I like this expression (not sure if I made it up or heard it somewhere) . It seems to take on its own importance and urgency as your kids near the age of majority at 18 yrs. old-as everything really changes at this age. Your child is child no more and can vote, is legally responsible for his actions and in Quebec drink alcohol.So very much changes. If I look at who Chase is now at 18 yrs old and who he was at 17 yrs. old there is really no similarity at all. Nor the way we treat him. It’s amazing to see and be part of such a shift.
I have been thinking lately about the autonomy of children into teens and into adulthood and what we do as parents to encourage or discourage that. Savvy wrote a cool blog on it a few weeks ago and inspired me to also thing about it. Where we as are parents really good at letting go and where are we hanging on? Have we prepared them enough for life ahead? Savvy and I also have great discussions on this as we both have boys very similar in age and both have to move from controlling a lot of what they do to letting go of most of it.
Also I find in our family anyways Chase often sets the pace. When he starts changing everyone else starts changing too as they are all so close in age. What Beauty is doing at 14 is not what he was allowed to do/ Bear at 16 follows him very closely. When you have three teens all within 21 -25 months-the ages just kind of blur. Chase sets the pace in so many ways and always has.
Chase at 18 yrs. old now and in Cegep is really living his own life. And in general fairly respectfully under our roof. He certainly manages 100 percent of his schedule and tells us most the time anyways where he is (but not always) and definately does not ask permission anymore. He is in some ways a third adult and parent in the house in that he does his share of the driving with the other two kids and is very safety conscious about that and concerned that Beauty is picked up when dark vs taking the bus. He eats at often different times than us and often different much more protein led healthier diets than us too (he gives himself a cheat day per week only!). He drops courses and decides what he will do about making them up, and he takes the consequences of the bad decisions he sometimes makes.
There are certain dinners and occasions we expect him to be at and strongly encourage it to happen (aka scream and cry in his face) and others that we have had to let go. Sometimes a week can go by and I have not had 5 alone mins with him.
The other day he left dishes in his room and a total mess as usual and I told the cleaning ladies that come twice a month not to clean it and not to wash his sheets. Today he was 20 minutes late for his ski lessons he teaches and he lost his bonus of the whole year. He understands consequences and lives with the impact.
But we have also held his hand a lot before this and helped him along quite a bit in certain situations (by 17 he was very very autonomous, but at 16 we coddled him about more. We have always guided our kids toward certain jobs and sometimes even helped them through to write emails to the boss etc. when they get gifts we sit and watch while they send thank you tests, in school we managed until cage that they were studying and at what times (now in Cegep almost no studying occurs and we just hold our breath and wait of the marks!) We often said yes much more than no in social situations and always go out of our way to make it easy for them to socialize with friends. When they are in trouble were often help them dig their way out. Is this the right way or the good way? Are we doing favors to a kid between 16-18 yrs. old to do this? I truly don’t know the answer….
On the house front we don’t help much and as early as 10 yrs old never did. They do their chores, Bear does all the laundry for the family, the state of their rooms is ignored, they make many of their own meals even we can’t be there, they packed all their lunches since about 9yrs. old, they even drive up in a snowstorm this morning to the hill from the city and were stuck in 3 hrs of traffic and snow. They take care of the house in lots of ways (with very low standards!) and they make sure they are safe. In that way I feel they are pretty grown up. I have no doubts that if tomorrow they were all three alone they could fend for themselves very successfully.
But we have also not been great examples. Often the sink has a pile of dirty dishes; sometimes our newly cleaned floors have footprints of mud across it. In general our house looks good enough but not half as clean or tidy as most. This conscious decision has consciously gone into my basket c of items to let go of. I feel that if I focus too much on that there won’t be time for the more important basket an items of mine. Or little energy for them. Again is this the right way? I honestly have no clue.
So on the autonomy operational side I think we have done a pretty fine job of preparing them. Self-confidence wise too very very good. But what about on the values side? Family history side? Sharing our stories and our thoughts? Not so great. Maybe better than many but not good enough in my books. And most has to do with a lack of time and energy vs a lack of good intentions really. As Chase turned 18 and Bear 16 their schedules don’t have anything to do with us anymore (and we still have the 14 yr. old who will turn 16 and 18 one day too!) Chase works out 5 times a week, tutors economics for his college, is a ski instructor, is a dirt bike instructor, studies and has his own life. Bear is all over the place in school too as a ski instructor, camp instructor, drivers Ed, kayak competitions, and national lifeguarding courses. There is literally hardly any time to even speak to them anymore (this is not a joke as with working they are always studying, working or finding a few well deserved mins to relax and don’t want to bother with parent conversation)
But what I do feel good about has been this 18 yrs. old stage so far. He makes so many crappy decisions and other really really great ones. He exhausts himself and is often chaotic, but then also so strategic and a long term thinker. We just stay out of it. Ignorance is often bliss at this stage. As of Xmas we decided never to check his phone again unless there was a HUGE worry of serious depression or danger (we checked it before that maybe every few months and really did not feel good about this and has always been very controversial) but as of 18 what’s the point? He is entitled to his privacy and also the privilege of making mistakes as a young adult growing up before we step in and help solve things for him. (so much for his privacy last week when Hubby and I found a bag of soil and seeds by his bedside while I was trying to sneak a piece of chocolate !! a whole other very very funny scary blog to come!!!)
But in other ways it all just hurts my heart. To watch the hurt and struggles, to see a ticking time bomb about to explode, to watch what we know is not a good decision turn into a decision that will negatively impact his entire life. And then sometime we do step in (like academics and trying the best we can to guide these right decisions) But is this good or bad? Again I honestly don’t know. My parents certainly did not really guide me or help me making major educational and career decisions (well my dad tried to but that is a story for a whole other blog) and I think I turned out very successfully in these areas- so who knows?
And it’s hard to have a young adult live with you. That is why in many ways I think dorms and out of town University good too as just lets them really live on their own. But there is also something about being adults together that is cool too.
Who’s going to pick up the ingredients for the pad thai tonight?
We need to cut down on the grocery bill if buying 19 clans of salmon this week so here do we cut out?
Who is going to drive the kids this morning as they need to be at school early for a ski trip?
It gives the kids that time to have you grow them up a bit. Be there when they fall and provide still welcomed advice as they are not expecting you are out of the picture fully if they live on their own. It also allows them to also learns the skills of compromise instead of black or grey and learn the concept of “yes you are a legal adult but you live in my home” Now my home has to definately become more of our home when having kids 18yrs old but there will be some rules (as minimal as possible in my opinion) that they will need to just stuck to and abided by. In some ways it’s like living in a commune. But a commune that is not fully democratic and has an autocratic edge.
And in some ways it gives the parents a nice transition to towards being parents and having an empty nest. Allows us some time and space to find our own ways in our careers, our couple and our hobbies. Allows the bandaid to be pulled off in a gentler slower way. But it is damn hard to live with near or adult children. It is messy and chaotic and like watching a war about to happen knowing that you have the answers but can’t shout loud enough from them to hear to prevent all the damage about to occur.
Lately Chase has been exploring the idea to go away for University and I really have mixed feelings about it, I don’t know what is best for him? What is best for us? His life? Our lives? But that is the thing: the decision is not mine anyways at this age. It’s weird to know that a year ago it could have been and that it no longer belongs to me anymore. There are parts of living with young adults that make me crazy and I could do without and there are parts that I adore and treasure. Mostly I think I am just afraid: afraid of a life that doesn’t revolve around the family (imagine how stay at homes moms must feel????)
To be honest, I don’t know if at this point I control less or care less. Maybe a bit of both? And I try to remind myself often that I still do have a 14 yr. old and that she can’t or should not be fully autonomous by this age. Or should she? Again I don’t know the answer. It is all a wait and see,
I always thought our kids would not live away or go way to University but at this stage I really don’t know what they will choose. That is how far away from their thought is am lately. I don’t know what is going on in those heads of theirs (doesn’t help that they work both days of weekends in winter and stuff the rest of weekend so there is barely any interaction and now in weeks bartending course for 18 yrs. old, drivers licence for 16 yrs. old, savour national) all these activities tough on schedule but hopefully prepping them for life to come?
Last weekend SK kids came over for the weekend and when I saw her 5 yr. old wearing a summer dress I asked sk-whats’ with that? (It was -35) They pack their own suitcases when they travel for a weekend and that’s what she brought!” Again I wish I had done this so much earlier in my kid’s lives s I can’t imagine how this little sweetie will be at 18yrs old. And she managed….she asked her sister for a sweater and pants later when she got cold . Before she left she did say “next time jogging pants and a hoody for me!” . OMG I was so impressed. (Ya I am not there yet nor will I ever be. Beauty was dressed to the nines at that age, all girly and fancy and warm! But it was more about me than her in so many ways and I definitely see the benefit of leaving these choices up to the kids).
Our babies will always be our babies. We will never know if our actions were the right or wrong ones. We will never have enough of being parents as was (and is) the best thing we have ever done with the most pleasure and worry and heartache too). What we will know is that we really did do our absolutes deliberate best and that as they learn we learn along with them. We grow up ourselves as much as we try to grow them.
If you really really want to take a good honest look at yourself in the mirror with strengths and weaknesses –take a good hard look at yourself as a parent. It is very revealing and very honest. Who you are as a parent often reflects who you are as a person, friends, a daughter, a cousin, a wife.
Through our children..we grow up too.
The question always remains: am I ready to?