The Path Less Traveled

03 Feb

“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.


Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Family, Parenting


Tags: , , , ,

9 responses to “The Path Less Traveled

  1. Abby

    February 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    It’s so hard to watch our kids struggle. 19 is a tough age for many. It sounds like this talk you two had will reap some good results! I hope so. That whole “traditional college” route isn’t for everyone, but I do believe that everyone has some sort of passion. Some just have a harder time finding it. It’s great that you are being so open minded!

  2. Jules

    February 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    I’m so glad you opened it up to him to think about his own path. I have only experienced this from the child part of it, but I know as a kid it always drove me crazy when my parents would tell me what to do. I know that’s part of it, and a lot of it is necessary to raise a kid into a decent adult. But it wasn’t just WHAT to do….it was HOW to do it, WHY I should or shouldn’t do it, what I should have said instead, etc etc….. allllllllll the time. Even now, it’s the same thing even though I’m 26, married, and live 3.5 hours away. What kills me is that a lot of what my mom lectures me about is stuff that has already happened. At least you’re focusing on the future with your kid! 🙂

    Sometimes that’s what a kid needs to hear – that they have the choice to make their own decision. I guarantee you if my parents would have truly done that for me – at least 8 out of 10 times I would have chosen the path they would have chosen for me, but this way I would have felt like I ‘owned’ the decision and that it was my own path, not theirs. Of course my viewpoint may completely change on this when I become a parent. lol.

    But we see the same thing in hotels don’t we? Guests are so much happier when you give them a choice, even if you already have them reserved in a great room and know they will pick the same one. Why not let them feel like they picked it themselves? That’s why I like Subway instead of Quiznos. I don’t HAVE to get my sandwich toasted at Subway. Even though I do most of the time, I love having the option to toast or not to toast.

    Okay. Sorry about the novel response. I’m starting to feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode now with all my blabber. =) I can’t wait to see the path your son presents!

    • shadowrun300

      February 4, 2012 at 12:14 am

      It’s okay. I love Seinfeld! 🙂 And I totally agree with you that it has to be their choice. It’s so much easier to navigate them if they “buy” into what we’re trying to sell. I’m learning as I go, how to be a parent of a young adult. Thank goodness my husband is pretty smart about this parenting thing too, and is working with me. He has a hard time understanding him because he was the exact opposite as a kid, but he’s willing to accept his difference and support him in whatever path he chooses.
      And for the record, I like Subway better than Quiznos. It’s all about the choice. 🙂

  3. territerri

    February 3, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I get this. I really do. You know we’ve been down a similar path with our son. It IS hard to watch them struggle, and especially hard when they have siblings who seem to navigate life so easily. You worry about self-esteem and their ability to find their way in this world. Those who know my struggle keep telling me to be patient and that he’ll find his way. But I think you’re right to step in and HELP your son find his way. Sometimes kids need a little nudge, someone who believes in them and is willing to help them find their path.

    You know what helps me? My husband WAS that kid. And he is quite successful in his career and he manages life just fine. Whenever I get too worried about the boy, I look at my husband and remember that he made it.

    Hang in there.

    • shadowrun300

      February 4, 2012 at 12:23 am

      I know you get this. In fact I shared your story with my husband. And for us, it was more confirmation that not all kids learn or become successful the same way. We’re also learning that we really just want him to be happy. Now that he knows we won’t be forcing him down the college path, he’s very excited about figuring out what he wants to do, and how he needs to get there. And as long as he’s doing his part, he knows that we “have his back”. He’s a lucky kid in that sense. And it’s great for me that I have the support of my husband. I’d hate to have to be the mediator in this one…..

  4. agg79

    February 4, 2012 at 3:00 am

    I fully understand your struggle. There were times that I was worried about his future, but somehow, despite my best efforts to screw him up, he has come out on top. Nobody ever gave us a set of instructions on how kid raising was supposed to go, so I tried to follow in my father’s footsteps. He raised 3 boys and gave us a good home and solid foundation to build upon. He paid for our college and made sure we had a good start on life. What we did with that start was up to us to make work. I strove to follow his example. I wanted to give my son the same opportunities for success, regardless of his career choice. I realize that not everyone is as lucky and they have to find their own path.

    I applaud your approach to your son. You’ve given him a gentle “nudge” in a new direction and I think he will find his own path to achieve his goals. Nobody ever said raising kids was going to be easy (or painless), but I think you have done an outstanding job, Mom.

    • shadowrun300

      February 4, 2012 at 11:30 am

      Thank you so much for the encouraging words! I thought having 4 children ages 5 and younger was tough, but this is a whole new ball game. Hopefully I won’t screw up too much with my oldest, but if I do, I have three more to try to improve with. 🙂 One thing I know for sure, I want what is best for him, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to determine what that is.

  5. Mike

    February 4, 2012 at 4:04 am

    I was older than you son when I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Sometimes it just takes the right moment for everything to click into place. It’s good that you’re being supportive, though, instead of forcing him down a certain path like I see many parents do today.

    • shadowrun300

      February 4, 2012 at 11:32 am

      That’s what I’m hoping too, that one day he’ll say “This is IT!” Until then I’m trying to give him choices so he knows what’s out there in the field that he enjoys. (computers, video editing, abridging, gaming…).


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