Before They Fly Away

Island Parent Magazine Sept 91

Why don’t we have rites of passages for Parents? Who will guide us through this important stage in parenting?


“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” Kahil Gibran              

Our first child will be twenty this summer and our younger one is fifteen. Twenty years ago, our new son in our arms, my husband and I went looking for some answers. We didn’t have older family members to turn to for guidance, and there were very few, if any, books, magazines, classes or groups showing us how to become effective parents. Most of the time we just flew by the seat of our pants. Now that we’re almost finished the job, there’s nobody showing us how to play the end-game well, or how to celebrate our success.          

I suppose we have a few skills that we can be proud of. Now that those early childhood years are behind us we sometimes even feel like experts in the field. We can easily answer questions that less-experienced parents ask us. We’ve got helpful tips for them when they worry about their baby’s “cradle cap” or grumble about their three-year-old’s tantrums at bedtime. We can show them how to hell their eight-year-old with a goal-setting and reward system. And we can even talk with them about peer-pressure and curfews when they run up against resistance from their twelve-year-olds.   

We know our parenting doesn’t really end here, when our son comes of age, and we don’t really want it to. We’re lifelong parents. But we still need and want some sort of ritual for celebrating the achievements of this phase of our lives, like the way we survived the colic, the broken bones, the chicken pox, the trips to Emergency, till school conferences, the Hallowe’en parties and birthday parties, the car-pooling, the lessons, the special diets, the homework, and all the pains of growing up we supported our children through. h’s an endless list, as any parent knows. We want to be acknowledged for a job well done, now that it’s nearing its end, to feel a sense of completion and satisfaction when the time comes.     

Where are all the parents who’ve been through this transitional stage when we need them? Where are the courses and books now? Where are our elders? We want answers to such questions as:

-       What do you say when your son’s overnight guest is walking around the kitchen the next morning in your son’s bathrobe?

-       What do you say if your mother happens to drop in for coffee at that precise moment?

-       Should you still be giving him an allowance when you’d rather he were paying you rent but he can’t fin a job?

-       Is it okay to give him luggage for his birthday?   


Oscar Wilde said, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them ; sometimes they forgive them.” We realize it’s too early for a lot of acknowledgement from our children, but we’d love to have some from our own peer-group. How about a tickertape parade or maybe just a cap and gown with a diploma to hang on our wall?          My husband and I have been parents for a total of thirty-five child years, seventy if you count us separately! We’d like a little recognition, as well as the support of a group of people, elders, who’ve mastered the end-game, to guide us through this important tuning point. It’s almost time for us to graduate. We just hope we’ll know how to do it.

Elizabeth Harvey, a resident of Victoria for seventeen years, has been afull-time parent and a part-time teacher.

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