Helicopter parents don’t just land in classrooms. One if hovering in my research lab right now.
I agreed to let Vincent, a freshman, work in my biology lab. he was polite and seemed to know something about the work that I do. His transcript showed that he did well in his fall classes. Everything seemed to check out.
We met in my office for about an hour to talk about research. When he left, I heard two other voices say, “I’m so proud of you, Vincent.” I didn't realize at the time that those were his parents, waiting outside my office the entire time, listening in to our conversation. [cue ominous music]
After a week, I picked up the phone to hear, “Vincent isn’t satisfied with the pace of his training in your lab. He’s very smart. I would like for all of us to meet and discuss this.”
I actually agreed to this with the hopes of laying down the law with mom and dad. I started by saying that I do not like meetings with parents so they should not plan to schedule another one. If Vincent doesn’t like working in the lab, he should talk to me. Now go away.
What they heard was, “I don’t like scheduled meetings with you so feel free to stop by unannounced. If Vincent is unhappy, I will discuss this with you, the parents. I look forward to talking with you daily.”
It turns out that Vincent really wasn’t good at much of anything. He cleaned glassware. Lots of glassware. He did a few experiments unsuccessfully and did nothing to contribute to the project. He didn’t even last the whole semester, although I tracked his time in the lab based on the number of times I spoke to his parents. That would be seven.
The silver lining was that everybody in my research group bonded over this and we have several long-running jokes based on Vincent and his parents. We moved on with our research and thought about more pleasant things.
Last week, I’m walking to my lab and I see dad, waiting for me. “I see that you added new research article to the bulletin board outside your office. Why isn’t Vincent one of the coauthors? I’m sure there’s a way to correct this.”
You have got to be fucking kidding me.
Bob from Bennington