by Elizabeth Armitage, homeschool graduate
There exists in this world a rather hilarious TV show titled The Middle. It features a realistically average family of five, the Hecks. Their lives are messy, their relationships are roller coasters, and their house is constantly in disarray. In one episode, their oldest child (Axl Heck) goes off to college, and his mother (Frankie Heck) has a difficult time letting go. She convinces the whole family to go along to drop him off, and he becomes increasingly frustrated as they encounter hold-up after hold-up on the way there. He simply wants out. Axl disappears once they reach his dorm, leaving without so much as a heartfelt goodbye.
Is That It?
Frankie is left with an empty feeling in her heart and a desperate desire for closure. “Wait, wait, wait!” she calls after him. He doesn’t listen, and she turns to her husband, Mike Heck, for comfort. “I thought we would swing by the book store, and let him pick out a T-shirt, and take him to dinner. . .I just. . .I mean. . .is that it?”
As a young adult, recently in full control of my own life for the first time ever, I relate to Axl’s thirst for freedom. It must be understood that I love my family more than anything; my parents and sisters are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and the Lord has favored me greatly by putting them in my life. However, as a young person–just like Axl Heck–I have a desire to “do it all myself.” I want to get away from family and become a person in my own right; to have friends who are just mine and not my whole family’s; to have activities that I alone engage in, such as taking a volleyball class for fun or going to the young adult group at my church; to be solely responsible for my actions. I want to do life on my own. I want to be me, a person I can create, a person I can choose.
Axl and I can relate. On the flip side, however, so can Frankie and my mother.
The crazy thing is, I actually get it.
With each new step of independence taken by a young adult, the scissors of life snip just a little bit deeper into the mother’s apron strings. One day the strings will break, and the apron of protection will no longer be needed. The child will be a fully fledged adult, responsible and capable of taking care of himself and, possibly, his own family. The snipping of these strings is uncomfortable and painful for the mother, but as the threads become looser, the more independent and confident the child becomes. What is for him an exciting experience is, for his mother, a difficult one.
My mom and her friend are in the process of writing a book together. They both have young adult children who have recently graduated, and they are basing their project on the concept of their “apron strings” being threadbare. The idea is that, while a child is young, he clutches his mother’s apron strings. He does not easily let go. He cannot walk alone yet; he cannot take care of himself. He does not have the confidence or knowledge to function on his own, so he clings to the one who is able and willing to take care of him; his mother. But as the child grows older, so does the apron. The article of clothing that was once an item of safety becomes one of help. The threads become worn and weary. Eventually the child is old enough that he no longer needs to hold on to his mother’s apron strings; they have become thin and, eventually, they will snap.
Bitter and Sweet
These two perspectives are equally heartfelt. They are equally truthful, equally worthy, and–most importantly–equally valid. On one hand, I am coming into independence and naturally crave it; on the other, my mother must begin to release the child she has raised for the past 18 years. I believe that this is especially hard on us both because of our family’s decision to homeschool. While I believe that choosing homeschool was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, it also means that I have spent more time with my family than kids raised in public or private school. I must learn to live my own life, while my family must learn to live theirs with my partial absence.
It’s new, it’s foreign, and it’s somewhat frightening. For me, it is exciting; for them, it is both bitter and sweet.
My point? There has to be compromise for any relationship to function well. This includes parent-child relationships, as well as friendship and romance. Young adults. . .my friends. . .understand the tremendous difficulty your parents go through as you grow up. You may believe that they are holding you back, or are overprotective. However, in reality, you are (and always will be) their baby. Your mother held you in your belly for around nine months, gave birth to you, and raised and protected you through the Terrible Twos and hormonal junior high years. For eighteen years you have been her responsibility; your health and well-being were hers to take care of.
Now, seemingly all of a sudden, you’ve grown up. She has to let you go, to let you make your own decisions and make your own mistakes. Some things that you see as smothering and overprotective are, to her, incredibly difficult decisions that involve letting you move beyond her comfort zone. It’s not easy. Appreciate the love that she has for you.
Thank you, Mom, for loving me.
Originally published July 26, 2014 on Elizabeth’s blog. Elizabeth Armitage is 20. She was homeschooled K-12 and is currently enrolled at Napa Valley College studying communication. She sometimes blogs at http://shortlysweet.blogspot.com/
For homeschool high school resources, visit CHEA’s website.