me. And I was a freakin’ writing prodigy. I did not need HELP because I was going to DESTROY college and surrounding ventures and then I was going to DOMINATE the earth.

Almost an entire year went by before I was disabused of this notion. And a lot of the disabuse came from the fact that my debt appreciated at an hourly rate for the entire year. It didn’t even rest on Sundays. Parents already know about the hulking debt-beast, so they aren’t so cocky.


I’m wandering. I know. Perhaps this is fodder for a different post.

So, it’s interesting. And it’s a struggle sometimes to maintain my position of “authority.” I have a healthy respect for parents, which often crosses the boundaries of appropriateness into pure jealousy and a fair amount of hero-worship. Thus, parents who are putting themselves through school while still raising their children leave me in speechless awe.

(photo by D. Susan Pruitt)

It’s very difficult to explain the importance of an eight sentence paragraph or a strong thesis statement when someone has just finished telling me about getting their three kids on the school bus and dropping the baby off at grandmas before they showed up here. How the heck do they have time to bathe themselves, never mind write a character analysis on Lt. Cross or discuss literary tone in de Crevcoeur’s “What is an American?”

And, more importantly, how do they rustle up the ability to care?


5 thoughts on “Parents are Doing it For Themselves”

  1. I think it would make more sense to wait to go to college until after kids or a few years in the work force. I spent 5 years in college and now I don't do a darn thing that has to do with my degrees. However, I hate my current job and it took having a kid and a maternity leave to figure out what I really want to do with my life. Some formal education in the area sure would be helpful. Go figure.

  2. As one of those parents with kids that went back for courses in computer programming and accounting I can only say that learning something new is a real high – during a time when not many highs are in the picture. It makes the effort worthwhile.

  3. How did I miss that you taught at a community college,,anyhow that is great. I went to a community college and they are like “advanced highschool”, but it was obtainable and I finished at a university. I crammed 4 years into ten. Yep..working full time and a parent (last two years) I had a better understanding of what I wanted from my efforts. I am thinking about going back for classes on writing..Old gray haired man in corner ,, now that would be something for gossip.. lol

  4. I think your guess #2 is probably right about why. But still, that's a really interesting dilemma. But I think as long as you know your stuff, you should feel confident that your strong thesis statement trumps their cleaning up vomit.

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