What Makes My Relationship with My Daughter “Different”

By Cindy Whitley

People always ask me what makes my relationship with my daughter, Lauren, different from that of the typical parent-and-college-student relationship.  I don’t know how to answer this.  What I know is how I raised my daughter, and how I have talked to my daughter.  That may be where our relationship is different.  Yet, I have always thought of us as typical.

I have a very good relationship with all my children, but especially with my daughter. She is my Penn State student.  My two older sons also went to college. My oldest got his Associates Degree from the community college where I work. My middle son has autism and took about five classes, but ultimately decided that college was not his thing. My daughter was the only one to go away, and she made it clear that going away would be the only option (turning down free college tuition where I work).

She’s a strong and a very independent young lady.  We have not always had an easy path, but I learned a few things early on that helped us shape this relationship. Having two sons first, even one who has autism, was fairly easy.  Girls are always said to be more challenging. Now I am surely not saying all girls, but my girl and I had some challenges.

Her strong and stubborn way has worked for her and against her.  I saw her potential at a very young age and knew that I could not lessen that fire. It made for a very interesting childhood, mainly for me because I tried to make hers as normal as possible.  I knew I would have to be the one to take the “hits” and I sure did take a lot of hits.  Every hit just made me more committed to her and her success.

Additionally, I have always wanted to know what was going on with Lauren.  I wanted to hear everything, the good and the bad.  I tried very hard not to overreact to things, and most of the time, I didn’t.  I always wanted her to know that she could talk to me about ANYTHING.  My brain felt like that would be successful, because we all know that there isn’t a guide book for raising children.

She has always known that I am always there for her, even when she is mad at me (or vice versa). Through this, we developed a very strong bond. I also had my own struggles, in which I leaned on her. I showed my vulnerability to let her know that everyone goes through things. I wanted her to learn that a good attitude, proper perspective, and some laughter will get you through some rough patches. We have learned together that the tough times don’t last long.

We are always learning. I try hard to learn from every experience, ordeal, and event. I try to teach that to those I am close to. I am teaching that to my daughter as well.  Even though she is strong and stubborn, she is also kind and caring and wonderful (I may be biased).  We are learning to get through this crazy life together.

I can’t tell you what the magic potion is for communication.  I heard of a parent who said that they changed the Netflix password after not hearing from their child for a while, that worked (I think it was genius). Nevertheless, I would tell you to listen to your students. They are in college and they are adults. Try to really hear what they are saying. Ultimately, I think it comes down to respect and I truly respect my children.

Penn State Parents Council