When Raising Adults

There comes a time, a very sad time, when your babies are no longer babies. You spend so much time raising your children and then they don’t need you anymore. But remember…. they do. It’s just instead of raising children, you need to start raising adults. Parenting is about the long game; the war, if you will. That’s the important thing to know about parenting. Getting through the day is about picking your battles. Winning the war is about standing strong on those battles that matter most. Bribing your kid with a smoked sausage firecracker treat to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day is fine. Bribing your kid on the regular sends a message. Again, it’s picking your battles.

Earlier this year I wrote about raising teenagers. About how this is the time to let them sink or swim, hoping that you taught them enough to help them stay afloat. How you move more into an advisor role rather than an authoritative role. You can’t fix their problems for them anymore; you just hope that they have learned enough to figure it out or trust you enough to help guide them to the answers. That’s what you are doing when you are raising adults. When your child hits high school, they need to have the skills to “adult”. Trying to cram everything in with just 4 years to go is nuts, but a gradual lesson as they age into this milestone will make a huge difference.

For instance, when my oldest was tall enough to use the washing machine, probably around 12, he was expected to do his own laundry. I taught him how to do it, supervised him for a while, then I just trusted that he could do it. This is a life skill that he is going to need. I let him help cook in the kitchen growing up, teaching him recipes along the way. Now, he can do a decent enough job cooking some meals on his own though he’s never cooked supper for us (but I’m confident that he could pull it off). These are ways to raise an adult. I don’t want to raise him in a way where he expects his partner to take care of him. What if he never has a partner, loving the bachelor life? I’ll be damned if I’m doing laundry for my 30 year old child.

I started to “raise an adult” when they are a little younger. I was focused on how to make them into self-sufficient adults. I wanted to raise them with a solid work ethic but with compassion. It’s about the long game. Whether we like to admit it or not, everything we do as parents has an impact on the type of adult your child will become. It’s an insane amount of responsibility with an insane amount of pressure. This leads us to always second guess what we are doing. Guess what? We’re going to screw something up. Our kids are going to grow up just as flawed as we are. It’s about accepting those flaws and hoping that they learned enough from you to use their strengths.

Even in high school, our kids need us even if they don’t want to admit it. You can be firm about expectations for behavior or grades, but you have to be compassionate about the social issues that they are going to be struggling with. There’s peer pressure, bullying, and all sorts of things that will have a huge impact on your children for the rest of their lives. I can remember every bad bullying event that happened to me growing up, and it’s haunting sometimes. We have to make ourselves available to our teenagers, listening without judgement. They may not “need” you anymore, but they want you to still have their back. They still need to know that you love them. They need your support and guidance. They are not-so little adults right now and in 4 years, they will be entering college or the workforce and you need to do enough to prepare them for that.

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The Most Important Ring… No, Not that One

I’m not a very sentimental person. Every now and then something hits me in a sentimental way, but otherwise not really. I think I’ve only looked at my wedding pictures to choose which ones get put on the wall. I don’t save report cards or spend a fortune on photography for them. I don’t even know where my high school year book is. Sentiment is really not something I specialize in. This fact probably adds onto my reputation for being cold. I like to think that I’m not cold; just overly rational. Just like I like to think that I’m not cheap; I’m just “thrifty” or “frugal” or “fiscally conservative”.

Last week my oldest son came home with an order book for his class ring. I never had a class ring. I don’t even think I wanted one. My son, he bleeds Colt blue and gold. (Which is hilarious because as it turns out, his ring will have neither blue or gold on it.) He lives in his championship swim coat or his “name” swimming hoodie. Sometimes both, depending on the weather. He probably has a dozen other hoodies for his school as well. He’ll probably want the beanie too, come swim season. Needless to say, he wants this ring. I refused to look at the book because expensive things tend to make me get nervous.

Finally, I sat down with the book. I never swear in front of my kids, but I was certainly going off on that book. “That ring is more than my mortgage!” “I could buy a month’s worth of groceries with the price of that ring!” I said “No”. I admit it. I said “No”. The only selling factor for it is unlike every other expensive thing that I’ve bought him, he can’t chew through a ring even with his rodent teeth. I want to give my boy the world… but between that and needing to come up with money for Senior dues, and everything else. It seemed  unrealistic to me to purchase this high ticket item, especially for a kid that seems to lose everything.

However, my husband is a sucker. He’s everything I’m not. He’s not frugal. He’s very much a sentimental guy. And he has this inability to say “No” to either of the boys. His boys get the world and that’s that. If he had a daughter, I’m pretty sure she would break him. He asked our son if he had a ring in mind. “No, I didn’t want to get my heart set on something and have you guys say I couldn’t get it.” Reasonable. He’s overly logical like me. My husband responded, “pick one, within reason.” My not-so little boy’s eyes lit up. He excitedly picked through until he picked “the ring”. I gave a max of $400. This ring was right there at the max, only to go over with the price of the $20 box and such. I cringed. He looked further and saw a ring that he liked more, could get everything he wanted, and even with the $20 add on, was just under this $400 limit. (It’s a black metal with a topaz, his birthstone.) He was going to put the tennis and swimming icons on it. Get a crest. He was excited. He even picked it out right down to the look of the gem.

Me? I’m happy that he’s happy. I keep obsessing over the numbers, because that’s what I do. For the price of this ring, he better wear it. So help me, he better wear it. My husband, walks away the hero for the day (and ever in the eyes of everyone in this family.) Maybe today we’ll go to the school and order it, while I cry. Not because my son is a sophomore who is going through all of these rites of passages. But because I’m about to plunk down $400 on an overpriced class ring. I just hope that maybe I’ll get a coupon for the yearbook or something.

My Not-So Little Boy Started High School

Sure, this is a few days late, but the beginning of the school year is always a busy time of year especially when you are simultaneously prepping for a birthday party. Milestones are aplenty in the LaRochelle household these days, with the “baby” going to kindergarten later this week. (On Thursday, so I can cover the inevitable tears over the moment.) But Freshman year is a milestone all its own. This is the beginning of essentially the end of childhood. This is where you decide on colleges, possible career choices, first dates, long(ish) relationships. High school is a big milestone.

… And my oldest baby just got there.

I expected tears. I expected being a nervous wreck. It didn’t happen. I made him cinnamon rolls, listened to his concerns, congratulated him on his achievements, and let him know that I knew he was going to do great things in high school and beyond. He nodded and smiled that smile that only people who know him could truly appreciate. That smile let me know that he was going to be okay. Or at least as okay as any teenager who had trouble falling asleep and woke up at 4 AM could be. When he came home, he expressed how much he liked his teachers, how he had friends in every class and had lunch with one of his “baseball bros”, and then passed out for 5 hours. I did say that he was up at 4 AM, right?

The fact is I have done everything that I could to prepare him for this. I have tried to give him the confidence he needed to take on the world. I tried to give him the compassion to be an amazing person. I tried to instill charity, love, and kindness. At this point, we will find out if I gave him enough. Essentially my time of teaching him is over. Now, I just have to hope that the foundation he was given was strong enough to see him through.

That’s the hardest part of high school as a parent. Hoping that you gave him the strength he needs to face the cruel world and the kindness to come out on the other side. It is his time to make decisions, hopefully inspired by everything he has been taught. I am here to give him advice, hugs, and cookies. Ultimately, that is all I am here for now. He will make his own decisions, forging his own path. Unfortunately, this also means being okay when he inevitably falls. Because at the end of the day, we can only pick them up afterwards and hope that they learned from the fall.

High school is an emotionally tiring journey for both the kids and parents. We have to be okay with that and trust that we did everything that we possibly could to give them what they needed to succeed.