Question of the Day: “When can I ease up on my teen?”

As a teacher, I have encountered every kind of parent. There have been helicopter parents, complacent parents, uninvolved parents, lawn mower parents, and I have never really settled on what kind of a parent I am.

My son and husband have often said that I am too involved and I need to back off. My friends may feel I am too lax, especially after I hear the stories they tell about their involvement in their adult children’s lives. I say “may” because no one has said anything, but don’t we all see ourselves through what we think others are thinking?

What do I think? Part of me feels I do too much and my children sometimes show signs of being enabled. When they leave their dishes in the sink and on the floor of their bedrooms or dirty clothes litter their rooms unless I pick them up, I think I have done too much. When they cook their own dinner and remind me of important dates to have important paperwork in, I think I have done well with teaching my children independence.

So yesterday when I told my 15 year old son that I am no longer going to punish him or keep up on his grades in school any longer, I was met with silence.

“You always say you only work in school because of my hassling you, and now you are going into 9th grade and your grades matter. Either you have to believe in yourself and do your work for you or you don’t. If you don’t, you will be ineligible for sports and you will ruin your GPA for college. But you always say you aren’t going to college, so it won’t really matter. I just can’t do it anymore, Cole. Either you decide an education is important to you or not. This is no longer my journey too,” I said.

Again I was met with silence, and he wouldn’t even look at me. I expected him to at least be happy or to say “thank you” or something, anything. Instead he just looked out the window. Nervousness caused me to continue to ramble on.

“We will still be here to help you in any way we can, but I am not driving this bus any longer. I feel I have spent years trying to convince you and talk to you and beg you and work with you. You’re fifteen now. The motivation needs to come from you now.”

After Cole left the car, I turned to my husband, who was also oddly silent during my diatribe.

“Well,” I asked. “What do you think?”

“I know what you are saying, and I don’t disagree, but I just don’t want to watch him fail and do nothing.”

“Me either,” I said. “But he’s either going to start doing it for himself or not at all. If it’s a not-at-all thing, it’s better to know now.”

“Oh, I just don’t want to watch him fail,” he said.

“Don’t be so negative. Maybe he will do really well,” I say as I looked out the window.

As his parent, I feel my role needs to be more of support now and less pushing and punishing. And I don’t think any of us can really be sure of what is going to happen next, but I know if he is going to do it, it needs to be for him. It’s his life and his journey. But I also am praying and hoping I have done enough. I feel so deeply that this is the right path, not because of frustration, but because of love. I love him and trust him enough to let him go even though I am not entirely sure what is going to happen, but somewhere deep inside me, I feel this is the right way to go. He needs to know he can rely on himself to do what is right for him. I have controlled the journey for too long. It is his turn.

“There is freedom waiting for you on the breeze of the sky, and you ask ‘What if I fail?’ Oh, but my darling, ‘What if you fly?’” -Erin Hanson

Love and Light, All.