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Walking With Your Child Into Adulthood

So, your son or daughter is graduating from high school or college this year. Of the hundreds of thoughts that could be going through your head, I have found that many parents are thinking most about two things, “How will they make it on their own?” and, “What will life without them be like?”

Ok, so many of you are probably thinking, “Phew, we got them through that.” Over my many years as a teacher, youth minister and Catholic camp director many parents asked me, “What now? How do my husband/wife and I adjust?” My first answer to them is to start dating. Yes, you read that right — start dating your spouse like he/she was someone new that you just met. But, as you are picking up the phone to make those dinner reservation and reserve those plush seat movie tickets, you also need to start thinking about just how you will send off this child who is now technically and “Adult”.

After they finish school this year, will they lounge around for the summer, and then get dropped off at the dorm or their first job and apartment? This send off is too critical of a moment to not plan and think through. Here is a suggestion: How about taking a hike with them? Only, this is not a walk in the park. This is a 500 mile walk across France and Spain to the tomb of the Saint of Pilgrims, St. James. This walk is filled with beauty, wonders, challenges, climbs, descents, wondrous Catholic Chapels, quaint villages, bustling cities, and people from all over the world.

500 Miles to Be Exact

Let me introduce you to the Camino de Santiago, or as many people may know it, The Way of St. James. So, why would you want to take a six week, let me repeat that – SIX WEEK - walk across France and Spain with a child (oh, sorry, an "adult") who can simultaneously eat your food, thoroughly ignore you and text 100 words a minute? For those very reasons.

As families in our busy world, we are mired in the mundane routines that get us through daily life to places like high school and college graduations. Sending your child onto the next phase of their life without taking a step back to think, relate, and ponder that last 18 plus years is, well, a big mistake. Six weeks away from daily life is hard for most Americans to imagine, but for more that 300,000 people in 2018, including me, it is the best six-week investment they have ever made with their time.

A Journey Toward Transformation

Yes, over 300,000 people took the plunge into hiking 500 miles from Sean Jean Peid de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. And, with every town and moment of reflection I thought about how this is the best thing parents could do with their children as they are sending them off to start their own adult life.

I even met families doing just what I’m recommending — fathers and sons, like Peter and James from Ireland, Skyler and her parents Mike and Kim, and several others. At first I thought, “How could Skyler, who I met on my first day on the trail, spend this much time with her parents hiking?” Didn’t they bore her like I know I bored and embarrassed my boys when they were, oh, 12 to at least 25?

The answer was, well, yes, but I also got the joy of seeing a transformation with this lovely family as our winding paths met over the next few weeks. Sometimes Skyler would be hiking well ahead of them, sometimes hiking with others closer to her own age, and others she was leisurely hiking next to her Dad chatting, who I was happy to see, was huffing and puffing up a steep hill like me.

Ask yourself this question, “What do I really want for my child as they go off to start their adult life?”


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