Advice for young adults leaving the nest ... from Shakespeare

October 10, 2008|By DR. YVONNE FOURNIER / Scripps Howard News Service

DEAR DR. FOURNIER: Someone asked for advice to give a young person leaving the nest. It can be found in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Act I, Scene iii. Lord Polonius' son, Laertes is going to France, but this applies even for a move across town:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,

And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!

And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;


But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

ASSESSMENT: There is nothing I could say that would compare with the completeness of thought presented in Shakespeare's understanding of what a parent should say to his or her child when leaving the nest.

We, who did not live in the 16th and early 17th centuries, must realize that even in a world in which change is constant, there are some things that never change and I believe never will. Here a father bids farewell to his son by telling him to remember what he has been taught and what he should never change. Four centuries later, there is not one thought, one desire that I would change for my own son.

WHAT TO DO: Don't wait to give this message to your children. Do it as early as possible. Don't wait for when they are packing to leave for a new dorm room or five minutes before they wave good-bye. These are lessons that must be taught way before we send our children off to fend for themselves.

Starting with kindergarten, ask if they have made new acquaintances - not friends. They will live mostly in the world of acquaintances until they mature and find those few they can trust with the sacred name of friend.

Our society has legitimized children pushing parents away and taking on immature children as counselors, confidants and even bodily companions. "Immature" has become a euphemism for immoral behavior because our children take the counsel of a "friend" who does not know the meaning of life and much less friendship.

My counsel was "Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are." Shakespeare adds, "Tell me who your friend is, and keep your distance from deception."

Every teacher and parent should begin to teach this Shakespearean excerpt/message from kindergarten on. By the time your child leaves the nest it will be etched in his or her mind. Your child will leave knowing how to inhabit his or her life with acquaintances and their hearts with the love and caring of true friends.

Degrees without this knowledge are not education - they are invitations to be abused.

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