My eldest son has chosen to come home from his college. While it wasn’t my first choice, I knew I needed to support his decision. I did everything I could to help him exit one school and apply to another. Let me tell you, it was a bitch in such a short time and he was generally useless but it’s done now.
Some things happened with his grades and classes that I am actually angry about. Not angry at him for choosing or doing poorly – angry that he takes the “Of course this always happens to me” stance. I want to throttle him when he pulls that. Take responsibility and own what you’ve done. Realize your errors or challenges and figure out how you can do better next time.
I’ve spoken to him about this and haven’t demonstrated anger, just support. But I hit a boiling point when he “gives up”.
Luckily, my closest friend and the therapist have been helping me with this. The most impactful statement so far has been “You can’t want this more than he does.”
And I think that hit the nail on the head. I wanted him to get it right, get it done, move forward and be successful. I knew what mistakes he was making but I also knew he wasn’t listening to any advice I was giving him. So I stopped. I just listened to him and asked what his next steps are. This ain’t easy for me – I want to tell him what I think he should be doing, but he’s 19. He needs to want his own future.
It was a powerful moment for me.
Because on the back of that, I then acknowledged that even if I did help him (and he potentially fails) it wouldn’t change the outcome. He will learn much faster when he sees his goal and tries to reach for it instead of me handing him trophies along the way for every small effort. It’s still a bitter parenting pill – I know I can guide him. But this is something he has to do on his own.
I kept thinking if I helped him, he would get to his goal on time (meaning graduate college in 4 years with his peers). And it’s possible he doesn’t really see that future as his responsibility, yet. But he won’t succeed until he does. He needs to want to graduate in 4 years from a great college with good grades. I wanted that for him and I know he said he wanted it for himself, but I’m looking in the rear view mirror knowing the trials behind me and ahead of him, he can’t see over the hill in front of him. He needs to get there on his own.
Ambition and aggression have always been a part of my nature. They came built in. No one really knows how or why that happens, but some people are just more like that than others. In relationship, I generally don’t do well with others who are not similar (mind you my best friend is polar opposite but more in that another day). I lean towards like-minded people. We all know this was one major reason for my divorce: I was moving forward fast and he wanted to stand still. When I see the “woe is me” attitude with my kids it makes me bonkers. However, if these are my kids, I can nudge, encourage and advise but I cannot DO for them what they need to do for themselves.
It’s a heartbreaking lesson to watch your kid suffer and struggle, partially of his own accord.
Here’s to hoping he finds himself and grows stronger in the coming semester. And here’s to hoping he doesn’t disrupt the house so much that all the peace of the last 4 months disappears.