Fly little bird, fly!
Fred is officially off to college. My little fledgling has spread his wings in spectacular fashion. He’s excited for his independence and diving in to college life as a Presidential Scholar at LaGrange College.
And what parent doesn’t reflect at this stage?
As parents, taking a step back to consider how much it took to get them to this point brings a sense of accomplishment as well as relief. And disbelief, too, as you wonder how you made it, everyone still mostly sane. The road is tremendously hard and filled with intense ups and downs. Parenting is often compared to a roller coaster for that very reason, right?
Throughout our experience in raising fully-formed humans, we have hopes and dreams for them. The details of those may evolve and shift as we see how they progress and their personalities solidify. In the end, though, it just comes down to wanting them to be happy and capable.
Making his own flight plan
As they set out on their own in the world, we certainly have things we hope they learned from us and value as we do. There’s never a guarantee they’ll embrace and share those values, though. Leading by example as a parent doesn’t always manifest itself how you think it will or in the way you intended. They are their own special unicorns. They’ve grown up in a very different world from us and they have to proceed in their own context.
When we started homeschooling quite unexpectedly, my desire was simply to show Fred and George everything I could while I had the chance. Homeschooling opened up huge possibilities for us. The ability to go, see, and do in-person instead of in theory. We’ve had amazing adventures. You might say they were epic. Thinking back to everything we’ve done together brings a tornado of mind-spinning emotions to the forefront.
The story underlying the details of those adventures was showing them a broader picture. Different places, people, and ways of life. Experienced in reality, not from a distance or through the one-way filter of media. I wanted them to know they have choices. Whatever those choices end up being, I wanted them to see they have a limitless palette of colors with which to paint the story of their lives.
In homeschooling our way all over North America, a lot of our adventures involved the outdoors. Yet for all of the time spent outside, Fred isn’t very outdoorsy now. It was always about showing him the possibilities, though. At a minimum I knew it would be good skill building. Philosophically I just wanted them to be flexible, unafraid, and have an appreciation of the outdoors.
Maybe he’ll swing back around to it one day. Maybe not. Probably not actually; it simply doesn’t seem to call to him. That’s ok. He knows it’s there and I know the experience helped him become the person he is today. My hope is that it set the stage for curiosity, however he chooses to manifest it.
Obviously I have a lot of swirling thoughts as I watch Fred lunge out of the nest. Rewinding eighteen years of memory newsreel, I keep coming back to the big picture. He knows how big, fabulous, and complex the world is. And for his space in it, he doesn’t feel the need to apologize for, justify, or make excuses for who he is. He knows he can be him, that he’s his own person, and his choices are his responsibility. I can’t tell you how much I love that.
It’s called empowerment. If I did nothing else right as a parent, I’m thrilled that part stuck. It may be the most important thing after all.