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Sending My Daughter Packin'...Did I Teach Her Enough to Survive Out There?


She packed up her potential, and a few things she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes, and set out to change a few things."

My oldest daughter is getting married later this year. When she graduated from college in 2013 and headed for a new job and new adventures in the Pacific Northwest, I wrote this blog reflecting on my job as a parent. Perhaps it will speak to you as your children grow up and leave home.

At that time, as I was helping her pack her things, clean out her room, and box up her mementos, my heart filled with the joy that comes from knowing had done my best to fill her with all the life lessons I could in the short 21 years she's been under my care.

Part of me searched the catalog of my own life lessons to see if I'd missed any wisdom I might impart last minute, or unearth anything I forgot to share).


How to use the center dotted lanes on the street (She drove right across it and failed her drivers license test-epic fail on my part!).

Or the importance of writing a personal thank you note after receiving a gift or going on an interview (I found all of her hand written high school graduation “thank yous” in her drawers while cleaning out her room---many people never knew their gift was received!).

Or that violence or sarcasm is not a way to solve conflict (not that she's ever resorted to this---->).


I remembered that she's managed negotiations (getting out of a college lease due to termite infestation), and studied abroad for six months visiting 13 countries on her own.

After a car accident last year, she helped a driver to the curb before taking care of herself (the driver hit HER and totaled her car).

And taken the time to explore her relationships, set good boundaries, and make wise decisions when her heart was broken.

It occurs to me that when it comes to the big things in life--relationships, heartbreak, loss, joy and everything in between, it's been my love, my attention, my validation and sincere apologies when I messed up (and I've messed up!) that have given her enough of a secure base to figure all this out as it comes.

Oh sure, nothing replaces the lessons on how to wash a load of laundry, set a proper table, make a hospital corner when making her bed, tell the differencebetween a ripe and unripe fruit, and how to unclog a toilet. Her dad made sure she was always aware of her surroundings to be safe, talked to her about the world, and taught her about politics. But the very thing that's given her the confidence to go out into this world and follow her heart and dreams, think independently, and explore the world despite her fears is this--not so perfect living and attempts at repair:

As she drives away, I can rest knowing she will be fine. It’s fleeting of course, as my attention quickly turns towards the house--I'm already worrying about her two younger sisters and what lessons I haven't yet shared...

And I ask, ”Hey, who’s turn is it to pick up the dog poop?" (this is, of course, a valuable skill--and not actually what I did. What I really did was cry. But this sounded funnier). Kimberly (formerly Sandstrom) McNary, M.A. is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Educator. Her passion is helping create and maintain loving connections with those we cherish most. She, has raised three daughters (not so perfectly).You can contact her at

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