Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Dear Daughter: Have A Great Summer!

April 23, 2007

Our fifth and last daughter just graduated from high school. In a month she'll be on her way to college. That's when the real change will occur. Right now, she is enjoying the last fling of youth. She comes and goes while enjoying the security and privileges of home.

It is a carefree time. No homework. No finals. No applications to fill out. She works hard at two summer jobs and plays hard. She fills her summer nights and days off with activity and amusement. Her friends are still here. So is her room. So is the car she has been driving. So is the family routine - if summer has a routine.

She had a long motorcycle ride, attended a play, had a camping trip and attended a church youth conference. She wants to try a few new things and to hang out with her friends. It is a perfect lull - a time to enjoy her last carefree days of childhood before dealing with the challenges of being on her own.

Our tendency as parents is to see her assume more adult responsibilities. Some of this fun might seem unnecessary. It might appear that this last dose of pleasure seeking is a character flaw of modern day adolescents. Instead we prefer to look at it as a temporary respite from the highly competitive and demanding lives young people live.

Our responsibilities don't end in summer. Even vacations take work, organization and planning. Our lost youth is on parade, a reminder of a time in our distant past when we could focus on the moment instead of our perpetual responsibilities.

We have learned not to fight it. This isn't the time for a last minute character check. Now is not the time to criticize or to have conflict with her. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that she is ready as she'll ever be to deal what lies ahead. We give her a vote of confidence by not trying to fine tune her at the last minute. We’re satisfied that she knows basic responsibility. We cover for her and let her off the hook on a number of duties so she can have her summer fun.

The challenges she needs to finish polishing her character await just around the corner.

  • She'll be living closely with roommates and being accountable to them. She'll have to work out conflict and live with differences. Her living space and elbow room will shrink.
  • She will practice her self-discipline in a college setting. The assignments, expectations and competition will be greater than she has ever faced.
  • She'll be making new friends and building her own social support system.
  • She'll be confronted with hard decisions about her many talents and interests. Choosing one's path in life is not easy.
  • She'll be facing disappointments and setbacks without Mom or Dad at her side. The long distance phone calls still will be an important tether to home. As much as she and we hope differently, there will be times when she'll need our help.
  • She will need to stand on her own, to do the right thing at personal risk and cost. We wish her courage for those moments when she'll have to follow her conscience and go against the grain.
  • She will be put in positions where she will have to choose between the easy path or the difficult road that pushes her into new growth. We hope she takes mistakes in stride and rebounds from failures. We want her to try hard things, aim high and put herself on the edge where greatness has a chance.
  • She will have the fun and excitement of dating and courtship. This can be a glorious time, but more often than not, it will be filled with confusion, insecurity and possible heartache. Not many of us would choose to revisit those days when the dance of courtship was so full of drama and uncertainty.

With all that awaiting her, why be upset because if she doesn't do a few chores at home and wants to be on the run? She will soon have all the experiences she so richly deserves. Her real graduation will take place when her parents drive off, leaving her in a strange place - on her own.

That will be a sad time for all of us. Her childhood will be behind her and behind us.

We've learned from experience that daughters returning home for the summer want to duplicate the idyllic summer they had before leaving for college. They still find it comforting to come home, relax and depend on Mom and Dad for more than they should. That's OK. Growing up doesn't happen all at once.

In the meantime, dear daughter, have a nice summer. We won't hassle you too much.