Journey to Independence
Our third daughter, Ceci, messaged me the day after I dropped her off at Uni in Melbourne. Thinking that she’d want some sensible advice from her dear old Mum about how to boil an egg or something similar, I laughed when I saw that she’d sent me a photo of the washing she’d done all by herself carefully hung over her brand new clothes horse.
The journey to independence for our young people is strewn with obstacles, large and small, but being able and willing to do the chores your parents once did for you must be one of the significant milestones in a teen’s life.
It’s always a little bit sad when a child leaves home properly for the first time. As a parent, you hold tiny fears for the child’s safety in the big, bad world without you, and you evaluate your own parenting and hope that you’ve taught them enough to not only cope by themselves but hopefully to thrive.
We’ve actively encouraged our children to consider universities in the major cities, not because these institutions have any academic superiority, but because we’d like them to broaden their horizons in a variety of ways. Deakin University in Melbourne is around a six-hour drive from our town. Macquarie Uni in Sydney, where our Bea is, is about four and a half hours, so our girls took us seriously. Our Adult child also works in Sydney. This doesn’t mean that we don’t hope they may come back to the country eventually – we hope they’ll realise it’s superiority for raising children!
So – what skills do children need before they leave home? Do they still need to cook? They have the best recipes and youtube for that. Do they need to know how to use a washing machine, throw the doona over their bed or clean their room? None of these are really too challenging – even if they’ve never tried before! Catch public transport? It’s pretty easy to pick up as you go.
What they do really need is a sound work ethic and perseverance for all aspects of their life. They need to know that nothing comes easily and they will need the confidence to seek assistance diligently for problems they can’t solve. They need resilience, for when things get tough, and access to a support network – which may be us or sensible friends or their local parish. And they need clear values with a sense of their own boundaries, which our Catholic faith excels in. Sure, they’ll make mistakes – Uni parties are legendary! But they will also know they have a family who loves them, who they can come back to if the going gets too rough.
Of course, many parents have a secret desire that their children will leave to become shining lights that illuminate us and their family. We may dream of their being rich and famous or winning a Nobel prize for – well, anything, really.
But my deepest wish for my children leaving home is that they will stay close to Jesus. They can’t go too far wrong if they have a strong relationship with Him, for He was the epitome of perseverance, resilience and solid values. And He shares with us His support network, His mother Mary. If all of our children are decent, responsible citizens who are prepared to work with others towards peace in our world, how fantastic would that be? That would be the best kind of shining light of all.
First published in My Family My Faith Magazine 2016