The types of college parents

The beginning of October marks a new Cambridge academic year, which means the flight of the college family storks has commenced, blessing hundreds of second years across the university with anxiety-ridden teenage bundles of joy. As newly formed college families start to get to know their relatives, new college mums and dads start to figure out what kind of parents they’ll be. As a college daughter, sister, mother and wife myself, I like to think I’ve encountered (and to an extent become) many of the different college parent stereotypes you’ll stumble across throughout the year.

The overbearing parent

As soon as the college family group chat is created, you feel the maternal/paternal instincts start to emerge; you start to fear for your children as if they were your own. You’ll find yourself saying things like “you’re basically me when I was in freshers” and you’ll feel obliged to scold them when they themselves get college-married at the end of Freshers’ week (“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, why throw it away for some guy you met 5 days ago!”) The overbearing parent will frantically search for their child in Cindie's as if they're a toddler lost in a supermarket, and will spoil them with notes in a desperate plea for their unconditional love. However, as with real parents, smothering a child is a surefire way to drive them away, and can you blame them? Having just escaped their real-life parents the last thing they’d want is to be stuck with a pair of new ones.

Neglectful parents

During the first week of term, you’ll often see the odd fresher roaming aimlessly around college, looking lost and craving parental love. These are the little-orphan-Annie freshers whose parents have carelessly abandoned them upon their arrival at college. This happens for many reasons – sometimes the parents don’t know what they let themselves in for, sometimes, to tell the harsh truth, they just don’t like them. Maybe they didn’t feel that instant connection between a parent and their child or maybe they just think their kid is a bit too keen. Either way, don’t despair – there are always the overbearing parents floating around looking for more children to adopt. 

Divorced parents

These are the clichéd parents who got hitched too early into the year, most likely at the Freshers' bop, purely based on physical attraction, soon to realise that they didn’t actually want to be friends with each other let alone commit to the institution of college marriage. At some point during the year, the father will be asked the awkward question by their children: “Why don’t you speak to mum anymore?”, to which the response will inevitably be “Uh, I don’t really know.” This effectively translates to: “I really wanted to get with them during Freshers' and so I proposed, only to discover that they have a long-term boyfriend back at home.”

The down-with-the-kids parent

These are the parents who want to relive first year and refuse to grow up. They see themselves as the ‘cool mum/dad’, when really they just seem sharky. You’ll know you fit into this category when your daughter has to hold back your hair in the Life toilets as your predrinks come back to haunt you.

The incestuous parents

A similar breed to the down-with-the-kids parent, the incestuous parents often show a complete disregard to the platonic relationship convention which is supposed to exist between a college couple and their children. They’ll often shock their own children by getting with each other, whilst shocking the rest of their college as they attempt to get with their own college children. Despite the taboo nature of college family incest, it still occurs across Cambridge, resulting in many awkward and tense family dinners.

Although there are many types of college parent, there’s no one way to go about guiding your college children through the stressful chaos that is Cambridge first year, so you’ve just got to try your best. Or don’t – they’re not your biological children anyway.

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