I’d always believed that the biggest changes in my son’s life would happen when he was young. It seems like raising a child is a nonstop succession of stages, one after another. From diapers to walking to starting school to baseball practice to junior high to dating to driving – it all seems to go by in as much time as it took to write that sentence.
So it came as a surprise to me that so many changes would happen over the past year. Last June was my son’s high school graduation – a great achievement in any young person’s life, and just the first stepping stone into the great unknown we call adulthood.
At that point he didn’t know where, or even if, he was going to college. But a few weeks later, to our relief, he finally decided that he would attend a state college, three hours away. The summer passed quickly, as they tend to, and near the end of August he left for his freshman year of college.
This was the point where my wife and I felt we could relax. Well, as much as any parent can ever relax. I’ve discovered that, no matter how old your child is, you always worry. I may have been told this before, but I never actually realized it was true until I had kids of my own. On top of this, we still had a 10-year-old at home. So maybe we weren’t actually relaxed, but we felt like we’d made it through the eye of the storm with our oldest one.
It didn’t take long to discover we hadn’t. A couple of months after school started, my son discovered how poorly he was doing in his classes and wanted to leave school. We convinced him to stay the course, and maybe consider actually attending class and studying. I imagine there have been many a freshman over the years who have received the same advice.
By the holidays it was clear he didn’t heed our advice. His grades were poor and he was placed on academic probation. After a lot of discussion, he decided to go back to school for his second semester and give it another shot. The old college try, as they say.
Within three weeks he had dropped his classes and was back home with us. Not a problem, really – college can be difficult to adjust to, and sometimes it’s just not the right fit. Maybe a few months of work in the real world would inspire him to go back, or at least take some community college classes. It wasn’t how we would have chosen for it to go, but life doesn’t always turn out as planned.
We set rules for him to live back home. Yes, he was an adult, but part of being an adult is respecting the rules of our house. One rule was that he come home every night. He was great for a month, then began complaining about the rules. Eventually he did not come home for several nights in a row.
At this point I told him he could either live by our rules, rent free, or find somewhere else to live. I explained the benefits of staying with us for at least a few months, saving his money, and then getting his own place or going back to school. I thought the conversation went well.
A few days later he didn’t come home again, and soon after he found another place to live. Since then he’s made some very bad financial decisions and unfortunately, his mother and I are no longer in a position to advise him and help out.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than a year since he graduated. In the past year we’ve gone from the high of our son’s high school graduation and departure for college to the lows of his moving back in and then moving back out. It seems that more changes have happened in the past year than in any year previous. Just when we were ready to relax.
Our son comes over once in a while, but it has a formal feel. At this point our relationship is strained, but I’m confident that it will improve with time. If anything positive has come from this it’s the knowledge that, no matter their age, you’re never really done parenting.