Showing posts with label adjustments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adjustments. Show all posts

Friday, August 19, 2011

College Mom: I'm Trying, But It's Hard

We dropped our first born off at university this week. We have spent the last year plus supporting him as he got ready. From taking AP classes and exams, to doing half of his senior year of high school at our community college, our son was looking forward. We thought frequently about how the transition to college would be for us all, and he and I often would tell each other that we would certainly miss one another and that it would, yes, feel very weird.

Well, it does. I didn't even shed a tear until I walked into the house after we drove home without him. Our house, minus one of our children, just doesn't feel like our home. Walking into his bedroom brought me to tears. The boy is gone, at least until Thanksgiving break, and I have to get used to the change.

We left him seeming excited and confident, and for that, I am deeply grateful. He is competent to meet the academic challenges ahead, and has support for everything else.

I've been comforted by the texts we have sent back and forth a couple of times a day since we separated. Does that qualify for a helicopter parent? I don't think so. I have told my husband that I think my/our job continues to be to love and support our son. As for decisions and problems? They now belong to him. And he needs to confront them so he can develop his individual skills with people and their strange, strange ways.

Of course, sharing space with others is always a challenge. I want him to be able to get his own needs met, live with compromise, and assert himself. This is what I am struggling with. He is a really, really nice guy, and doesn't always speak up for himself. I'd love to swoop in and solve an issue or two, like a therapist could. But I. Must. Not. Interfere.

He knows where we are. He knows how to speak his mind. He knows what he needs. As my friends who have traveled this road before are good at reminding me, we have taught and modeled problem solving all his life. He has a set of values that are worth defending. I need to let him figure out his own boundaries, and how he is going to manage them. He's just getting started.

Just so you know: it's a lot easier to say than to feel. I think I have more to learn about this change than my son does. I used to know what being his mother meant. It's something very different now. It's pretty hard to stop being his champion, defender, provider and comforter just like that. But just like that, that is exactly what my life is asking of me now.

Thank you, God. Help us all.




Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Adolescent Effect: Part 2

Parents of adolescents don't have much fun.

Fun, for many parents of teenagers, is something they watch their children have. Fun at school, fun at the mall, fun on the playing field, fun at parties. What used to be happy times as a family with pre- and elementary school children has transitioned into good times  for the teens, and being the ones who not only pay for those, but also drive the kids to and from these teen-centered events. Having given up weekend after weekend, night after night, to manage my children's sports, music, church, school and friend events, I feel like an event planner. Always making things happen, invisible to the guests, never getting to sit at the head table or get out on the dance floor.

This is what many middle aged parents find when they get to the second decade of their children's lives. A child centered life, but with no emotional reward. No smiling toddler looking back at you as they climb up the slide. No proud 10 year old eager to show you off to their teacher or coach. Instead, the parent must now watch their child's back as they saunter, without a second glance, into the gym, store, house or ball field. The parent ready to drive, wait, and pick that child up when the event is through.


Do I sound resentful?

I have been thinking about my emotions around the lack of fun adult time in my life. Perhaps it has something to do with where we live, a suburb full of families in some stage of doing what we're doing. Years back, when I lived in a small town, adults made time for one another and the kids were expected to come along. One of my closest friends, having moved to Alaska, regularly reports her time spent with other adults in her small town, running, eating, fund raising, skiing, church building. What happened back in our shiny suburb?

I know for my husband and me, these years of chauffeuring came on slowly, incrementally, at the same time we had to manage some serious work and health issues. It was like an emotional tossed salad, trying to keep it all together. We managed to keep the whole one piece, but the pleasure in parenting? the joy in the week? I'm looking, but it's not so obvious anymore.

For families that don't have the funds to finance big vacation cruises, or a second home on the lake, these adolescent days are hard. There is no natural escape. Add into these adolescent effects a divorce, or an elderly parent, a job loss or a health or financial crisis and you see why most of the families I see in therapy are families with teens. We are adults without the focus of small children, adults without the freedom of retirement or the adjustment of an empty nest. We are hobbled, and stressed, and under-appreciated.

We are struggling to re-define ourselves and what brings us joy. If we look chronically worn to you, don't ask us to explain. Just give us a hand, and invite us to dinner. Without our kids.