When I was in college, finals time was filled with events for us to attend, typically as ways to de-stress. The one that stands out most was moonlight breakfast because it was my favorite–a free late-night breakfast served in the cafeteria–but I know there were plenty of other things. And this is a pretty common thing across college campuses. Paul’s sister Emily, who’s actually going to my alma mater, spent some time the other day playing with dogs they brought to campus. I’m jealous. I would’ve been all over that in college. Hell, I’d be all over that now.

Because 2016 isn’t done destroying everything yet, we had a funeral to attend today for Paul’s uncle’s dad. Afterwards, a member of the family hosted everyone for lunch, as is pretty typical, and we ended up at a table with some people from his side of the family we didn’t know. Paul’s dad happened to mention something to me about talking to Emily and hearing about the dogs, and the woman’s reaction was kind of…strange.

She started off by saying that kids who attend things like that weren’t “raised right.” When I explained they’re just little events throughout the week to help the kids de-stress, she said that they need to learn how to handle stress on their own. I was starting to get kind of irritated with her attitude about the whole thing at this point and made the point that it’s not the sort of thing where the events aren’t some sort of crutch, they’re just events and tools, really.

The conversation shifted after that, and had it not, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well. But I was surprised by how strongly she felt about it, and I’m confused as to how de-stress events that are usually pretty simple got conflated into essentially coddling–she didn’t use that word, but it was implied. It was as though in her mind, the school holding any sort of event at all to help with stress was going too far, especially given her comment about students needing to learn to manage stress themselves, but it’s not like these events stop them from being able to do that. Really, they’re nothing more than opportunities for them to de-stress on their own, especially for kids who might be stuck on campus without a car and little to no money to go out and do something otherwise. The school isn’t holding their hand and guiding them through how to handle the stress, it’s merely providing an opportunity for them to actually do it. I’m sure the kids who went knew damn well they’d enjoy it and didn’t need a university to tell them that, and I don’t see it as being much different than being an adult coming home to a pet after a long day.

Even if it were a matter of providing some guidance on how to alleviate stress, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, particularly if you’re taking young adults who aren’t quite out in the world yet and are teaching them healthy ways of doing it. I understand the importance of people learning how to cope on their own, but some people turn to terrible, unhealthy ways of doing that, and there’s nothing wrong with giving these kids a little nudge in the right direction. It’s not coddling, it’s not babying, it’s not “PC culture,” it’s not that kids these days are wimps who can’t handle anything–it’s a good, helpful thing to do, especially if you end up with kids abusing drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism who might carry that into adulthood. Guidance isn’t a bad thing.

I went to some of those events in college myself, and I appreciated the opportunity to go to them because it got me out of my dorm and at least out doing something else. And here I am, a functional adult who does, in fact, know how to handle stress despite my school holding those events. I rarely get stressed these days as it is, and when I do, I know what helps with it. I even know that if I get too overwhelmed or I just need a little push, I can schedule with my therapist, but I’m gonna guess that people who have a problem with puppies on a college campus probably have a problem with people seeking professional help, too.

The whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, really. I think part of the issue may have been that Paul’s dad specifically said “service dogs,” so I think maybe she misinterpreted their role on the campus and the purpose of the event and thought that it was a little more serious than it actually was.

I also find it kind of funny that someone got as worked up about de-stress events as she did. Maybe she could benefit from them herself.

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