Coping with transitions as a parent

Leaves in fall colours

Flicking through the television channels last week, I caught a glimpse of Robyn, Dr. Phil’s wife, dabbing away tears and holding the hand of another parent faced with her daughter’s imminent departure away from home to university. The single parent whose daughter sat next to her, apparently found little pleasure in anything other than being there for her daughter. Dr. Phil focused on the mother’s need to be needed by her daughter as a way of defining her self. The daughter, although saddened too, seemed to be ready to take on the challenge of being more independent, both physically and psychologically.

As one of my daughters enters Grade one and the other Grade nine, I am struck by how quickly time marches on. This is a year of transition for our family It is a bitter sweet time. Like most parents, I sometimes crave solitude when my children are pulling at me from different directions. On the other hand, I will miss taking my younger daughter to programs and spending time alone with her. However, I know that my feelings pale in comparison to those parents whose children are taking that giant leap from high school to leaving home for university. It reminds us that our children are only on loan to us for what ultimately seems to be such a short while.

I am reminded of a quote by E. Stone which framed, hangs in my home and reads “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” There is perhaps no more heart wrenching time as now as parents plan and prepare for that first drive to University a couple of hours away. In July, with August as a bridge, September seems far off. Now that August is coming to an end, there is nothing to serve as a buffer for what parents are forced to confront.

I remember when my nephew, to whom I am very close, left for the University of Western Ontario last year. His absence left heaviness in my heart. Web cams fill some of the physical longing and he actually came home quite often, but those closest to him longed for his return. As the year progressed, so we too learnt to deal with his not being there all the time. Now, we can no longer push aside the inevitability of his return. Letting go is very hard but it is sometimes made easier when reminding oneself of all that our university bound children will learn from being away from home. Increased independence, learning to make decisions on their own, learning how to get along with others who are not family and in general, learning how to fend for themselves are all valuable life lessons. And then you can be proud of all the great strides that he or she has made and give yourself a pat on the back too for having the strength and courage to let go.