When it comes to my older children's friends, I have always adopted an open door policy in my home. Friends are more than welcome to come over anytime and I love knowing that my children can enjoy their friendships in the safety and comfort of their own home. Here they can enjoy being fed and watered and make use of the technology and entertainment available. Ian and I are very easygoing parents, and believe in giving teenagers the trust and respect they deserve. We don't see the need for setting rules like some parents do. I remember one of Megan's boyfriend's mums telling me that I had to enforce an 'open bedroom door' and 'one-foot-on-the-floor-at-all-times' policy when they were together. At first I thought she was joking, but sadly she was deadly serious. I had to agree to disagree with her thought process. Treating young adults in a way that says 'you are not trusted' and 'I disapprove of what you do' is counterproductive in my eyes. I prefer to equip them with the tools to make good decisions, give them the confidence to do what is right for them and keep the channels of communication open. Stifling freedom and projecting a lack of trust only leads to deceit, secrets and resentment. I want open, loving, mutually respectful relationships with my kids, and so far my parenting techniques have proven pretty successful!
Over the years I have got to know lots of lovely young adults who have enjoyed the McDonald house hospitality and it's been a real honour to be a part of their lives. Being older teenagers, I don't feel responsible for them in the way I am with younger children. It is quite liberating to get to know them as people in the own rights, rather than being just your child's friend. I have found this element of parenting really rewarding over the years, allowing me to better understand and relate to my own kids' lives in a very natural and empathetic way.
Ella's current best friend, on-off boyfriend and regular house guest from across the years is Jake. At 18 years old, he is the most polite, friendly, helpful, charming, well mannered lad I have ever encountered. He is absolutely brilliant with Freddy, who calls him his best friend. He is great company and a pleasure to have around. Ella and Jake's friendship hasn't always been plain sailing, but they have worked hard to sort out problems they encountered and are now the cutest twosome ever.
On Monday, Jake is embarking on a much coveted placement through the Year in Industry scheme. He is an electronics and technology whizz. The kind of guy who can make his own apps, design robots and invent his own electronic devices. He has won awards and his skills have proven very marketable. I have him earmarked as the next Steve Jobs. While I am absolutely delighted for him to have this opportunity, I admit to having a little pang of sadness knowing that he is leaving to start a new life for himself away from our hometown. We are going to miss him dreadfully!
Jake's big adventure will take him off into the big wide world as he moves to a new city and learns to live independently as a grown-up! Last night we had a dinner party to say good-bye. I made him a Star Wars Millenium Falcon cake, which we brought out to the Star Wars theme tune. It was a fun evening, but good-byes are always hard. However happy you are for someone when they get the opportunity to better themselves and do something exciting, you can't help but think about what you will be missing. And we will be missing him a lot.
In a few weeks time it will be Ella's turn to step out into the big wide world as she embarks on her own adventure. She'll be off to university to study a subject that she is passionate about. My beautiful little Ella will be taking a huge leap into her future. I'm so excited for her, but our home will be so much emptier without her in it. She is a shining light in my life, and I know she will shine brighter still as she enters the next phase of her life. She has so much to give and is a beautiful person inside and out.
Thankfully we have the internet and all its ways of staying in touch through social media and Skype, and we fully intend to be regular visitors to see Ella at university and enjoy days out together. (Plus the invitation for days out is extended to Jake who will only be a half hour away from Ella.)
As for Jake, it's farewell and good luck for now. He knows he is always welcome here in his home from home and I can always knock up a Millennium Falcon cake anytime! As for Ella, I intend to make the most of these last few weeks before she spreads her wings and flies into adulthood! I'm not going to dwell on her leaving yet, there is still too much Ella time to be cherished!
I am so proud of them both. In a society that throws scorn on teenagers, this pair are a shining example of just how amazing young people can be. I love them to bits.
It is an honour to see young people grow up and become the adults they are destined to be. I am so happy for them to be embarking on their new adventures, but saying good-bye is such a hard part of parenting teens.