Opie and Andy – A Tale of Parents, Kids and College

Just recently I stumbled across “The Andy Griffith Show” on Amazon.  One night before bed, I pulled up Season 1: Episode 1 and started watching it to put good things into my head before drifting off. I used to watch it as a kid of the 60s and 70s but have no idea why I liked it.    So, I pulled it up for some light viewing to end a busy day.  Three episodes later, I finally turned off my light and went to sleep.

A few weeks later, I had gone through all eight seasons and found myself intrigued with the pop culture of yesteryear.   I became entranced with this show for a second time, only now as an adult.

The main characters of the show are Andy (the father and local sheriff), Opie (the son), Barney (the comedic deputy sheriff)  and Aunt Bea (the aunt who comes to live with them and take care of the house and the cooking.)    The opening of each episode shows Andy and Opie walking through the woods near a lake where they are going fishing.  The tuned whistled in the background quickly becomes the tune you whistle even if you can’t whistle.

The parallels to modern day challenges and how society has evolved to tackle those challenges was a bit surprising.     I know the bucolic life in Mayberry was screen fantasy; however, the underlying messages carry wisdom gems that are still relevant today.   Today, it feels like the normal path of life is filled with lessons that can’t be deciphered because they are buried under blankets of information and media that blur the lines between acceptable and not acceptable, often with results that are undesirable.

For example, look at what is happening with higher education in the minds of kids and parents.

Season 8 – Episode 11   Andy’s Investment
The opening scene is dear old Aunt Bea at the kitchen table wrapping a present for a new high school student going away to college.    She mentions to Andy how great it would be if that student could go to Yale where they all wear crisp white shirts and sing “bullah bullah”.    (Not sure what that means as the Ivy League was not part of my college experience.)

Andy, Opie’s father, then begins to realize he has a limited time to get funds together to send Opie to college.   Once he learns how much college actually costs, reality sets in.   His sheriff job is not going to cover the cost.  Opie starts getting excited about the prospects of even going to college and he decides that he wants to be a dentist which requires 7 years of college.    This makes the matter even worse when you are short on funds.

Andy decides to buy a coin-operated laundromat to supplement his sheriff pay.  This ends up taking way more time than he expected and starts affecting his job as sheriff. The state’s regulators pay him a surprise visit and find this arrangement is unacceptable.  While they are having a discussion about their observations with Andy in the courthouse, Opie is outside the open window listening in on the conversation.  Andy explains he bought the business to help save for college for Opie.  The regulators said he would not be allowed to do this anymore as it is interfering with his job.  One of the regulators said he faced the same problem with his child, but lucked out because his child made good grades and ended up going to a state college that was more affordable.     The burden on Andy was now on Opie.

On the next scene, Opie comes home from school with a new load of books in hand.    He tells Andy and Aunt Bea that he decided he wanted to go to the state university because it was closer and he could live with a relative while he was going there.    His new load of books included high school level studies to jump-start his learning and help raise his grades so he could get into the state university.   He takes responsibility for his future and shares in the burden and solution to his college future.   Thus, a big step was taken that day toward being a responsible, aware and caring adult.

I found this episode most intriguing for two reasons.   One, the recent college admissions scandals where rich and/or famous parents have bribed and bought their kids’ acceptance into the most desirable universities in the country.  Two, I have a lot of friends who are in the midst of sending their kids to college and differences in their experiences are most interesting.

The college admissions scandal is appalling at best.   Not only are these parents facing criminal charges, imagine the impact that has on a kid when he finds out his entrance was bought and not earned. Maybe the kids were in on it and taught you must do anything you can to get in even if it compromises your integrity.  After all,  what is integrity if you have your life fully planned out with comfortable pillows always around to catch you when you fall. Mommy and Daddy will always be there to bail you out, so do as you want. The world is your oyster.  I ask myself what are the forces that made that type of mindset acceptable and desirable?

I look around me and my friends all have different approaches with their kids.    One of my friends is a retired military officer who is now divorced with two kids – one in college and one going to college next year.    His divorce was a rocky one and his ex-spouse pulled the parent alienation card on him that has resulted in a soured relationship with both kids.   However, they want their college paid for without any relationship involved. They decided where they want to go to the encouragement of the mother without any thoughts or input from him regarding studies or cost.  They just want to email him bills and have him pay for it without regard for having a parent/child relationship.  It’s a rock and hard place, but he is navigating it well with help from a counselor.    They still benefit from his GI benefits but he ceased paying the extra bills based on email invoices from the colleges.

I met the grandson of a neighbor the other day as he was taking the trash out for his grandparents.    Through our brief conversation, I learned that he was accepted to a university not far from here.   He said his senior year was heavy with worry over how to pay for college.   His family didn’t have any money to send him to school.  On a fluke, he applied for some special funding from the school and received a grant for all 4 years completely paid for.    As he was telling me the story, he was a little choked-up with gratitude for the opportunity to attend this college.  There was no sense of entitlement with him – just pure gratitude and relief.

Now on to my best friend from college.    She and her husband have raised two boys – one in college and one that is will be a senior next year.  I have always been fascinated by their parenting style.   I admire them to the sky level because their parenting has yielded two of the most responsible, respectful and self-aware kids I know.  The oldest one is in his first year of college.   I found it totally surprising that they knew very little about his applications or funding when he was applying for colleges.   One time we were on the phone and I asked about his deadlines for his applications and she had no idea when they were due.    She said it was his responsibility to get this done.   I asked what is going to happen if he misses a deadline – she said that he would miss his first year.     SAY WHAT?  Most every parent is on their teenager with deadlines and school visits and she didn’t even know until late in the process which school he was going to!     Then my senses came back to me.    This is the way they raised the boys.   Every action has a result.     If you want something to happen, make it happen.     I am happy to say, he is attending college and his parents have his tuition covered.   He covers what he can for his living expenses and to date, she says he has never asked for any help.

So the tales of Opie and modern-day expectations of college all yield answers to my main question.    What are the characteristics of the next generation who will be responsible for our future?     Self sufficient, self-aware, respectful, problem solvers who stand on a solid foundation of confidence and integrity they learned through life experiences.   Which type of influence will yield such results?




Posted by Kristi Curry

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