Now is the time of the year for graduation parties. Last year, we threw one for our older son who is now a freshman at the University of California-Irvine. This past weekend, my wife and I attended parties for a couple of other graduates, but these two, a boy and a girl, had just graduated from college.
The difference is enormous. Although making the transition from high school to college means the parents’ influence has diminished, the kids are still dependent on the old folks, even if it seems like the need might only be for money and figuring out “what to do with all this dirty laundry” (my wife was never happier than when our “Anteater” surprised her with a trip home for Mother’s Day and her present - a ton of clothes that needed to be washed, dried and folded - in the next 48 hours).
But the college degree? That’s so much more final! All of a sudden, it’s time to start making a difference in the world (unless it’s postphoned with more schooling, parties, tuition expenses and, of course, dirty laundry - no matter how smart they are, that’s the last problem college students, especially boys, solve). Now it’s on to a career, receiving a check with someone’s name on it who actually isn’t related to you and, in most cases, living on your own.
The two parties were very different in many ways but both of them shared that common theme. The boy, who’s now a good-looking young man, has the job he wants (or thinks he does) and is looking forward to becoming the success kids always hear they can be when they’re growing up - as long as they’ll put the effort into it. The girl, whom I met as a teenager with a bubbly personality has grown into a young woman whose beauty can be best summed up with the word “innocence.” When I looked at her, then at her dad, I just shook my head and he instantly knew where my thoughts were. Reflecting on 22-year-old (and up) males and what their, for lack of a better word, intentions, are, he returned the gesture. All I’ll say is I’m I glad I’m not in his shoes. There are enough other problems in life to think about.
Another scary, or uplifting, thought (I guess, depending on your level of optimism and view of reality), is that following the college graduation, the son or daughter is (supposed to be) a responsible adult. In a child psychology course I took, I remember the professor saying that there were three theories on how to raise children but, unfortunately, none of them worked. What I (and I imagine all other parents) have found is that communication with the kids (from birth) is mandatory, instilling the proper values in them (more by the parents’ actions than their words) is invaluable, monitoring (with as little interference as possible) the peers they hang around with is a necessary evil, giving them positive reinforcement a must and finally, loving them (without smothering - which usually ends up being resented, or enabling - which is nothing but “false love,” i.e. making them “happy” instead of responsible) the ultimate trait. Allow them to make decisions … and, as they grow older, the decisions can be on issues of greater importance. Then, hope for the best.
It’s not unheard of that some highly successful, wonderful, well-liked and respected people have been parents of misguided, problem children who grew up to be, unfortunately and apparently without a logical reason, the complete opposite of the fine people who raised them. So, at the risk of minimizing the impact parents have on their child, there appears to be a great deal of truth in the quote attributed to Lynn Hall:
“We did not change as we grew older, we just became more clearly ourselves.” ¼/p>