One of the primary goals of parenting is to teach children how to live on their own, how to take care of themselves, but also how to show kindness to others, how to work hard and how to be good citizens. The ultimate goal is to prepare them for living in this world without parents always there to guide and protect them.

As children grow, they gain more and more independence, slowly preparing themselves to one day leave “the nest.” The teen years are when they gain the most independence – when they begin to stay at home alone, drive themselves around town and take their first jobs.

In the spirit of Independence Day, The Bluffton Sun asked local teenagers what independence means to them.

“It really just means being able to look out for yourself and be responsible,” said May River High School rising 11th grader Jake Smith.

Jake should know. He took his first job last summer, juggling for a company called Juggle Stuff. He was able to save enough money to buy his own car and now drives himself to his current summer job at Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta in Bluffton.

Jake is already looking forward to the additional independence that will come along with being a college student in just a couple of years.

Bluffton High rising senior Drew Lee said the independence we have in the U.S. allows his generation to learn whatever they want via the internet. So much information is available literally at their fingertips, whereas if he lived in some areas of the world, he would not have the freedom to find that information.

An offensive lineman for the Bluffton Bobcats football team and a defender for the school’s lacrosse team, Drew is thankful to service members like his grandfather who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

Drew said his grandfather was “basically fighting for our rights to be Americans and not be under anybody else.”

Bluffton High School rising senior Jewel McCants defined independence as “being yourself, knowing who you are, knowing it’s okay to stand alone, doing things without others.”

Jewel appreciates the fact that because she lives in the U.S., she has the freedom to practice whatever religion she wants. If she lived elsewhere, she might be forced to follow another religion.

Jewel is also thankful for the opportunity to get an education. When she doesn’t feel like going to school, she is reminded that if she weren’t an American, she could be denied that opportunity.

Jewel plans to either go to the beach or barbecue with friends to celebrate Independence Day and “just be thankful that we’re free.”

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.