How To Cope When Your Son or Daughter Leaves Home
Any parent knows that a day will come when their child will grow up and leave home. They will make plans and preparations. They will mentally tell themselves it will be okay. They will reassure their child that he/she will be a success in everything they do, if they apply themselves. If they are going to college, forms will be filled out and scheduled tours will be made. The calendar may even be filled with highlights on the big event. But, what about the child that flies from the coop unexpectedly? How does a parent cope with that?
The day I decided to leave the nest
I dropped the bomb on my parents unexpectedly when I chose to get married at eighteen, my senior year of high school. I never thought about how it would affect them or my siblings at the time. The only thing I was focused on was that I thought I was ready to start a family. In many ways I was, but there were some lessons that parents have taught their children that doesn't seem to stick until our own children come along. This is one of those lessons.
If you were to ask my mother, mljdgulley354, what kind of teenager I was, she would tell you that I was about as close to a perfect teen as a parent could ask for. I tried to adhere to the lesson “treat others as you want to be treated”. Mom was constantly telling us that our children would be ten times worse than we were, so remember that what we do, they will more than likely do...and then some. I took it seriously at the time, and can look back and laugh at it now.
When my son came along, he was very much like me. Hardly ever slept, rambunctious, outgoing, and funny, but tried to avoid trouble like the plague. If he couldn't avoid trouble, there was a debate, as he expressed his thoughts about fairness or what he did wrong. I often told him he should have been a lawyer.
My daughter was his polar opposite. Slept twelve hours with a two hour nap during the day. Lazy, unless it was on her terms her way, hilarious, and seemed to breed trouble without trying. (That was how she earned the name Pokey.) She craved attention, was my social bug, and mother hen.
First day of school
When my son went to Kindergarten for the first day, we stood together waiting for the doors to open so he could see his class and meet his classmates. My daughter stood by, chomping at the bit furious, because she couldn't attend class with her brother. Next to us was a mother with her son. She was having a melt down. Dabbing her eyes, hugging her son, carrying on about how great it was that he was such a big boy now and how much she was going to miss him while he was in school. The poor boy looked embarrassed and unsure of how he should react to his mother's crying out bursts.
My children watched in awe and disbelief over an action they had never seen before. This was cheap entertainment to them and worth making a note of. They had seen drama before, but never to this degree. When the time came, I bid my son farewell and told him I would pick him up at three. He returned with a "whatever" and ran off to join his friends.
These were the same results I experienced with my daughter when she started school. The only difference was that she was going to be a handful for any of the teachers in her path.
As my children grew into their teens, they started to go their separate paths. As predicted, it was soon obvious that my daughter was going to be my biggest challenge, while my son did most of his antics quietly, with responsibility and control.
My daughter has always felt that whatever was good for the goose, was good for the gander. (If her brother could do it...why can't she?) Therefore, in her book, this gave her a wide pasture to do whatever she wanted with no regards to the consequences. Her motto was that life should be lived to the fullest with tons of passion, for one never knew when it might be snuffed out.
Getting read for graduations
After my son graduated he made plans to move. Since we had plenty of notice when he was planning on doing this, it was easy for me to make the adjustment, because I had plenty of time to mentally prepare myself. This didn't make the task any easier, but the empty nest didn't last long. My daughter, on the other hand, showed signs of jealousy, anger, and depression, because she felt she was losing her best friend. She wanted to join her brother on his adventures.
The day my daughter ran away came as a blow to my husband and I. We had been trying for years to rein her wild ways in and teach her responsibility for her actions. My husband and I both questioned our parenting skills, often laying blame on each other for how she was. In reality, this was the person our daughter wanted to be, and it was time for us to accept that. (In many ways, things could have been worse, but there were a few things she used her head about.)
She took off with her boyfriend, a month before her graduation, while I was taking a nap. Looking back, I thought it was strange how they were more than happy to jump in and help me finish digging out my flower bed. (She would often argue with me about doing chores because she had something else planned.) Since I was so tired, I didn't give it much thought when she asked to go to a friends house, giving me full details of where she would be and for how long. (This was another sign something was up, because usually I was the one asking twenty questions) It wasn't until she didn't show up for curfew that I began to suspect something was amiss. By three in the morning, I had woke up the household looking for clues as to where she was, but not knowing that she had took off to go live with her boyfriend. (Her brother had come back to live with us for a few months after his trip to Arizona didn't work out. So, since they were so close, the focus was on him.)
Our son was plagued with guilt. She had been smarting off comments about her plans to him, but because she had been doing this for so long, he hadn't taken her serious. It bothered him that he had the possibility of doing something about the situation, if he had only taken a moment to take her serious. It took him a long time to overcome his guilt and anger.
For me, I had experienced a wave of emotions in a short week, before I came to terms that she wasn't coming back. The first emotion was outrage and the desire to beat her senseless for not caring about what she was doing with her future. To permanently cut her off...disowning her because I had believed everyone of her lies about her plans for her future. My second emotion to hit me was heartbreak. It felt as if she had died. My little girl I have loved and cherished was gone. In its place was a stranger that I didn't know. My third emotion was disappointment. I was disappointed in myself, my husband, my son, and other members of friends and family. I had wanted to ease my guilt for what I had seen as my failure as a parent, by laying the blame on others. My last emotion was defeat. It was time to accept my daughter for the person she had become instead of the person I had wanted her to be.
I was grateful that she decided to finish school, even though she chose not to live with us. It took a lot of communication on our part to patch up the issues that caused her to take off in the first place. Even still, she chose the path of greatest resistance.
Which brings me back to the question at hand. How does a parent cope when their child leaves home? I used my faith and the power of prayer to overcome my children leaving home. I called my mother and asked her how she coped with me leaving. Her answer was the same as mine.
There comes a time when a parent has to accept the inevitable. It doesn't mean they have to like it, but need to accept that their child has become an adult. They can no long hide their actions behind their parents. They will now have to live with the choices they make. It is our job as parents to continue guiding them, but to step back. Let them stumble and fall on their own, so they will grow as we did at that age.
My neighbor stopped me one day, not long after our daughter's graduation. (One of her daughter's had graduated with mine.) She asked me how I was coping with what I had just gone through. Both of her daughters were running a rebellious streak. She was at her wits end. I looked at her with a smile and said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
I learned to let go. Knowing that I had done the best I could with the knowledge I had, and hoped that the lessons I taught my children would stick. I am seeing the results of those lessons. My daughter has learned a lot about being a grown up. She repeated my words back to me one day, when I least expected; she had said that some people have to learn their lessons the hard way, and that she was one of them.
She now has two children of her own.
My son uses those lesson we have taught him in his work place. When he was a guard at a corrections facility, he seen every day how certain choices can make or break a life. That is what they are...choices.
As a parent, we can choose to let our children grow up and support them even though we don't agree to their lifestyle, or we can choose to let it eat us up, shortening our happiness we could be having in our lives. The question now is...what will you do?
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