"I'm not ready to grow up, I don't want to." Not in a whiny voice, just simply expressed, this statement has come out of my eighteen-year-old son's mouth once or twice over the past few years. And, who can blame him, right? Adulting ideally means becoming totally responsible for yourself, accountable to others, and ready to handle whatever challenges the world holds for you.
Brigham is a very capable young man...friendly, helpful, has managed well to juggle school, varsity tennis, and a part-time job. However, as someone who has known him since he was 4 lbs and 17", I do see hesitation in his desire to move on to the next chapter of his life. And, I have spoken to several other parents who have shared the same concerns about their senior son or daughter as well.
I can't help but be a little curious as to why this might be. I mean, sure, every child comes into the world with their own temperament, resilience ability, and pace. But the other parents I've talked to about this are as stumped as I am as to exactly why it's happened, and what to do about it.
To some degree I think we were all a little unprepared at eighteen to step out of the house and embrace young adult life. Some of us drown our anxiety in college and did what our peers and parents expected us to do until we felt confident enough to pull ourselves together and "man up", some of us smoked our way through college...some of us did both. Hell, some of us ended up pregnant and got out of college all together.
But, I digress...
Part of me wants to attribute the hesitation to move on as part of the increasing use of electronics and lack of face-to-face contact and social time. Part of me also wants to believe greater access to news/world events/sensationalism in the media has contributed to a sense of fear we can all succumb to at times. Yet another part of me believes the skyrocketing cost of a college education is an additional stressor. I mean, if you are lucky enough to have parents who can pay your way through, you are likely also made well aware of it, and know the pressure and consequences of not being able to tow the line. And then there are all of those unlucky souls (of which there are many, including our children) who will have to work diligently at scholarships and jobs to get the next step behind them.
Could part of the hesitation be that we [moms and dads] failed to emotionally prepare our kids for moving on? While we were so busy making sure to provide a comfortable home, nice vacations, fashionable clothing, elite sporting activities, maybe a private school education, and disposable quantities of food, did we neglect to make strong relational connections with our kids so they felt they could trust us enough to come and share the things in life they find challenging?
In the rush to dismiss our own inner voice, did we drop the ball on letting them know they had one, and that they could tune into it?
I am not suggesting this idea in order to institute a generational guilt trip, I merely want to learn as I go along, as I have from raising two kids already. I want to be better so tuning in to what I may have missed means taking a serious look at my contribution to the situation at hand.
In a lot of ways Brigham is prepared to be on his own, he's learned some basic cooking skills, he knows how to do laundry, he realizes in order to have a car it needs care and maintenance, and if nothing else I have drilled into him clean ears, a haircut, and well-trimmed nails help him give a better first impression.
However, I know I want to do a better job in the coming months I have left with his daily presence of letting him know that while he will be a five hour drive from our rooftop, he will never be far from our thoughts.
I'm going to let him know I believe in his ability to find and use his inner voice and intuition when it's needed on campus, and in life thereafter, but that if he ever needs support or encouragement, it's only a cell phone call or text away.
That, and a brand new fleece tie-blanket with the school logo, will be what we send him off into the world with come fall.
Is your child struggling with the next chapter of his/her life? What are you doing to support and encourage them on their path? Would love to hear...comment below, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.