Growing up, I often heard that famous quote, “A parent’s job is to give their children two things, one is roots, the other, wings.” I believe my parents were successful in this endeavor. Suddenly, without warning, I find myself the mother of two girls, young adults, really, who want to spread their wings, and I am almost certain that only yesterday I was sending them off to pre-K and 1st grade! When you hit 40, all those clichés about age, and wisdom, and fleeting time seem to come true, sometimes all at once!
My oldest daughter just finished her second year in the Americorps program. She spent the last year working exclusively with Habitat For Humanity in New Orleans. I flew down there last week and she showed me some of the houses she had helped to build, and I met her co-workers, friends, and house-mates. I also met a man whose house she had built. She got glowing reviews from all, and it made me proud and happy to see that she did so well. More importantly, I had a greater sense of who she had become since she left home two years ago. Who knew she would love construction? Who knew she would be so happy with so little ($)? I am so very glad she had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of her labor, and that she has learned at a young age, how good it feels to do for others. She met some amazing people and had some great experiences. She has friends she will keep for life, I suspect. The idealism they all share is such a positive, wonderful thing to behold.
She is now home, trying to figure out how to continue having those experiences, within the confines of a real budget. Sadly, reality bites! She has not gone to college, but wants to do the things the people she graduated from high school are now doing: sharing off-campus apartments, working part time jobs, and attending school. She has committed to sharing an apartment in NC with a friend she’s known for 8 years. I think she expected to find a job in NC with ease, especially with her newfound skills and experience. In the meantime, she is begrudgingly living at home, slowly “smothering”, as she puts it. She continues to send her resume and has said she will do what she has to do to make this happen. Our concern is that she will not make school a priority if she heads to NC, either because she won’t have time with working a full time job to cover her living expenses, or because she just won’t be motivated. School has never been her favorite thing. She’s earned grant money to help pay tuition expenses. We’ve offered to cover her tuition at a community college here to get her started, but she insists that NC is where she needs and wants to be. Which means, if she does start school there sometime before next year, her grant money will go towards tuition that is 3x as much as we would pay for her to go here, since she won’t have a year’s worth of residency in NC. Sigh. The thing is, I totally understand her desire for independence! I admire her determination to do it herself. My husband is the logical one, the planner. I love that about him. But it certainly does not mesh well with her desire to be free! So, then, we bide our time. We will continue to make suggestions, drop hints, offer assistance (within our means and according to our idea of what is best for her). Because that is what parents do. And we PRAY that the right path will become clear to her, and won’t have so many potholes that she falls flat.
And then there is my 18 year old. My daughter who has had a marriage proposal. My husband and I really like this guy. He’s a kind, respectful young man. He has a plan for his life, and he loves and appears to be committed to our daughter. I am happy for her that someone loves her that way. I’ll be even happier if he still feels that way after he has graduated from high school, completed USMC boot camp, and started his career. And, after she has been to college, lived on her own for a bit and learned how to manage her finances! She called me in New Orleans last week to tell me that he had proposed. I asked her if he had formally asked her dad for permission to marry her. She said he had not. After our conversation, she gave the ring back to him and told him that he had to ask us, first. (Good girl!) He confided in me over the weekend that he was trying to make sure he had his speech ready to give my husband, and that he would be able to answer any questions my husband was sure to pose. My husband and I had been discussing the issue and agreed that it would be wise for the two of them to wait at least a year to get engaged, (and a few to get married) and I told her boyfriend this. Turns out, he pretty much expected that is what we would say, and told me he understood our reasoning. I think we are past this hurdle, at least for now. You know what they say about marriage: “You don’t lose a daughter, you gain a son.” As much as I really do like and admire my daughter’s boyfriend, I already have two teenaged sons, thank you very much!
All in all, life continues to be interesting. Parenting does not stop when your kids are legal adults. I am not sure it ever does! And yet, I wouldn’t trade these days, or these experiences for anything in the world. I am so very glad I don’t have to do it alone! Now, if I could just keep my husband from losing his mind……………