Posts Tagged ‘independence’

Oldest Child is home on Spring Break. It’s not the first time he’s been home to visit, nor is it the longest that he’s been home since school started. Over Christmas, he was home for three weeks in between semesters. Each time he comes home, it’s a little bit different. And a learning experience.

The dynamics of our family life have changed. For instance, I’m a creature of habit. I like routine, for the most part. I like to know when I’m waking up, when I’m going to bed, what the schedule is for the day. Having an adult child come home for days or weeks changes all of that. He is no longer accustomed to the routine of the house. He likes to be up late, to sleep in later. His dinner schedule is erratic, I never know if he’ll be here or not and he often doesn’t either. His plans are up in the air and he likes it that way, things that would drive me crazy.

We argue some, too. His idea of a reasonable time to be home is different from mine. I need to know that all of my chicks are safe and sound before I go to sleep and when he’s out late, I lose sleep. It’s a totally selfish thing, to be sure, but all sorts of horrors go through my head as to what could be happening to him and I shudder to think that I could sleep right through it. To be fair, ninety-nine percent of the time he is home at the time we agree on and he is a level-headed kid, but things happen, especially late at night. Rationally, I know that he keeps this schedule at school all the time and that he doesn’t answer to any type of parental figure there. I really don’t worry about it much when he’s at school, but when he’s home, I like to know where he is. He doesn’t need to ask permission at his age, just clue me in.

Before you get the idea that I’m a totally suffocating mother, hear me out. Yes, I’m a wee bit overprotective. Marty Man balances me out on this. We’re a good team. He gives the kids a lot of leeway while I’m the one to tighten the reins on curfews and where they are going. I don’t think my kids have been stifled in any way because of it. I’m not the kind of mother that hovers over their teachers or coaches. They deal with those issues on their own, just like they deal with friend issues on their own. I’m here to listen and offer advice if they want it, but they need to make their own choices about how to handle their lives. I am a stickler, though, for where they’re going, what time they’ll me home, who they are with, and making sure that I know the parents. Again, I don’t think that they were adversely affected by my “meddling” ways. In fact, I think it was, and is, a good thing. My kids know that their parents care about them, as irritating as I can be sometimes.

But the fact remains that I have to let him go. I can’t always keep tabs on him. Oldest Child is legally an adult and I need to remember what it felt like when I went through the same thing. How can he possibly understand that I haven’t always been the way I am now, but that I was eighteen once, too? I also resented my mother’s rules, even though they were very fair, but I wanted to make my own. I used to stay out late most nights, not coming home until the early morning hours, and would sleep until eleven o’clock on Saturdays, my mother sighing over my laziness. My hours were also erratic, but I got myself to school and work on time (I always had one or two, sometimes three, jobs at once) and made my own schedule, even if it meant getting by on three or four hours of sleep. I could do that then. What he doesn’t know, what he hasn’t experienced yet, are the changes that happen when one becomes a spouse and a parent, the things that have turned me into this creature of habit. When I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty, I didn’t have anyone who depended on me to wake them up, get them dressed and off to school on time and then get myself ready for work. I didn’t run my own household, didn’t pay many bills. It was a wonderful, free time, as it should be. It won’t last forever, and I wouldn’t go back to those wonderful, yet confusing, days. I know myself now, much more than I did back then, hence, my preference for a routine rather than spontaneity. He is in that process, but he can’t see the future just yet.

It’s a bit surreal to watch him go through it himself, silently cheering his accomplishments and biting my tongue at some of what he does because he has to figure it out, not me. It’s amazing what hindsight does for you. Some of the decisions that I made at that age perplex me now, as they will him when he’s forty-something, but that’s all part of it. It’s what is supposed to happen. My job now is to be a support, not a keeper. It is taking some getting used to. We have hit snags in the road, to be sure, and we will again but, as I said, he’s a level-headed kid. Just as an example, he’s not spending Spring Break drinking himself stupid on some Florida beach. He’s a great kid, respectful (for the most part), loving, and personable. I have no doubt that he is going to be just fine. We’re learning together, him and me. It’s all good.



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Oldest Son has been getting a ton of college mail for the past three years or so. I may not be exaggerating. All together, it may actually total a ton by the time it’s all said and done. He’s saved every single piece of it and once he reaches a decision, plans to celebrate with a bonfire composed of all of the aforementioned college mail. The way it’s going, that fire will last all night. The Eternal Flame will have some competition.

It amazes me how these colleges find him. There are probably letters from at least one college in every state, including Alaska. Well, maybe not Hawaii. I would have remembered that one because I would want to go with him. I offered to go to Oxford or Cambridge with him, but was flat-out denied in a sort of horrified way. All of his test scores have been sent out, therefore encouraging well-respected and EXPENSIVE colleges to recruit him, which is all well and good, except for the expensive part. We are not rich people. We’re not even on our way to being rich people. We do, however, want Oldest Son to have the experience of going away to college and to be able to choose a school that’s not within driving distance. His brothers also want his bedroom.

There are a few ways to accomplish this. The most obvious way is through scholarships, which he, being a good student, is likely to get. His test scores are all fabulous, which is not inherited from me, and will soon find out if he is a National Merit Scholar, which pretty much guarantees some financial help. He does not want loans, does not want us to take out loans, and wants to graduate with no debt.

He’s also explored another way of paying for school which does not involve loans. The military. In particular, the Marines.

Now, I have no problem with our military. I respect, honor it, and am so very grateful for it, actually. Each branch is composed of amazing men and women who have pledged their lives to defend and protect our country. We would not have the freedoms that we do without our armed forces. It is a calling that countless members of my family have followed and I could not be more proud of them. Three of my grandparents, a few cousins, a brother/cousin (I’ll save that for another post, it’s not what it sounds like), and generations of my ancestors extending back through the Middle Ages have all served in the military, from knights for King Richard II through President Obama. That being said, it’s hard to imagine my baby boy, as big and hairy as he is now, facing down Iraqi insurgents in the desert when I still have to remind him to pick up his dirty clothes and clean his room.

Several months ago, he sent a postcard to the Marines for a “free” T-shirt. At the time, I warned him that they would call, recruiting. Imagine his surprise when the call came a couple of weeks ago from a local Marine recruiter with the offer of paying for college in exchange for four years of service after graduation. Oldest Son spoke with the gentleman on the phone for a while and then scheduled a meeting. Immediately, every scene of every disturbing military movie began going through my head, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, you get the idea. My (not so) little boy was going to do that??? I texted my brother/cousin, who was a Marine, and set up a phone call between the two of them so that Oldest Son could hear what it was really like. I was worried that he would take the offer and run without any thought to the realities of military life, not that I’ve lived it, but giving four to six years of your life to something isn’t a snap decision. I would be so very proud of him, but also terrified at what he may potentially go through, as I’m sure every mother whose child has expressed an interest in the military has felt. The phone call went well, but I was still concerned.

The meeting with the recruiter took place the following week after Oldest Son got out of work. It went for almost three hours. Yes, indeed. According to him, he got all of the information that he wanted and made sure to bring me a lovely booklet entitled, “A Parent’s Guide to the Marine Corps”, which really doesn’t help a whole lot. However, I needn’t have worried too much. The military isn’t his first choice, he told me, but it is a viable backup, in case he doesn’t get the scholarships he needs to go to the schools that he wants. The hardest part for me is learning to let go and let him make his own decision about it. In less than a year, I won’t have a say. He can march right down to the office, sign his name, and we can’t do a thing about it. He’s coming in to the time of his life where we must let him decide what is best for him. We can guide him, offer advice, and make our feelings known, but I want him to choose the path that’s right. I wasn’t given a lot of help or choices when I was in this stage of my life and I don’t want that to be his experience. We’ve raised him to be an independent thinker (to my detriment, sometimes, especially on curfew issues) and he’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders.

This, I think, is the scariest part of being a parent. When they’re little, you, the parent, have complete control. You make all of the big decisions for them: wearing a coat when it’s cold, bedtime, eating healthy food, going to school every day even when you don’t feel like it, sharing, cleaning up your own mess, admitting when you’ve done something wrong and taking steps to fix it. All of these things, hopefully, shape them into good people who will contribute to society in good and even awesome ways. The frightening part comes when they have to do it alone, with no help from you. We’re almost at that point and while I’m not ready to let go of his hand just yet, I think he will be okay. And if he does choose to join the Marines to get the education that he wants, well, Semper Fi.

Stay tuned.

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