Aubrey Ireland is an accomplished 21-year-old student attending the College-Conservatory of Music. And now, thanks to a court in Cincinnati, she’s the girl with a restraining order against her helicopter parents. While I can totally understand why Ireland needed a little space from her over-zealous parents, I can also see why it’s so hard for adults to loosen the reins when their kids head to college.
Aubrey’s parents are a new breed of over-protective that’s been gaining prominence for a decade. They frequently drive six hours to pop in for unexpected visits on their daughter. They worry that their adorable little girl is doing drugs and getting wild while she’s away at school. They even attempt to speak to their daughter’s teachers and make sure that her academics are up to snuff.
Now, the Irelands seem to take this idea above and beyond. They warned teachers that their daughter has a mental illness. Which she doesn’t. They installed keylogging software on her computer and cell phone to keep tabs on her social life. They got so intense that their daughter decided to cut off all ties with her parents, to which they responded by refusing to pay her tuition. Admittedly, this whole thing got intense. Now Aubrey’s school is giving her a scholarship for her last year of school and her parents can’t even attend her recitals.
But dial it back just a bit, and I have serious sympathy for a couple of parents who are paying $30,000 a year to put their child through school two states away and just can’t help but worry about how things are going.
Parents save for decades. They deny themselves vacations. They skimp on retirement savings. And they do it all just to make sure that their children can go to college. Forget owning a home, making sure your offspring gets to a university is the new American dream. The yearly cost is pretty much equivalent to a down payment on a new home. And you have to pay it four years in a row.
Then, due to the intense pressure to succeed in college and take unpaid internships to get ahead in your field, parents are still footing the bill for living expenses. They’re sending monthly allowances. They’re adding points to the meal plan.
Higher education for your children is a huge investment. And like most investors, some parents just have a hard time stepping back. They want to make sure that students are making good use of their funds. They want to ensure that all that hard-earned financial support isn’t wasted. Add in the natural concern that parents have for their children in general, and how hard it is to say goodbye to them at all, and you’ve got a recipe for a whole lot of stalking like what happened to Aubrey Ireland.
I’m not saying that Aubrey was wrong to cut ties with her parents. They went too far. They started to lie and manipulate. Their fears took over their common sense. That being said, there’s a small part of my brain that sympathizes with those parents. And that part is a little terrified that I might go overboard myself one day, when I send my daughter off to a college a couple states away.