It seems that parenting is a never-ending process of getting our kids ready for the next stage only to say good-bye to them. From the moment they enter the world the incredible bond between us and them is invariably strengthened, stretched and tested.
We get them ready for daycare / preschool and along with our kids we experience our first significant separation. Tears and heartache all around. The years go by and we prepare them for primary school, middle school and then high school. In the early years, farewell rituals are marked with prolonged tight embraces and ambivalent goodbyes. At some point, the separation gets easier for them as expressed with smiles, fleeting hugs, casual waves and bright eyes until it seems, goodbye is marked by dutiful farewell motions, nonchalance and other classic teenage gestures. We remind ourselves, these are all healthy signs of normal detachment. Saying goodbye at the bus for weeks away at sleepover camp, the separation anguish progressively shifts from their heartache to ours. Obviously they have come to realize that camp is where the fun is at and we will still be here when they get home. Now they are departing on weekends and brief trips away with cheerful goodbyes and per-functionary hugs. We are all happy for the mini-breaks; we all know it’s temporary.
The inevitable launch to university campus and the consequent goodbye is a big milestone for all of us. It’s a significant transition with plenty of push and pull. After a few practice runs, enthusiastic reunions on campus and at home, we all get the hang of it and we learn to shift gears relatively smoothly. Definitely there are some growing pains along the way. This is our new reality; we must fill the void and relinquish some control; certainly no easy task for us GenX ‒ quasi-helicopter parents. It’s no surprise, as we allow ourselves to let go, in fact, our adult kids soar. The college years are an oscillating cycle of reunions and goodbyes. At times, we don’t know if they are coming or going. But home, is really, still home.
Eventually they graduate and move back home (albeit very briefly). Everything feels familiar and mostly manageable until boom! It’s time for another huge change, and along with that milestone another separation and goodbye. Once again, we must remind ourselves: this is normal young adult development. This is a good thing. So here is a note to the first of my three Millennials moving on and moving out.
An open letter to my kids on “life-after-college”:
You are adults in almost every sense of the word. But, I am still the parent. Parenting is forever. (Parent all-inclusive package is non-refundable.) Of course I love you unconditionally as my adult kids; however, sometimes I really miss my adorable little kids. Keeping in touch is appreciated more than you realize. Telephone, FaceTime, texting and emailing are all good media. Snapchat and Instagram are fun but in my mind they do not constitute sufficient correspondence. Laundry and your favourite home-cooked meals are still available upon request. Parental support and guidance are always available. Nagging is most likely provided until further notice. Our home is always still your home-away-from-home.
It’s a lot to process: you are moving out and moving on. Along with our unwavering love comes immeasurable gratitude and tremendous pride and also inevitable worry. This is the parent all-inclusive deluxe package. We hope that we have taught you everything you need to be successful out there in the world. However, we are here for any lessons-for-life-after-college still needed. Here is the abbreviated curriculum: employment contracts, leases, income tax, insurance, and investments. I think the mortgage lesson is a bit premature. Intermediate level food prep, laundry and home repair suggestions include: laundry cannot be replaced with Fabreze; sometime dry-cleaning is a better option; Windex and Wipes are critical home cleaning supplies. It’s time to upgrade from a dust buster to a vacuum cleaner.
It has become apparent to me that almost everything you will ever need to learn (certainly, practical skills and applied tasks) can be found on YouTube; however we are still available if for any reason you do not have access to Wi-Fi. Furthermore, it’s clear that an abundance of Apps for almost any service and amenity imaginable are just a tap away, and are increasing ad infinitum. Nonetheless, please let’s not forget all those hours of harping on values-based lessons of character development, including: compassion, courage, creativity, integrity and morality etc. Note to Millennials: these essential pillars of character cannot simply be acquired by downloading an App. At least not yet. Until then, we are not entirely obsolete.
Please check back soon for more lessons on life-after-college.