I have had something on my mind a lot recently. That something is my children. (There are many changes occurring in my house concerning my children; I will get to that later.) I actually have had them on mind more than just recently; it is an every moment of the day occurrence; those of you reading this, who have children, will completely understand. I have learned many things throughout this 20 year parenting experience. I have learned that nothing is constant; you and your children will change. I have learned to be more patient. I have learned that my children are not me; they are independent people who are making and will make their own choices in life. On the tail of that last sentence, I have learned to let go of some things. (There are many many more things I have learned, but I can’t list them all here.) Lastly, from my experiences living overseas and teaching students from all over the world, I have learned that parenting varies from person to person and culture to culture.
One of the qualities that people from the United States value is independence. (I will include myself in this description, as I am from the United States.) Beyond the regular schedule and demand of school, many parents in this country are very busy planning play dates for their children, scheduling extra curricular activities (sports, music, dance, etc), and quite simply keeping their children’s days full. In a nutshell, the idea being that the more experiences you have, the more well-rounded you are, the more successful you will be in your future. We hope this all leads to independence and more.
In the United States, a person is considered an adult at age 18. What does that mean? An adult can vote in the elections. An adult can choose to enter the military. An adult can go to jail/prison for any crimes committed. An adult has the right to complete privacy concerning their medical, financial, and other personal records. An adult doesn’t have to listen to their parents anymore……well, not completely true.
Where am I going with this? An adult can move out of the house. Let me elaborate here. In the United States, we keep our children close until they graduate from high school. Then, somehow the expectations change. We expect them to leave the nest soon after graduation. One family’s definition of soon and another family’s definition may be quite different. There are some that expect their children to move out of the family home immediately, following high school graduation, or pay rent. And there are others that expect their children to move out when they finish university or get a full-time job.
Now, what makes this even more interesting to me, is that it is not unusual for our children to move far away. For example, it is not uncommon for a young person to move across the country to attend a university or for a job opportunity. Personally, as a parent, it feels that if my child has the strength and independence to fly and fly far (if they so choose), I have done my job. I have helped create a person who is strong, self-assured, and independent. Now, how is this viewed in other countries? This is incomprehensible to many people around the world. Why would we want our children to move from our home? We must love our children less. We don’t love our children any less; we just have different expectations for their future.
Now, onto my children, in particular. In the beginning of this post, I stated that we are in the midst of some big changes occurring in our house.
I am the mother of two children. My son (Daniel) is 20 and my daughter (Sophia) is a few months shy of 12. Like most parents, when my children were born, I felt that no one could possibly understand the love that I felt (and still feel) for my children. I remember describing it to my friends who didn’t have children yet. It is a like a love affair; you love them from the moment of birth (and before), and it just intensifies once their personalities develop.
I have struggled with the adjustment of every phase my children go through, especially my son’s. I remember when my son was about 2 years old. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have any more children and I mourned the thought that he may be my only. On numerous occasions, I would get his little sleeping body out of his bed and just sit and hold him on the couch, and watch him sleep. I was also mourning the thought that he would never be my little baby again. Of course, I knew then and know now that he will always be my son, but I mourned the loss of the old stage and wasn’t able to quickly embrace the new stage.
So now, here I am getting ready for my son to launch into another new phase. Until this point, he has been living at home and attending the local junior college. He has applied to many universities, all in the same state, and we are waiting; waiting to see where he goes next in his life. I am so excited for him and proud of him, and I can’t wait to see where life takes him. At the same time, I am sad. My little boy has become a man who is making his own life choices.
Being the second child, my experience with my daughter has been completely different. For one, she is my second. So, all the scary new things as a first time parent aren’t so scary this time around. She was also born incredibly independent. And lastly, my experience as a parent has changed the way I view her stages of life. I am looking forward to the new. Through the experiences I have had with my son, I am excited for her. It has been so fun watching him and I have learned to embrace the new and let go of the old. I still have the memories, but I am looking forward.
My daughter is in 6th grade. Recently her class visited the junior high school that she will attend next year. There is no sadness in me about this. I am so incredibly excited for her new adventure. She is a very strong, intelligent young girl and I know that she will have fun and do well on her new path.
So there you have it, the twists and turns of parenting. The letting go of the old and embracing the new; one child going off to college and one child starting junior high school. The cultural expectations; my son is ready to fly. The personal experiences; a daughter and a son who are 8 years apart and completely different people. The realization that my way isn’t the only way; there is a whole world out there parenting every day, in different ways.
For those of you interested in reading more on the topic of parenting and varying cultural perspectives and practices: