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Rochester Local

What Do You Mean You’re Not Going Back?!

adult children, being an individual, being ok with your kids decisions, being uniquely you, college, college age kids, college choice, college dropout, educational choices, fall semester, helping kids leave the nest, helping older kids make decisions, high school age kids, moving away to school, older kids, opportunities, parenting children who are adults

Sending our first born son to college was such a proud moment for this mom, it was a day I had envisioned since he was young. I hadn’t gone to college right after high school. I wanted to go to a campus that had a large theater program, but the message I received was that was an impractical direction and I needed to find a career path and undergrad program that was more financially reliable in the long run. During that year of trying to figure out what reliable looked like, I found myself pregnant with this child, and my future took a very different turn. Now, here he was, fresh out of high school, doing what I didn’t do, moving away to college to do what he wanted. Even if it wouldn’t be reliable – it was what he wanted, where he wanted. And that felt great! Nice job kid, well done parents, GO TEAM!

Fast forward a few months into his first year of college…What do you mean you don’t think you’re going back to school in the fall?  During the spring of his freshman year, he shared this news, and I’m ashamed to admit that for a while – and even now on occasion – my thoughts turned to me. What will people think of me as a parent? I’ve obviously failed somehow.

These thoughts alternated with: but everyone else is going to college, all of your other classmates are going to graduate and get the jobs of their dreams and never have to worry about being financially secure, bottom line, all the other kids are doing it.  But, that line never worked when everyone he knew got the Wii when it came out, or when everyone got the newest Rip-stick model, or when ALL his friends had cell phones and were staying out past midnight.

We’ve tried to teach our boys to be themselves. In some cases we may have failed them because in our attempt to not jump on the band wagon, we occasionally found our family not doing things in the name of not doing them. Figuring out how to be an individual and unique and true to yourself – in a family of four unique individuals who all have different ideas of what ‘being true to yourself‘ looks like, involves a few bumps along the way.

Here he was, speaking his truth, which couldn’t have been easy. He knew he was going to disappoint us. He loved his school and had great future opportunities with the program he was in. He loved his friends, and the life he had started there. We had also spent a great deal of money on that first year. But he wasn’t happy with the direction things were going in. How could I, in good conscience, try to persuade him to continue on that path? Were we giving up too early by conceding to his desire to not return to college for fall semester or should we simply support our son while he navigates this difficult life choice? Are we enabling him to be a quitter, or do we recognize that this isn’t our decision to make? It was time to face that our job as parents of this headstrong, determined, 19 year old was to support, love, and offer guidance when he asked for it.

I spent all his childhood years working random hours at part-time jobs so that I could still volunteer and be at every everything – and needing to sometimes explain that to him and his brother. We tried to teach them that while I may have only contributed in a small way financially – the greater value I brought to our family was to be available to them and take care of our home, because that was what made us all happy. Brian and I agreed that the years with them were short, and being home with them was temporary. Being a SAHM fulfilled me and made me feel valued. I was contributing to my family in ways beyond a paycheck. Now, here he was saying that the path of education – for now – wasn’t his heart’s desire, and I was going to try to convince him to go anyway?

 adult children, being an individual, being ok with your kids decisions, being uniquely you, college, college age kids, college choice, college dropout, educational choices, fall semester, helping kids leave the nest, helping older kids make decisions, high school age kids, moving away to school, older kids, opportunities, parenting children who are adults

Parenting children who are adults is a huge game changer. I don’t get to override his decisions. I don’t get the luxury of creating his daily schedules, or picking out my favorite sweaters for him to wear, or even deciding what he puts into his body for nourishment. I’ve done most of my job. All the years leading up to this point are coming to a head, and now is the time to watch him grow and thrive – and sometimes fail – while making his own decisions and creating his own life path. It may not be the exact road that I had envisioned for him, but it’s his. And ultimately that’s the lesson we’ve wanted him to walk away with. So maybe, despite all those rolled eyes, and dismayed sighs, and the many times we thought he was ignoring us, he picked up on a few tidbits here and there. Maybe we didn’t fail. And for certain, he’s going to do amazing things – whatever those amazing things look like for him.

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