the 'free your kids' rant

lots of weird things in the last few weeks. i was an exchange student in denmark 8 years ago. it was fantastic, absolutely the best year of my life. yes, it was hard to leave home at first, but that feeling disappeared the moment my plane left the ground. you see, i've been pretty independent since i was about 12. when i was 13, i travelled alone to the states for the first time (1 week at academic summer camp in eastern washington). i did that again 2 more summers. and another summer when i was 15 i travelled for 7 weeks around canada with a performing arts tour. now, i know i wasn't totally alone on any of these trips, but i was alone enough to be able to figure out how to look after myself.

so in the last few days, bits of denmark related things have been popping up all over - first my friend jeff tells me he's going to a conference in dk this summer, and can i help him plan... oh don't even get me started there! then, i get in 3 messenger conversations with my old exchange student friend jen down in texas (which is somewhat unusual just because we're rarely on at the same time). then i meet 2 danish girls at the laundromat. then the construction worker who's replacing my little back porch sees my danish flags at the back door and it turns out his dad is from the exact same town that i lived in 8 years ago. and finally, i got an e-mail from another exchange student that i haven't had any contact with since.. well.. since i came home 8 years ago. so today i visited the rotary student message board to see what was going down. after all, it's spring and all sorts of future exchange students are posting frantically trying to figure out what they've gotten themselves into. this is when the independence rant stuff comes in. there are 18-year-old kids out there who have never left their parents side! they're terrified about leaving home (even though they know it's going to be fun and probably good for them). i just spent an hour posting tips on how to navigate airports. this poor girl was terrified of airports. she was frantic because her parents couldn't escort her right to the gate. 'hello, can you read signs? yes? then you can find the one with the number matching the number on your ticket, and march yourself in the direction that the arrow tells you'.

so my rant is this... parents, trust your kids! give them a little bit of slack when they get older. give them responsibility! let them figure something out for themselves! as surprising as it may seem, if your son/daughter is over the age of 10, then they can probably figure out how to put food in their mouths and change their underwear everday without you watching over them. at that point, as harsh as it may seem, your purpose in their life is as a moral compass and money machine. sure, if you dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, your kids might have some problems. but i argue that their problems will be more along the lines of, 'jonny, my 23 year old boyfriend, says that 'sure baby, he really loves me', so is it right to shag him in the backseat of the minivan?' not, 'i'm hungry, i wonder if it's ok to gorge myself on corn-dogs and pop tarts?' i'm always surprised at the number of parents who won't let their kids leave their side the entire time they live at home, then expect them to go off to university or college as if that piece of paper called a high school diploma automatically signals their maturity and their readiness for independence. 300 years ago, your kids would all be married and popping out babies by their 13th birthday, so i think they should be able to handle a supervised trip overseas without you.

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