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Breaking Away: Sharing Life's Lessons as Children Leave the Nest

by on August 12, 2013 6:50 AM

This weekend was a huge milestone for our family.  Our oldest daughter moved out for what will likely be the last time.   

Since high school, she’s moved out and back in several times  –  dorms, summers at home, apartment and shared house with six other young women her senior year at Penn State.  

After spending some transition time with us since graduation, working her first professional job and saving some money, she likely has made her final and permanent move from our home.   

As is often the case in parenting, I have many mixed emotions.  I am alternately thrilled for her and excited on her behalf and yet I am also very sad, knowing that our role in her life will change.

When she left for college, I wrote a column in the theme of Robert Fulghum’s “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  Some of those thoughts remain as she takes this next step.  Today I send her off with thoughts from Mom as she begins her life’s journey.

Work hard. Lock your doors and windows at night. Get your oil changed when the light comes on. Have fun. Buy the store brand when you can. Learn how the back of the toilet works. Clean up your messes as you make them. Learn to garden. Take the garbage out before it starts to stink. Meet your neighbors.

Use your sick days for only when you are sick. Remember to say thank you. Buy local. Call your grandparents every once in a while. Don’t drink and drive. Plant bulbs in the Fall; they will bloom in the Spring. Exercise regularly. Reading is better than television. Pay your bills on time.

Volunteer. By giving to others you will give to yourself.

Look for opportunities to learn something new. Save your money for a rainy day. Treat the people who work for you with respect. Wait to run the dishwasher until it is full. Go to church. Remember to eat something that grew out of the ground every day. Laugh at yourself and with others.

Reach out to your siblings. They are going to miss you, even if they say they won’t. Put down your cell phone and engage with the people who are standing in front of you. Take a hike. What you seek and what you find in friendship will change as you get older. Admit it when you make a mistake. Recycle.  

Time spent alone is time well spent.  

A screwdriver and a hammer can fix almost everything. Say yes when your boss asks you to help even if it’s not on your job description. Keep a journal. Call your mother. Stay up to date on current events. Conserve energy. Occasionally send a card or a letter just because. Floss. Dust the baseboards.  

Get regular check-ups. Wait a day until you send that email. Speak up when you have an opinion. Get involved in your community. Don’t text and drive. Attend conferences and join your professional organization. High heels will give you foot problems when you are older. Credit cards are dangerous.

Know that the only person you can ever change is you.

Start an IRA. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Artificial anything is usually not a good idea. Don’t buy cheap toilet paper. Practice forgiveness. Understand that fences, boundaries and lines in the sand are important in defining relationships. Be patient with the elderly.  

Fall in love with your whole heart and soul. Build your life and your family with integrity, dignity and a commitment to the incredible sense of self and values that we have come to know and love about you.

Be forever who you are and your success is guaranteed.

I’m going to miss my little blonde girl. I’m going to miss the sound of her laughter in our house and knowing that she is asleep and safe under my roof. I will worry about her whether she is 10 minutes, 10 miles or 10 hours away from me. We have provided the foundation for an amazing young woman who has a sense of self, common sense and a sense of what is right and wrong.  

The rest, my dear, is up to you.

In The Prophet, Kahil Gibran spoke of children.

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls.

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.



Go get ‘em girl.

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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