Parenting through young adulthood (our version), part one

I hadn't expected to be so involved in my young adult kids' lives.

Which is ironic.

As a homeschool mom I've spent the last 20 years of my life deeply invested in my kids. Did I think that would just "end"?

I think I was expecting something closer to my own young adult experience. Which doesn't make any sense since so much about my kids' lives is very different from my own childhood.

In her book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett says,

It is a biological truth that safety is almost always a prerequisite for the best in us to emerge.

As an enneagram type 6 I've parented from this understanding for years even though I didn't have the psychological and spiritual language to explain my motives.

My heart's desire has been that our physical space, our home, and more importantly, my relationship with my children (it's the relationship that makes home "home") feels safe and secure for them to be themselves, to grow and develop.

You are safe here. You are loved. I want to know you. I want to help you develop into who you are. I am on your team. I am in your corner.

I am the corner.

I am a mama milkweed guarding her chrysalides. I own this work like it's the most important job in the world, because to me it is.

Good parents will bring the best of who they are to the table when raising kids. This helps balance out all their mistakes, failures, and idiosyncrasies. Our kids get both - our weaknesses and our strengths.

Thankfully, as the experience with my own parents has shown me, in healthy relationships it's our gifts, talents, and strengths that will have the deepest impact on our kids and will help them work through all the junk they inherited from us! That, and just a lot of grace and forgiveness.

One of my parenting gifts is this sense of safety and security I create. I can't help it. This is who I am.

But as my kids grow older I wonder if my parenting superpower isn't also a bit of a liability for them?

Why leave a safe corner where you are known, loved, and accepted? Especially if you don't have to, to find work or go to school.

Eventually, theoretically, kids will leave to create their own homes and own families. But like we've told them for years, they don't have to "leave" if they don't want to.

We can expand and adapt to create a family community where we love and support each other through all the ages and stages of our lives. We're humans, this is what we're meant to do.

And there's the truth of it. There is no expectation of leaving. There is freedom to do so but there is no "now you're on your own".

When I was 17 I graduated from high school, a high achieving honors student. I had dutifully and happily jumped through all the hoops of being successful, according to the system. I started university three months later, sharing my first apartment with my dad's youngest sister, who was only 5 years older than me. She was finishing her own university education in nursing.

Christmas 1994, I'm a newly minted 19 year old, Damien is 22

The next fall, my second year of university, I met Damien. I was 18. We were engaged the following fall and married the next summer when I was 20. I finished my degree, studying part-time, working part-time, homemaking part-time. I graduated at 23, Céline was born one month later, and I began my work as stay-at-home mom and homeschooler.

Things are different for my kids. We're different parents than our own parents. We live in a different community, in a different culture. The world at-large has changed in the two decades after my own launching and leaving home.

As it was, I was an outlier in my own generation, marrying so young. My conservative values, though consistent with the Christian culture I belonged to, were vestiges of another era in the culture-at-large.

My kids aren't like me. Imagine that.

By age 16 I had charted a path for my life that just happened to work out according to plan.

Go to school. Find a quality guy. Marry that guy. Have kids. Live happily ever after.

Happily ever after has been the most complicated part of this plan and has been the work of the last couple decades. Everything up to that point, basically my young adult years, were straightforward.

The ease at which I launched from the nest and accomplished the goal of establishing a family life gave me a smug sense of having my shit together. Till about my mid-thirties when my system of finding and following the right and trusted authorities to bring security, broke down. I had been placing my security in authority figures my whole life - parents, teachers, church, husband, trusted experts.

In the process of my own "growing up" that had to die. And it did, painfully. And my whole family went through that experience with me, as it rocked us all - changing our marriage, my faith, and my reliance on someone, or something, outside of True Self, to know what was best for Renee Toews Tougas.

It was a second adolescence. Answering the "who am I?" I never asked as a young adult.

As freedom homeschoolers we haven't set up a path for our kids to follow. They haven't tracked through the system, having someone else tell them for the entirety of their K-12 education what to do, where to go, what to learn, and how to learn it.

There were many paths they could take depending on their interests, where we were living, and what was available to them.

Similarly there is no established track for their young adult years. We moved to Montreal to provide options that could be explored while still living at home.

There are clear financial and familial expectations if they live at home after high school graduation. These are laid out in an actual document that details the cost of room and board for non-studying young adults living at home. Working young adults without school obligations are expected to contribute to the collective. But it's a safe and loving place to grow into those responsibilities. I don't want it to be anything other than that.

To be continued.

PS. We're starting the Freedom Education course in a few days. February 1st will be a podcast episode to get us going and then next week is our first video lesson. For more information see this post.

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Parenting through young adulthood (our version), part two »
  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on Jan. 30, 2019, 5:49 p.m.

    For years your posts have often echoed my own thoughts, feelings, experiences. But today's did that in spades. I too AM the corner. That is my safety. And it's my greatest joy. Thank you for putting it into words.


  • Carrie

    Carrie on Jan. 30, 2019, 6:02 p.m.

    I find myself right there with you...I was the 19 year old wife and mother who jumped right into homeschooling my little ones. Now it’s 23 years later, and we are out of our depth. Our young adults still live at home, but we still have younger kids, too. Our parents were dysfunctional, and by the time we were 19, we were independent. We have no idea what a good parent of young adults looks like. Safe, with expectations, is my thought. I am looking forward to seeing what that looks like in your family!


  • Renee

    Renee on Jan. 30, 2019, 6:46 p.m.

    Carrie, interesting how we have similar experiences, on some level. In my (limited) experience parenting young adults is a lot of partnering and exactly what you said: safe with expectations, kind of like the rest of their childhood but with the expectations becoming more age and stage appropriate.

    This is been my parenting modus operandi all along: boundaries and freedom; safe spaces and expectations (it's the boundaries and clearly understand expectations that define the safety as much as the unconditional love and connection.)

    Thanks for commenting!


  • Carmen

    Carmen on Jan. 30, 2019, 10:50 p.m.

    Hi Renee, similar thoughts here. Question though - you mention responsibilities beyond high school graduation, but presumably (some of) your children are likely to go to university, especially since both you and Damien are tertiary educated. So does that affect financial obligations in terms of room and board?

    We live in Europe where it’s common for children to go away to uni (our eldest, 18 year old left just a few months ago!) and parents are expected to assist financially, making up short falls in the means tested government loan system we have here. Tuition is £10k/year with total additional living costs being roughly the same - so not cheap! When we factor in the length of our kids studies it’s a long responsibility.


    • Renee

      Renee on Jan. 30, 2019, 11:11 p.m.

      Hey Carmen,

      What we're doing is this: as long as our kids are 1) working and saving for post-secondary studies or training (university, college, vocational school) or 2) going to a post-secondary school - they live at home for free (not including their personal costs: clothing, transit, phone, etc.) We provide shelter and food. And we also pay for family activities we value, like skiing together, trips etc.

      All of our kids are currently planning to pursue post-secondary studies or training.

      If our kids aren't in school, and aren't saving for school we charge them room and board (what it would cost to live independently with roommates), on top of their personal costs (which are their expenses regardless).

      Celine is applying to schools right now and has been working part-time and saving money for school since last year. Laurent will graduate this spring/summer, work for a year, then apply to university next winter.

      The cost for a quebec resident to go a good university here in the city of montreal is $6,000 CDN/year including tuition, books and supplies.

      If I understand the exchange correctly £10k is 17K CDN. Ouch.


      • Carmen

        Carmen on Jan. 31, 2019, 9:23 a.m.

        Hi Renee,

        Thanks for explaining - that’s what we would do too. :-)

        Our daughter has a loan for her tuition fees and roughly half of her living costs, then we give her a monthly allowance (as the government expects since the loan is means tested on parental income - which I disagree with completely since she’s I think she should either be considered financially independent or not, not both to suit the establishment!) Anyway, political annoyance over! She’s studying medicine, working very long hours (currently 12 hour days on a hospital placement, then homework!) so whilst that’s excellent value for the tuition fees, we don’t expect her to work for money for most of the academic year, hence we support her as best we can. If we had enough money, we would help her more so she didn’t need the loans (she accrues about 6% interest from day 1 of taking the loan - not a great system in my opinion and hence why many never clear their loans, which affects mortgage loan ability.)

        Hugs to you all, you’re doing a great job with those young adults! xxx


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