We have all heard the expression or the phrase “spread your wings”. It has been used or applied to a variety of situations and circumstances and we may even remember saying it to a friend or most likely to our children a time or two. My last blog entry was about our daughter Kasey graduating from high school this past Friday evening . It was a fabulous , wonderful evening , one that causes a parent to reflect on so many memories that make me smile and cry at the same time. Graduations are also a time which forces the graduate and his or her parents to not just look back on the past, but also to look ahead to the future and all that is awaiting that young person as they take this new step in their lives.   Kasey is our caboose and therefore , our last child to make this all important transition from high school to college. Since we have already been down this road before , other parents have asked my husband and I from time to time what we feel are some of the most important things to remember during this emotional and important time.  I realize that some graduating students may be staying at home out of necessity because of financial restrictions or perhaps the school that best offers what that student is looking for is very close to home so what I am about to say does not apply to every family and child across the board, however one of the most crucial steps that your child needs to take as soon as possible after graduation is to live away from the confines of their home and out from under the daily supervision of their parents. Several high school graduates leave home to attend a college that may have strict rules and restrictions on their students with a great deal of supervision. Many Christian colleges and even some of our finest military academies and institutions fit into this category, and so some readers may be thinking that a young person is not really in a different atmosphere or environment than home if they are still in an atmosphere of accountability. They may think that it is not at all different from still living at home with mom and dad…not so. One of the best and biggest favors that a parent can do for their child as they graduate from high school is to force that child to spread their wings. If it is at all possible, send that child away for school, away from physically living in the same home as mom and dad and away from the same physical home that they have grown up in or spent their high school years in. This is so crucially important for so many reasons and on so many levels. First, that young person has crossed an important milestone and inside, they feel as if they should be entering into a whole new phase of their life and they are correct in feeling this way. If their home environment stays the same however, it presents a subtle conflict within them that even they themselves cannot articulate and that in turn can begin to present some tension and conflict within the home. That young person can be compared to a young bird that is housed in some sort of large enclosure. It attempts to spread it’s wings and fly and can  actually do so yet the bird’s flight and experiences are limited to the space in which it is housed. Such is the case with a young person’s transition from child to adulthood who is not forced to live at least for a period of time away from home. They continue to grow, change, mature but their experiences will be very different from someone who is coping with being away from home for the first time. The individual who is away from home for the first time is having to carry on with their daily responsibilities and functions of being a successful student but more importantly , that person is experiencing major internal adjustments and emotions that can be very difficult. They may be learning how to harmoniously live with a complete stranger who is their new roommate. This can be a mountain of a hurdle to overcome in terms of learning the skills of unselfishness, diplomacy and cooperation. They are missing familiar sights, sounds, faces and routines of back home and that creates an emotional upheaval within them that is unsettling to say the least. Most importantly , they are away for an extended period of time from those that they love the most in this life . That creates a hurt, a pain , an intense homesickness that can be so overwhelming at times, that the first time college freshman is aching so badly that they do not honestly know if they can stay and stick it out. Right about now, someone is reading this and thinking “Exactly…all of what you just stated that a student will experience when they leave home is precisely the reason that I am concerned and desiring my child to stay at home for at least another year or so.” That mindset my friend, is sadly and unfortunately a completely wrong  but all too common conclusion that many parents arrive at. Certainly, if a parent chooses to not allow their child to leave home , they will be sparing their child from experiencing the emotional upheaval that was just stated, however is that what is best? Too often in our society today, when we are steering our children,  we mistake what is best with what is easiest and most pain free for them, when in reality those are two very different things. When I look back at the childhoods and experiences of our four children , the most profitable times for them in which they grew and matured the most were those times in which they were challenged, pressured, and stretched. It was the times in which they were put in uncomfortable situations and had to reach within themselves to try to keep their composure when they did not want to. It was times in which they would have liked to have given up and rested and taken the easy route but their circumstances just simply would not let them do so. It was the times that they had to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions ….a process that is called maturation. And after all, isn’t that what we really want for them?  Of course it is. I am getting more amazed and almost alarmed with each passing year with the number of twenty-something aged children still living with mom and dad under mom and dad’s roof. Lately, that twenty-something age is now turning into thirty-something aged people.  I do not judge or look down on these individuals as much as I blame their parents for the fact that these folks have not struck out on their own yet. Their parents are not being great parents, as much as they are stunting the development and growth of their adult children by being hindering enablers. I know that some readers may think this sounds harsh but I am convinced that many families are robbing their adult children of feelings of accomplishment, a sense of pride in themselves and an over all sense of well being that comes with independence. Some of the most satisfying and proudest moments in our sons' lives were getting married, obtaining their first professional job or position and buying their first home. Never would I have desired for them to miss out on these important milestones that gave them a sense of pride as a husband, as a provider and as a man. These accomplishments however , I honestly feel can be directly attributed to events from several years earlier when they hugged my husband and I , said goodbye and stared at that dorm that they were about to walk into and call “home” for the very first time. It wasn’t easy for them or for us, it wasn’t comfortable, it didn’t take place without some emotional conflict but oh my, it was worth it. In a few short months, we will be flying across the country to take our only daughter to a college in California that she has selected to attend. We have also visited this college and concur that this is an excellent choice and fit for her. Will she succeed with flying colors there ? It is yet to be seen. Will she attend there for four years? That is also yet to be seen. What we do know, is that for at least one year, she will attend. She is not one to wear her heart on her sleeve so she may not admit this, but she will have some terribly homesick days. She may have some crying bouts and tough moments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way….because that is what life is about. It is about growing , changing, learning and thus becoming what God desires for us to be. Will I need to reread this blog several times before we get on that plane with our daughter in late August? Undoubtedly so. Will it be a tearful and gut wrenching good bye when we hold her close and hug her tightly before she turns toward that first dorm , her next “home” for this next school year? Most certainly. But this next question is the most important one…Will I have peace in my heart that we are doing the best thing for our little girl when we do so?..Absolutely !  Why do I say that? Because we will be giving her that chance to experience life away from us.  We will be letting her fly into a brand new and unfamiliar setting which will stretch her beyond what she thinks she can stretch and that is what I want far more than what is easy, what is comfortable. Above all, we will be letting her spread her wings! My hope and prayer is that she will soar. If we do not send her though, we will never find out, will we?