You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset
I have an 18-year-old who just graduated high school. He is awesome. Smart, talented, and funny with a beautiful heart. And he is not going to college. He will spend the next year or more in what will probably be a series of crappy jobs. He will be an entry level, barely educated, minimum wage earner.
Do I think he is more valuable than that? Of course I do. I think that all humans in that position are more valuable than that. But, that is where he is and he achieved it all by himself.
It could have gone differently. I could have pushed and incentivized and handed out consequences. I could have written his college essay for him as many of my friends have done. I could have had weekly meetings with his guidance counselor and together we could have bullied him right into his freshman dorm. I could have, but I didn’t. Maybe because I have a houseful of other kids and a career, but more because I began to think his choices were his own as he approached high school. His choices had consequences, and he felt them.
Every time he felt consequences it broke my heart a little, but I knew that it didn’t define him and he was learning about consequences every step of the way. Have I lost sleep worrying about this boy? Oh yes. Did I make the right choice? I don’t know, and it haunts me. Would I do it all again? Yes.
Recently I was talking to a friend who has two little ones and I told her my boy is choosing to not even enroll in a couple of community college classes, letting yet another opportunity slip by. She replied: “My kids don’t have a choice. They are going to college.” “Huh,” I thought. I probably had the same determination about my kids going to college ten years ago when I had only an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old, but then… something happened. They became their own people, complete with free will and everything.
So, although my boy enthusiastically started reading the Harry Potter series in first grade, he barely passed high school and is not off to college. Not how I thought it was going to go. But our kids actually get to be their own people, and it is our job to accept that and love them no matter what. No matter how passionately they reject our advice, no matter how far their life plan is from one we would have chosen.
The fact is, they do have a choice. They have many, every single day. At what point do we allow them to make their choice and respect it? Again, I don’t know. For me, it was around Sophmore year, for other parents it is freshman year of college, and for some it is when their kid is somewhere in their 40s.
But when we have kids, they don’t come with a guarantee that they will be like us or fulfill the ambitions we have for them. They come into this world to become who they are, and we get to sit back and watch it happen. Not what I would have chosen, but I have already made my choices and now it is his turn.
As we watch our kids grow and emerge into their beautiful selves, I think of the saying I use when I pass out popsicles and certain missing colors (e.g., red) are requested:
“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”