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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: When the birds leave the nest

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Watching the wind blowing needles off the cedar trees outside of my window, I had a slight sense of panic, realizing fall is merely weeks away.

It’s also a reminder that another semester of advanced learning is underway (or about to be) for community college and university students. Just as with high school graduation in June, the start of school in August and September is another milestone for both students and parents.

I am seeing lots of social media posts of sad and sometimes distraught parents moving their offspring into dorms, and nervously excited freshmen flapping their wings as they find themselves somewhat on their own for the first time in their young lives.



Depending on the type of parenting they received, this can be likened to breaking free of the chains of oppression or simply the next step toward becoming independent contributors to society.

Of course, not everyone who has recent high school graduates have children who are college bound. In our family, while most of the kids have attended college on one level or another, only one has attained a four-year degree and it is unlikely that any of the others will be earning one anytime soon.




When my children were born, I just assumed they would go to college. I raised them with that thought in mind and groomed them with the phrase, “when (not if) you go to college” but I was wrong. And, that is okay.

When I remarried and raised a blended family of seven, it became more obvious that not everyone would find going to a University to be a good fit. Some of our kids were simply not interested. Some did not have any idea what career they wanted to pursue.

Most have since tried various paths to learning and some have found their calling, but they did not do it walking what most would consider a traditional route to higher learning.

There have been gap years and community college courses, some on-line courses of study and some dropping out. There has been vocational learning, on the job training and one who signed up for the military. All are doing well despite (or because of) their less than straight and narrow path to higher education.

I will sheepishly admit to some level of relief when I realized not everyone in our house wanted to go directly to a four-year institution directly after graduating high school. The one who did is still paying off student loans (and probably will be for the next thirty years) as the only real assistance we, as parents, were able to offer, was a tax bracket earning that allowed for federal assistance. I guess that is a positive.

I know of and have seen literally thousands of dollars wasted on forced learning for kids who were just not ready or interested. They did what was expected without much joy or focus. Unless Beer Pong 101 is a major I am not aware of, it is safe to say some of those college funds were squandered.

And while I am certain this opinion will not be popular with those working in the realm of higher learning, the cost/benefit equation seems more out of sync than ever before.

How does one justify a $100,000.00 education with a $35,000.00 per year salary?

More to the point, I see several of my children’s friends who took the direct route from high school to university now carrying their sheepskin around working in area restaurants, resorts, video stores, ice cream shops and other non-degree related vocations, still trying to figure out what they want to do or how to “break in” to their chosen field.

Simply said, a four-year degree does not come with any guarantee. Research does show a likelihood for higher earning potential and I don’t doubt it, I just don’t want people to feel wrong if the kid decides on another track.

The harsh reality is, their success is not your success and conversely, their failure is not your failure. That is the toughest lesson for parents to accept. Because first and foremost they are individuals.

We are guides, mentors, providers and cheerleaders. Sometimes we get lucky and they do just as we hope. Often, they do as they please. All of those hopes and dreams and aspirations for the tiny infant you once held close to your chest may or may not come true no matter how much time, effort and resources are poured into the cause.

Along the way, they have cultivated their own hopes and dreams and aspirations and they must find their own way, in their own time.

Over the next several weeks, as parents adjust to empty nesting in some cases, and simply a different dynamic in their household in others, I hope they will allow themselves some moments of pure joy.

Dry their eyes and have faith they raised their young with enough sense to survive without them. Happy dance in the living room for five minutes, before you know it they’ll be home for the holidays, raiding the refrigerator, emptying the pantry and bringing more laundry than imaginable.

The true gift of parenting is, it’s never over. You can count on that.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.


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