Friday, August 31, 2012

Helping Them Fly is not Enough

Midsummer was a noisy place at our bird feeders. Fledglings screamed and shook in the branches as their parents diligently gathered seed and carried it to them. As they matured, the young birds might fly down and try to pick at seeds themselves, but mom and dad knew they weren't completely ready to be on their own yet. They still fed them, and showed their brood how to find food on their own. I call this time the birds' teenage years: old enough to fly and eat on their own, but still dependent on their parents for food, shelter and protection.

I've had some interesting conversations since Marina started college. Most of the people I've spoken with believe that life gets easier for parents when their children are in college. After all, their now off on their own, living their own life. I've found the opposite is true. I've never felt so busy and tied to a schedule. True, my daughter hasn't learned to drive yet, we're working on that, but even if you take away the transportation issues, there is so much to do as a parent for teens and young adults. Beginning at fifteen, I've walked my teens through filling out various forms, how to dress for an interview, and how to boast. Yes, boast. They tend to feel shy about their accomplishments or don't see them as anything special, but those unique attributes--including homeschooling--can be important when talking to an admissions counselor or interviewing for a job. What can I say? My kids don't like to toot their own horn. They even felt guilty about asking for letters of recommendation from places where they had volunteered. Marina said it made the volunteering seem less genuine if they received something for it. We ended up in a discussion about the service requirement most schools have in our area and how it amounts to involuntary volunteerism. But I digress.

A huge part of the teenage years and young adulthood is support. While some are naturally able to "jump out of the nest" and fly, I believe most young people need some amount of hand holding to successfully meet the challenges of becoming an adult. Apart from the stress of new responsibilities, teens are also dealing with a lot of hormonal changes within their bodies, which can cause emotional stress. Is it a good idea to choose this moment in time to decide to kick the baby bird out of the nest and wish it luck? I don't think so. I will take my cue from the birds and continue to teach them how to survive until they are ready to fly off on their own. Homeschooling doesn't really end. The subject matter just changes.


Paula Vince said...

I agree with all you've said. The late teens still seem to be a time of such vulnerability. It's a shame that trying to figure out one's life path has to coincide with all those hormonal changes you mentioned, but that's the way it's been for generations so we can't see it changing :) I'm glad we still have them at home to guide. I hope things work out really well for Marina.

Inner Elder said...

A wise reflection on good parenting - I love it that you learned from the birds! Marina, Chase and Sierra are blessed to have parents that continue to guide and support them. Young adulthood is a time that needs the most gentle parenting of all! Love, Mom

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