Twenty-Something Struggles: Getting Parents In The Loop

Contributed by Devynn Maclure

“Oh my goodness, Devynn. This is amazing! You made this?!”

“Whoa. This is professional quality stuff right here, kid. You put it all together?”

Sitting before my parents on the kitchen counter is a huge, fresh-printed scientific poster, boldly titled “Environmental Impact of Leachate in Dry Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. Devynn Maclure. Sustainability Studies.” A major component of my undergrad thesis, I’d worked long hours over the semester to research the topic (which is quite literally, garbage). The past week was spent being glued to my computer screen while converting months of research into a concise, informative poster with graphs, charts and vivid picture diagrams. 

It was a huge project, but definitely nothing I wasn’t used to as an undergrad senior. As my parents stared in awe at the finished product, I was taken aback by how impressed they were. I couldn’t help but feel confused and actually, slightly offended.

“Well yeah, I did this. This is literally what I’m paying to learn to do. What do you guys think I do all day?” Right as I asked, something clicked for me; ignited, even. “Oh my gosh, my parents don’t know what I do all day. They have no freaking clue.”

In fact, most parents probably don’t. How could they? In college, there are no parent-teacher conferences, no weekly progress reports and no show-and-tell sessions where you bring them your latest macaroni art piece and explain to them that no, it’s not a cloud, it’s your kitty cat, Mittens. 

More so and most importantly, we don’t tell them what we do. Instead, we almost robotically submit term papers, research proposals and final projects, come home, put on our sweatpants and binge watch Netflix while prepping for the next haul of assignments. Simply put, we don’t communicate with those who raised or mentor us enough about what’s going on in our daily lives, and those days can add up quickly and become weeks, months or in my case, an entire semester.

Changing this around requires a simple fix: Starting a conversation. 

Take to your desired form of communication, be it a phone call, Skype, texting or just face to face conversation, get ahold of your parents, your uncle, your older siblings, a coworker, whoever and simply let them know what you’re working on. You don’t have to spill your entire life. Rather, open up the doors for a sneak peek into your goals and aspirations, as well as where your strengths lie. 

In doing so, older generations are given a sense of where we’re headed and just how much effort we’re putting into school, our careers and creative endeavors. The ultimate outcome is not to gloat or receive felicitation, but rather to minimize the disconnect often experienced between millennials and older generations.

If you’re a twenty-something reading this you may be thinking, “Alright sure, but I usually just talk to my friends at school or work about school or work stuff. My parents wouldn’t get it.” 

Although it’s a fair concern and surely your friends are wonderful people, stop and really think about the conversations you have with them. As you begin talking about your day, the other person chimes in with similar things about their day and soon the conversation has turned into a sea of mutual stress and yeah-same-here’s because as it turns out, they’re in the same exact boat as you are; hardly anything that is said here will be news to anyone. So sure they “get it”, but the conversation lacks enthusiasm.

Alternatively, if you bring up the highlights of your day to your parents or whoever in your life appears as a mentor or parental figure, you’ll get a fresh perspective laden with new reactions and inquisition. You’ll be given the opportunity to explain your research to someone outside of the know and to see your work in a new light, rather than the same, dim-lit computer desk lamp that illuminates scattered coffee cups and pop-tart wrappers. The more you talk to them about what you're up to, the more they’ll “get it” and the stronger your connection will be. 

Furthermore, it gives them the chance to simply be proud of you and to be excited for your current and future accomplishments. It’s a win-win situation.

So from now on, instead of coming home from school and shutting out the world, I’m going to leave my door open just a little. By allowing discussion and good-natured inquiry from the ones I love most, I can unroll my next scientific poster and be met with exclamations of, “Wow, it looks even better printed out!” and, “We knew you’d pull it off.”