College drop off can be tough, and the third season premiere of The L Word: Generation Q gave me flashbacks. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from the LW:GQ’s parenting storylines.
The scene opens as Bette Porter and Tina Kennard’s daughter Angie is moving in to her dorm at the fictional California University. Alice and Shane are pitching in to help move Angie’s stuff, which is handy—those boxes can be heavy—but also speaks to how vested Auntie Alice and Uncle Shane (as they’ve been called) are in Angie’s life. It’s a nod to the importance of extended family, chosen or otherwise.
Tina arrives as Alice is waxing poetic about Gen Z. Aging, changing, and life stages seem to be a theme for the entire episode. Tina’s ex Bette drives up fashionably late in her pristine Tesla, only to be rear-ended by a nervous freshman. Rather than getting angry, however, Bette demonstrates her new-found serenity by comforting the student—and honestly, that’s a lesson we can all learn from. Move-in day can be stressful, and everyone could use a little sympathy. (Long-time fans may be wondering what happened to the old Bette Porter; I suspect she’s still there somewhere.)
Up in Angie’s room, after Shane and Alice have left, Tina and Bette are acting like, well, parents, as they urge Angie to stay in touch, try to give her money, and attempt to take a selfie. Aside from the money part, that’s pretty much what my spouse and I were like dropping our son off last year. Note to parents: I urge you to push for a selfie, or at least snap some candids. You’ll appreciate it later, and your kid(s) might, too, even if it takes them years to admit it.
Angie refuses the selfie, but then runs out into the hall for a last-minute hug as her moms leave. Bette tears up. There weren’t nearly enough tears here to really sell the scene in my mind, but maybe my spouse and I were just softies. We bawled in the car for 10 minutes before driving away, still sniffling.
Angie is excited at finally having a parent-free space—doubly so because her roommate hasn’t moved in yet—but her girlfriend Jordi puts a damper on things by breaking up with Angie. Jordi knows college is going to be a big change, explaining, “This is like a whole new chapter for both of us, and we’re gonna be such different people than we are, so soon.”
I can certainly vouch for that from my own college days; it feels like it’s holding true for my son’s generation as well. College can be transformative. That’s something we parents need to understand as our children change and grow. College (or a first job away from home) gives them the space to do so.
My advice to today’s parents with kids newly in college or otherwise out of the nest: Don’t set high expectations about the frequency of communication and don’t badger them; the time away from you is an important part of their transition into adulthood. Don’t cut all contact, though, for it is still important for them to know you love and support them. Sometimes, it’s enough to send a photo or a note without any expectation of a response; you never know when your kid might appreciate the reminder that you’re thinking of them, even if they don’t respond in kind.
Of course, we are never truly without them, especially in these days of electronic communication and social media. My spouse and I text with our son a few times a week. I send him photos of our cat. I can’t imagine what it was like for my own parents, having to wait for postal mail to hear from me or trying to reach me by phone on a voicemail-free line I shared with several people on my hallway.
It’s important, too, to let our grown kids know we’re still there for them when big things happen. When Jordi broke up with Angie, Angie headed home, presumably for some parental comfort. Good idea—if only she didn’t find her divorced parents kissing in the living room. Cut scene, and stay tuned for next week. I’ll just observe that having our kids leave the nest can be transformative for us parents as well (though not all of us experience something as potentially life-altering as reuniting with an ex). While being a parent is forever, there’s a certain freedom once we’re no longer responsible for our children’s day-to-day care and can begin to rethink our own day-to-day priorities and desires. We’ll see how this works out for the Porter-Kennards.
In a separate parenting-relevant storyline, Micah proposed to Maribel, who told him she doesn’t want to get married but does want to have a baby. The episode left things there, to play out next week. My two cents: While I vehemently believe that everyone deserves the right to marry any other consenting adult they choose, some choose not to—and prior to marriage equality, unmarried queer parents raised kids who turned out just fine. Everyone should have access to marriage, but it should be a choice, not a necessity.
Stay tuned, folks, and we’ll see what other real-life lessons we can glean from the parenting threads amongst the drama as the season unfolds.