“We have to talk,” I say as I peak my head timidly around the door.
I’m always hesitant to open the door to my 19 year old son’s room any further than I need to. Some things are better left unseen.
His response is the expected “mmhh”. But he hangs up with his skype friend and follows me into the kitchen.
He knows what’s coming. The lecture. The ‘it’s time you figure out what you want to do with your life’ lecture. Again.
I could see he’s been stressed the last few weeks. He’s hiding in his room again. He grunts in response to our “Good mornings!” He’s falling into his old eating habits. He’s just not happy.
I, of course, attribute this to not having a purpose in life.
I begin the lecture the usual way. Telling him what I think he should do, and why I think he feels the way he does. He replies with, “but I can’t stand my classes, and I’m falling behind, and every time I think about having to do this for another whole year, I feel sick.”
He’s pacing, and running his hands through his hair. His eyes are dark and his expression is one of hopelessness mixed with a little bit of anger. He reminds me of a caged bear, stuck in a confined area with no means of escaping.
My heart breaks. I let him continue to vent. “I know I need to do this to get my associates degree. I know I can’t get a half-way decent job without that, at least. I’m stuck on this path and I just have to stay on it til it’s done.”
I listen intently, but an idea is forming in my mind.
When there’s a break in his rant, I say, “The path that you are on is supposed to take you to a place where you can get a job that will enable you to support yourself. But this path may not be the only path there is. We have you on that path because you haven’t given us a different path that you’re willing to follow. But if you were to put together another plan, or path to follow, that will end with the same result, we would support you all the way.”
Almost immediately, he stopped pacing. His tightened facial muscles relaxed. His eyes became lighter. And he began nodding in understanding.
I continue on. “Of course, the path you choose will still require work. You still won’t be able to just sit in your room, edit your videos, watch your tv shows, eat to your heart’s content… BUT, you’ll be following a path that has an end result. Right now, the path you’re on has an end result of a degree, but you don’t know what you intend to use that degree for. Your path will lead directly to the place you want to be.”
For the first time in a long time, I could sense that he was on board with me. He agreed to look into other options and then present his “path” to my husband and me today. He went back to his room with his head held a little bit higher, and a slight spring in his step.
As a parent, I just want to know that my kids are going to be okay. I want them to feel pride in themselves, I want them to have a purpose, I want them to be happy, and I want them to be able to move out of the house someday.
And what I am learning is that my children may not follow the normal path of going to college and obtaining a degree and landing a high paying job. And I’m learning that I am okay with that!
And so our new journey begins…. I don’t plan to look back on the path he began taking with regret (money lost on college tuition…), and I’m really looking forward to steering him along a path where he’ll enjoy the ride.