Is this au revoir rather than goodbye?


It is perhaps odd that this (one of my first blogs) is not directed at the students who I work with. This is an offering of support for all of you parents and carers who are about to watch one, or more, of your offspring leave for pastures new in September. I do this to prepare you for a huge change in your role and from my own experience. Being completely melodramatic about it I shall call it emotional carnage.

I’m not going to offer practical advice in terms of cleaning products, money, study materials, the right clothes (as if you’ve had a choice over them in the last few years), pans, food or other practical items you may supply. If you do want that I’m sure the university will guide you and The Student Room has a good guide too. I’m going to try and prepare you for the letting go that will or will not have an impact for you. On top of the letting go there is also the remote role you will have.

My oldest offspring left for University 2 years ago and as far as I know has passed both years. They are planning to go back in September and have said they have passed, so I presume they have. Therein lies the problem. For at least 18 years you have been asked, actually for 18 years you have been expected to be accountable for your child, which not surprisingly is a role you have become accustomed to. You may have organised, coached, motivated, admonished, praised, rewarded, fed, clothed, harried and advocated for.

The modern system surrounding children expects parents to be fully involved in education, attainment, attendance, punctuality, behaviour and of course those tight leggings that affect the very morality of us all. You have received letters, phone calls and attended meetings, assemblies, plays and sports day. You have bought and paid for all the latest crazes, you have actually cried tears of joy and anger.

It is not just schools and the government that has set the pace in this, it’s the peer pressure, the school gate expectations, the demands for better parents in the media and, heaven forbid, that you have not acted like ‘the parents of the year’ round the corner. During this time, we have had to get used to the social media phenomenon, where we all proudly display achievements and our lifestyles. Worse though is the dark side of the new technology where we have started to view our offspring doing things we either did when we were their age, or secretly wished we had done.

Beware fellow parents, you are about to become redundant from many of your roles! You are about to start questioning your ability as a parent like never before and it is all socialised behaviour from the demands that are placed on parents. Did you teach them to cook, to wash, to be clean, to choose friends, to be respectful and of course stay safe? Did you teach them right from wrong? Did you, did you, did you? You probably did, but that will not stop you from worrying. The distance that a university place creates can be problematic despite the advent of new technology, which shrinks space and time.

The worse day for us was dropping them at University. I felt so sorry for the owner of the house all four of them were renting. I knew the house would soon be a breeding ground for filth and debauchery. Here is my one, yes only one piece of advice, which is perhaps the hardest one of all. Let them live their own life, don’t control and don’t monitor. If you may not like the answer, then don’t ask the question. I really wish I had done this. Letting go is not easy.

I could have ended this offering by now, but I think there is more to discuss. You will have to work out what involvement and influence in their life you know have. Will it be a weekly phone call, weekly internet shop and occasional trip back home with lots of washing? At some point you will probably be accepting them back into the family home with their new found independence and anti-social habits. Perhaps they had some in sixth form, but they are developing them quite nicely at university.

Going to university is a halfway house. Many will have to move back home when they graduate, due to house prices. You see one the big stories of this generation is the return of the extended family unit. Multi-generational households are more prevalent now, with house prices at one end of the dilemma and rising care costs at the other. The moral of this tale is that it may be a matter of au revoir rather than goodbye.

#family #university #emptynest #parents #change #support

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Jonathan South MA, BA (hons), Pcep (YJ)