Nudging further out of the nest

My wife is envious of the time I spent travelling with my eldest son and his brother last week. Brendan and I made the trip to Ottawa to pick up Adam, who was moving out of residence at Carleton University.
Adam and his friend, Gui, had taken possession of a townhouse several blocks from the campus and we were taking down some household items for his place, as well as assisting Adam with his move.
Our van was fairly well loaded down, so we chose to travel the Canadian route over the top of Superior, leaving early last Wednesday morning.
Once your children go off to school, they come back young adults and the conversations you have with them are much different. Brendan and I were in the van for almost a day-and-a-half and our conversations were mixed and varied.
The north shore was cold and often cloudy. Most of the lakes along the way were still frozen tight, and even around Rossport, Lake Superior was frozen. But many of those lakes had opened up before we got back on Sunday.
During that time, we talked about his plans for the future. He was noting that probably when I graduated from high school, that diploma was really the basis for a good job. People who received a college of university education seemed to have a leg up.
Today, Brendan noted, a college or university degree will be the basis for a good job, but that additional education at the master’s or doctoral level is what often is required to get that same leg up. He wondered what the standards will be 20 years in the future.
Most students at university graduate in four or five years. A master’s degree requires another two years of study after that; and a doctoral degree another four or five. It is a long education.
Travelling across the north often is a breath-taking drive as one comes face-to-face with great panoramic vistas of Lake Superior. One travels through an almost Carolina forest along the north shore of Lake Huron, and then you stumble back to the Canadian Shield at Sudbury.
I’m told the landscape around Sudbury is much improved over the period when it was being used by astronaut trainees who were going to make moon walks. Yet the land remains scarred.
Brendan asked me why governments would have tolerated the abuse of the land. My answer was that “it comes down to education and the knowledge we have gained.”
We learned of the damages we wrought on the land and have studied ways to prevent future blights, as well as begin the healing process to restore the land to a pristine beauty.
And it comes back to how much more education is being required of young people today. As we drove to Ottawa, we passed by a great many colleges and universities. They are our centres of learning to solve the environmental abuses, to teach healing, and much more.
We arrived in Ottawa along with, I suspect, thousands of other parents anxious to pick up their first-year students. Exams were almost over at the post-secondary education institutions.
When you drop your children off in the fall, you are full of hope and anticipation of what they will learn and do. I suspect that more than one parent was made a little uncomfortable with the signs and graffiti posted on the walls of the residences.
Many parents are now discovering that the young person who went off to school last fall is much different than the young adult who arrived home this April.
I don’t think any parent totally understands all the things that young people will be confronted with—and have to cope with—in their first year at school. Students have to keep up with their school work and they also are responsible for getting to class, handing in assignments, and facing all the temptations that being away from parental guidance affords.
We picked up Adam on Thursday, and he directed us to his new digs for the next year. He still had one exam to write that evening, but he, too, was looking to his future and the education that he will need.
This past year has been a maturing and growing year for him. One year of school has given him added confidence in his independence. His wit and humour have grown.
Adam stands ready and is confident to look after himself. In the fall, he will fly off like his brother, Brendan, for another year of university schooling—and both will move a little farther out of the nest.

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