It wasn’t too long ago that I grumbled about the emptiness of the house without my daughter. After 18 years of centering my life around her, it is suddenly disconcerting to have all the time on my hands again and own my schedule. Even more so is the fact that I miss her physical presence in my daily life. I am so glad we made the most of the last two years together because those memories are what carry me through.

Too many parents make the mistake of not allowing their children a little breathing space between High School and University. Having worked with many youth volunteers in the past serving in other countries, I value the experience and learning process they go through during the gap year. In a sense you could call it classroom without walls and the amount of growing up that these young people go through is priceless. In many cases, they leave as chaotic teenagers and return as adults, almost unrecognisable with their new inner strength and sense of appreciation for the community and people around them. I’m not denying that the opposite can happen as well. For those who have not been prepared mentally or emotionally at home to deal with the shocking realities of poverty and cultural differences, the gap year can be the most traumatic experience. I’ve experienced quiet a number of those cases as well and it is not a pretty sight.

My daughter may have moved out of the house but that doesn’t stop me from being a part of her exciting journey of independence and being the loudest cheerleader in the process. The month-long backpacking trip through Europe with her friends this summer was as exhilarating for her as the adventurer as it was for me. For a girl who grew up as a privileged expat and Third Culture Kid with her own room and household help, being on the road on a limited budget and sharing a room constantly with two others was a jolt, but a necessary step. She didn’t realise it then, but it turned out to be a good preparation for her hostel life in Berlin while attending the European Bartender School. Sharing the room with nine other people and having to use a common bathroom was an even greater adjustment and an initiation into what lies ahead in university.

I celebrate this rite of passage of hers and am even prouder still to flaunt the fact that she earned her certification last night as a bartender. This will certainly make it easier for her to work and study during the next few years. My sparrow is no more. The young eagle has discovered her wings and taken flight. As a dear friend recently said, she is not gone, she is just in another place and will return someday.

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