Giving Our Kids Roots and Wings-Parenting in the College Years

It was probably easier having a few busy weeks leading up to the final departure. It was a long summer that went by in a blink. Early this morning, our oldest son packed up a car and headed back to college for his sophomore year. He adapted last year to being far from home, made some great new friends and managed to keep himself alive without the watchful eye of his parents. I spent some time this morning reflecting on his departure as the roots that connect us get thinner and thinner. Sort of how I reflected last year when I wrote this after saying goodbye to him. 

This is the same boy who wouldn't separate from me as a toddler. Nursery workers would call us to get a screaming snotty kid who would work himself up so much that he was gasping for breath. He would instantly calm down as soon as I held him and he would scream and cling to me if I even came close to the vicinity of a drop off area. 

He would sit outside of my shower door playing with trains and would circle them around as I would dry my hair. In those moments I never thought he would go upstairs without me let alone hop in a car and drive 2500 miles away.

tree growing

I kept thinking and reflecting after he drove away about the saying that goes something like this: 

 "The best thing parents can do for their children is give them roots and wings."

We've worked hard at preparing the soil and getting those roots to grow deep and strong but we also worked hard at giving him wings to fly. 

Giving our Kids Roots and Wings-Parenting in the College Years

Have you ever walked through the forest and seen a tree that's fallen? If you look closely you will see that there are a lot of roots that hold a tree in place. Some are thicker and stronger, and others are thinner and more shallow, just like the roots we try to give our children. Those thick strong roots are the important things; the values we teach our children and the truths we want them to hold on to. Those thinner roots are life experiences that shape them and made them who they are.

I like to think that there is a thick root that starts at birth between a mother and her child, a root that thins as our children get older so that they can feel strong and connected, but independent and separate. 

When we give our children roots, we give them an identity. 

The goal of parenting is to not hold them down but instead to watch them fly. To feel unconditional love and support and let them know that they have a safe secure place in this world and feel comfortable going out into it. 

From the time our children are born they begin to gain independence. We start by sending them off to school. They have life experiences that are separate from us and yet we still share life together in the same space. 

As our children grow and mature and explore their identity, we lift them up on wings with praise and gently guide them out of the nest with experiences. 

When people find out that my son is thousands of miles from home the question I often get is "why so far away?" The answer I usually give isn't the one that I want to give.

What I really want to say is that this boy has wings. We trust him and love him completely and want to encourage him to live the life God has intended for him. We want him to explore his passions and feel out life, to soar in new environments and grow roots in new places. He knows he has a home he can fly back to. 

Which is why today when I said goodbye, I thought fly away boy. Fly away. We'll see you soon.


Unknown said...

This is so sweet! I dread the day my sons have to go off to college, but I know it is such an important part of life to guide them to their independence and watch them soar. Beautiful post!

krystal said...

I remember how my family dealt with it when I went to college - it was tough! I can certainly wait for that day with my son.

testing 1 said...

My baby starts 11th grade in a couple of weeks...we've already done a college fair and we are on the never ending list of letters and recommendations. I will be here before you know it!!

Lisa Rios said...

I love that concept. I haven't gotten to college yet but I wonder how my mom will deal with it once I am gone. She has given me roots - strong Hispanic identity that I cling to, and wings - she encourages me to dream big and always do my best.

Cindy Gordon said...

I'm not there yet with my kids. However, I know when I am it's going to be hard to let go!

The Wandering Daughter said...

What lovely words! We're going through a similar experience with our older son. It's tough to realize that they're no longer kids, but adults, capable of making their own decisions.

Catvills said...

Been there, done that. I have only one child in college, so soon, my mission in life will be complete. I keep telling my kids. Take advantage of the opportunity to have a college education. It is yours to keep and no one can steal that away from you. It will guarantee you and your future family a stable, more secure future.

Ron Leyba said...

This just makes sense. As a father of two kids, will keep this in mind in preparation of their teenage years.

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