Time to grow up

“It’s all part of a parent’s growing up” my mom said the first year none of her five children could make it home for Christmas. Many parents will grow up this month as their children leave for college, a new job or military training.
I was reminded of this when I heard of a family’s distress prior to their child flying away for a year. They worried, “It’s such a big airport for the long layover. Should I fly that far to make sure the right gate is found for the connecting flight?”
I listened and wondered, “Why is this a problem? They graduated from high school.”
Sounds harsh? But then, my parents’ expected and trained their five children to manage ordinary events. When we moved to Utah our ages ranged from junior high to senior high. We arrived with the previous school’s first set of report cards.
We lived in Beryl, Utah, but the school bus took us an hour away to the large high school in Cedar City. That first day, report cards in hand, three high schoolers and two junior high students entered the administration offices to enroll. No parents hovered in the background answering questions or dictated which classes we took.
After filling in any mandatory course work, we chose electives and left for class. We reported back to our parents that night at supper. We faced the same thing the first semester of college. At 18 we boarded a bus, climbed in a car or took a plane to college. We stood in long lines with a list of classes that our advisors suggested we needed for our major. No parents accompanied us or visited our far flung campuses.
About six to eight weeks into the first semester, I returned to my advisor feeling out of sorts. He said, “Yep, about this time, most students begin to get homesick.”
I felt like he said, “yes, you feel homesick, but you will be okay.”
I could not call home every day. Not in that era of expensive long distance phone calls metered by the minute. We could write letters and wait days for a response.
For my mom, her growing up came when she looked around in the evening and realized I was not slouched across a chair reading a book. She wrote her mother, “I did not realize how much I would miss her until she was no longer there reading every night.”
We survived. Mom, me, and in their turn, each of my siblings.
Mom and Dad began preparing us for this departure early in life by sending us off to camp for a week. “Go. Have a good time, we will pick you up in six days.” No mail, no phone call.
When my first grandchild went to camp, misery and homesickness hit hard frequently those first four years. The camp leaders allowed him to call home.
His mom listened and murmured kind responses. She would not go get him, no matter how miserable he felt those four nights at camp. One year, to lighten the mood, we even considered sending him some Funny Gift Ideas to bring a smile to his face and create a memorable and lighthearted twist to his camp experience. He learned to stay and have fun anyway.
The parental attitude makes a difference. One college freshman that I knew casually drove three hours home every weekend their first semester. Each visit home lasted longer and longer. Each time mom and child cried hard and long when the time came to leave. They did not enroll for their second semester.
Mom, Dad: Give the gift of independence. Swallow your tears and fears and put on an encouraging smile until after they leave. I know it’s hard. When the kids have gone, the empty nest begins to echo. Take a deep breath. If you did your job bringing them up to be independent adults, they will be okay, and so will you.