The gift of studying abroad during college
I was the only one of my four siblings who went away to college and I only went 30 miles away from home to a small liberal Arts college. I lived in the dorms for 2 1/2 years and then I studied abroad for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. While I lived with a Danish family for five months, attended classes during the week, I had complete freedom to come and go as I pleased, traveling across Europe and Russia during breaks and weekends.
Time to Make Friends With Mom and Dad
When I returned to the USA, I was prepared to return to the small college but I was completely unwilling to reside in a dormitory again. This proved to be a ‘non-negotiable’ for the little college, so we parted ways. I resigned myself to moving back home to live with my parents and to attending the massive local university. For some reason, I knew it would all work out. I was sure my parents were no longer interested in ‘keeping tabs’ on me and that my freedom would not be compromised.
Advantages of being the third child
I had already gotten a glimpse of this leniency in high school, being the third child; my folks were already ‘broken-in’ by my two older siblings and I suspect, ‘burnt-out’ on trying to keep track of their kids and their lives. By the time I was midway through high school, my older sister was married and had a baby and my brother was busy negotiating his own adventures. By the time I was a senior in college, my younger sister was also married and had a baby and later that year my brother also got married. I was the lone wolf of the family, continuing on with my pursuit of higher education.
Bigger university offers bigger challenges
Once the reality of what it would take for me to graduate in one year with a Biology Bachelors degree from the University of Nebraska sunk in, I quickly filled my entire summer with classes. Then, during my senior year, there was a ridiculous amount of science courses to be taken concurrently; Organic Chemistry, Physics, Microbiology, Ecology, etc. With tutoring and determination, I somehow managed to stay afloat, leaving very little time for any misbehaving. I am sure I still found time to hang out with friends on the weekends.
Shifting the parent/child relationship
The thing I remember most about that year though was how I finally convinced my dad to sit still long enough to have a real ‘life’ conversation with me. Getting him to take me and my thoughts and opinions seriously was no small goal, but was slowly accomplished during that year. As a result, we made the shift from parent/ child relationship to friendship. The same shift occurred between my mom and I that same year, but it didn’t require as much effort. It was time to make friends with Mom and Dad.
Becoming friends with my parents
The gift in that year at home was becoming friends with my parents; no longer the target of intentional or assumed criticism or the need to ‘school’ me in any way. Not that my folks with held their opinions on things, it’s just that the pressure was off the parents, the young adult in their midst was just a shared experience in life.
My unique opportunity
I recall trying to share my enthusiasm for this new-found appreciation for my parents and was pretty much met across the board by all 3 siblings with indifference. Clearly, they hadn’t the time or opportunity to make friends with our parents. The good news is that as time passed, each of my siblings did cross the natural bridge to friendship with our parents, I was just the first one to cross the bridge.
Parent/ friend comes full circle
The ultra-cool thing now with three grown children of my own; is that if feels like we are all well on our way to becoming friends. And, like my parents before me, I will continue to share my opinions. Being the imperfect human I am, it is helpful that I also know how to apologize when I overstep my bounds.
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