April 18, 2022

ONONYE | Dear College Kids, It’s Okay to Call Your Parents More

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A few days ago, my mom called me while I was sitting in Libe. I let it ring and planned to send the call to voicemail. A friend at the table urged me to pick up the phone, saying “it might be important.” 

I knew for a fact that it wasn’t important, and told my friend that I’d call my mom after we finished talking in Libe. Throughout my time at Cornell — which feels like a long time now, as I count down the days until graduation — I have never missed a day talking to my mom. That includes the busiest prelim days, the times when she was abroad (thanks to WhatsApp!) and the days when I absolutely didn’t want to talk to her. 

While sitting at that Libe table, I could see my friend’s surprise when I told her that not only do I talk to my mom everyday (and my dad most days!) but we talk multiple times per day. My mom and I talk while I’m getting dressed for class — I’m usually her alarm clock, since she is three hours behind in California — on her lunch break and before I go to bed at night. Mixed in there we usually get in a few other quick phone calls about gossip from our days or messages that she needs me to relay to my younger brother, Ezugo Ononye ‘24. He also talks to my parents daily, by the way! 

Talking to my parents has been a great relief throughout my time at Cornell. It doesn’t mean that I’m not independent, but it means that I’m not going through everything alone. I recognize that I am really lucky to have a great relationship with my parents, and if you don’t, I encourage you to talk to a mentor outside of Cornell who has your best interests at heart, such as an older sibling, former teacher or coach, grandparent or a friend’s parent. It’s okay to be vulnerable — tell them when you’re struggling with a class, get in a fight with your best friend, are excited about an upcoming date night or are up for an exciting campus leadership position. They can provide a very different perspective from your friends on campus, and you can trust that they (almost!) always have your best interests at heart — with no stake in the game, far from campus. On campus we spend a lot of time speaking with other Cornellians — students, faculty and staff — and sometimes (more than sometimes if you’re me) it feels good to talk to people outside of that bubble. 

This is even more important when you don’t live a driving distance from home (cough, cough New Yorkers). My home is on the other side of the country in Southern California, which means that I don’t get the opportunity to go home for short breaks (like fall break and February break). It also means that I can’t drive up for family birthdays, on religious holidays (my parents are still upset about me missing Easter!) or when I’m just having a bad day. Calling my parents is a small connection to home, and hearing their voices so often is a reason why I hardly ever get homesick. 

I have a feeling that the parents and alumni who read this are going to get excited and encourage their children to stay in touch, while the students who read this are going to assume that I am a loser with no friends. I have a lot of friends and a great social life at Cornell, and I think that’s in large part because I talk to my parents a lot. I am not solely dependent on my best friends at Cornell for advice and emotional support, and I have parents to give me the hard truth when other people in my life don’t want to. I also have my parents to check in on my mental health — they send me care packages when they know that I have a big exam coming up, pray on the phone with me when I’m nervous about a big interview and encourage (yes, encourage!) me to go out to parties when they know that I am in my work rabbit-hole. 

This week I have seen a lot of parents on campus, decked out in Cornell gear with their prospective and recently admitted Cornellians. They spend an absurd amount of money buying hoodies and hats in the Cornell Store, force their reluctant high schoolers to take pictures in front of the clocktower and pop their heads into random classrooms and club meetings. They are so excited that their kids will be attending Cornell soon and want to experience the campus just like their children. How can that translate into a scheduled 15 minute phone call every other Sunday for the entire time that their children are Cornellians? Let your parents experience Cornell with you. Call your parents more. 

Anuli Ononye (she/her) is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Womansplaining runs every other Monday this semester.