Asking all the parents out there – when you decided to have children did visualize them as adults and try to see who they would turn out to be? Really think back. For me personally having a child was a bit of a selfish choice. That’s right, I was selfish when I decided to have a child because I hadn’t really thought through the long and short of it all. I was definitely not envisioning my grown daughter, what she might do for work and where she might live. I was caught up in the moment of being a Mum and raising her. I kinda thought I always would be raising her. Reality struck in the pre teen days. Then my thoughts became more about when will she ever grow up?
Now don’t take this the wrong way. I loved almost every minute of raising her. I just think my own upbringing allowed me to see the true value in fostering independence and to encourage my beautiful daughter to seek her own path while being able to stand on her own. I believe it is important to nurture your kids but as they become teens increasing the expectation to become more independent so they can eventually live on their own. They become community members who will better care for our planet, improve our health and provide stability for our future.
I know what you are thinking. This is all common sense, right? I find myself in an interesting position where I can observe my friends who are raising kids a bit younger than mine. Most of the time I have found I was alone in the stages of child rearing because many of my peers didn’t start as early as I did. What I see a lot of times is modern parents jumping in to cushion the decision-making process. There is such a fine line. Give them a chance to make decisions – even what we might think are the wrong ones – as long as it doesn’t physically hurt them, of course.
What does independence look like to me? I like to focus mostly on confidence building activities. It is fun to explore the options at all stages.
- Early years: carry your own bag, stir your oatmeal, pick out your clothes without your parents overriding your choices
- Middle years: do the dinner dishes, make the cookies by following a recipe without intervention (even if they turn out wrong), making lunch for school
- Later Years: doing their own laundry, making dinner of their choice for the house during the week, consistently contributing to the cost of lifestyle expenses like car insurance or phone bill
Sometimes the biggest obstacle in allowing the process to happen is more related to parents giving away some control. That is also something that was hard for me. I like to keep things moving. If there is a project on the list I like to get it done. Some have called me ‘efficient’ in what I think was a loving way. What is worse than someone slowing you down when you are just trying to get things done? If there was a financial issue, I would try and push through to make whatever my daughter wanted to happen. What good parent doesn’t want to give it all to their children?
In reality, I didn’t share enough of my struggles with my daughter before I got divorced and we lived on our own. I was caught up in just moving life along and I didn’t talk to her about how difficult it was sometimes to budget for her upcoming driving expenses, plan for college help or just the stress of running a household. I didn’t do what I know now is an important part of developing any relationship. I didn’t ask for her help. If you really think about it that is what fostering independence is!
When we finally were on our own after my divorce I learned that I needed to confide in her. I needed to teach her how to be a good roommate. It is growing increasingly more difficult for kids to jump out of the nest and fly. It is incredibly expensive and more and more difficult to find good footing. I knew in my heart that it was likely she would have a hard time finding a way to live on her own right off the bat. Wages for young adults heading into the workforce were (and still are) very low. Rent prices are out of reach in their hometowns. Having a roommate or two or three is the best way to allow kids to live out on their own. They might have to live in a less desirable town but with some exploration, there are lots of options. Many up and coming, trendy cities are that way because a bunch of kids looking for a more affordable option when moving out started to migrate and build up those spots. In these situations being a roommate is the key to standing on their own two feet and our job is to teach them how to live with others and be successful.
Parents learning to let go and not swoop in for every minor obstacle our kids face is paramount in teaching our kids how to live on their own. It starts in the very beginning. I remember that day my daughter asked me to stop cutting her hot dogs in half, and then half again, then in quarters, and then sliced. She was 8. I am pretty sure she had a full mouth of very strong teeth by then.
Thanks again for reading. Here’s to all of the empty nesters out there. Congratulations!
Just bee… xo Melissa Dee