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JPW joys

Kate Gales | Thursday, February 23, 2006

When do parents stop being the enemy and start to become friends?

Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t live at home for nine months out of the year now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we talk on the phone everyday, or that I’m just getting older. Maybe my stories of Notre Dame bring back my parents’ memories of their time here.

Or, as one friend put it, it’s when you stop fighting with your parents, and start planning events to drink with them.

Whatever it is, JPW marked a change in my relationship with my parents. There is really nothing like introducing your parents to your life in college. It’s not a hectic football weekend, with the band playing at every turn and NDSP roaming the parking lots around the stadium armed with breathalyzers. It’s not a weepy Frosh-O goodbye or a frantic end-of-the-semester packing debacle.

For the first time, I had a weekend with nothing to do but enjoy the company of my parents. In some ways, it was a lot like other times here with my friends. But instead of a circle of girls dancing to “Livin’ on a Prayer,” it was my dad. Instead of running to DeBartolo in the clothes I slept in the night before, my parents accompanied me to meetings with my professors. Replace Fajita Friday at NDH with a banquet for 1,000 other juniors on the ice rink, and you have the Saturday night dinner.

In addition to meeting my friends, my parents also had the opportunity to interact with the parents of my friends. Some were familiar faces from tailgating the last few years; some were total strangers. Thrown together at a Saturday night party with nothing in common but tuition bills, my parents made conversation about everything from trips to Spain to trips to Mitchell, South Dakota. They cut moves on the dance floor, took pictures and beat me in college football trivia.

When my parents pulled away from Cavanaugh after the Sunday brunch, it felt a lot like Aug. 2003. But this time, they weren’t abandoning me to a scary world of strangers who all had 4.0’s in high school. They had made friends with my friends. It wasn’t the worlds-colliding experience I had expected – instead, it brought together my family from home and the family I made here.

So thank you, Notre Dame, for giving us a weekend to appreciate our changing relationships with our parents. Thank you, friends, for your discretion around my family (joking, Dad, seriously). Thank you, parents of my friends, for your amusing dance moves (specifically, Mrs. Davenport and Mr. Jackson). But most of all, thank you, Mom and Dad. Not just for the groceries and the non-dining-hall dinners, but for making the trip out here. That’s what parents do, I guess. But it’s also what friends are for. And it’s fun being friends as well as family.