You know what’s really hard? Parenting. You know what’s even harder? Parenting a child who isn’t a child anymore. My husband and I have leveled up.
High school graduation has been a major event in our house for the last two years. It’s an exciting time and a great chance to celebrate the accomplishments of each of our boys individually.
That being said, this level isn’t something you can mentally prepare for. It’s just so much. So much of everything. Exhausting. Gut-wrenching. Exciting. Confusing. Rewarding. Bittersweet.
My son graduated last year, and my bonus son graduated this year. I’m equally proud of both of them—they are great kids. Or young adults now, I suppose. They are 18 and 19 years old and have successfully completed high school.
So they are officially adults now, and it’s time they join the real world.
Or is it? And what does that even mean?
It recently became obvious to me that people (like my husband, for example) have really strong feelings about when teenagers turn into adults. Some say graduation day. Some say the day they turn 18. Some say when they get their first full-time job.
I say it depends on the individual, but I’ve been told that my approach to parenting probably isn’t for everyone. And I have no argument for that.
Our two oldest boys aren’t similar in many ways; however, they are attending the same university. One will stay local while the other lives on campus.
They are both enrolled as full-time students, they both excel academically, and they both intend to have successful careers. They are both outstanding athletes, and they were both given the opportunity to play their respective sports at the college level.
But that is where their similarities end and the time to be a real adult conversation begins.
One of them is super driven, has declared a college major, and will compete in an athletic program at one of the biggest universities in the country. He wants to start real life right now, has already moved closer to campus and is enrolled in summer classes. His focus is on school work and athletics, and his social life tends to be limited to those activities.
The other one loves his summer break, sometimes sleeps late, and plans to live at home while he’s in college. He works part-time in a position he may turn into a career, but he still isn’t sure what he wants to be when he grows up. He parties his fair share, loves his friends, and enjoys his downtime.
So who is adulting better?
Is it better to be super focused on the future at 18 or 19 years old and exchange time with friends for early bedtimes and early morning workouts? Shouldn’t they gain some life experiences before completely diving into the real world? Do their opposite viewpoints and varying levels of drive indicate that one of them is going to be more successful than the other?
Who knows? Should I know? Did I skip over this part of the parenting handbook? Am I doing it wrong?
Full disclosure—I’m not sure I’m adequately prepared for the level of parenting required here.
I have so many questions.
Do I tell the one who wants to live at home during college that he should move out and be on his own at 19 because he’s an adult now? Do I tell him he isn’t motivated enough even though he’s a full-time student? Is he at a disadvantage because I continue to allow him to live at home? Do I need to push him harder? Should I have him work more and cut back on classes so he can learn to provide for himself and afford to be on his own right now? Or should I suggest he take out student loans to pay for rent so he can move out and still be a full-time student? Is it time for him to experience what being an adult is all about? Does being a real adult mean you must have lots of debt and monthly payments?
Or do I tell the one who has already moved out that having tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to pay for classes and housing is crazy? Do I tell him it’s likely going to take decades to pay back the loans he’s about to accept? Do I tell him he should probably take a deep breath and enjoy these fleeting years because there aren’t many of them? Do I tell him he has the rest of his life to be a real adult and live outside our home and pay bills and this rush he seems to be in doesn’t make sense? Do I tell him I learned a long time ago that life isn’t a race?
Do I tell them both that college is becoming less relevant and isn’t necessarily their best option?
My husband and I have very different opinions regarding what we think is right for our boys. He fully questions my parenting logic when we discuss my view about the plans our boys are making for their future. And, likewise, I feel like he isn’t considering the practical, long-term effects of what he thinks is right for them.
So we agree to disagree. And take a step back.
Which is currently where we find ourselves—stepped back. And what a strange place this is.
It hasn’t taken us long to realize that stepping back is exactly what makes this stage of parenting so difficult.
We aren’t ready. But they are.
And if that isn’t the story of our life as parents. They always seem to be more ready for the next stage than we are, and maybe that says something.
We’ve done our part. It’s time to take a step back and trust what we have taught them. They’ve got this. And we will learn to adjust.