Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I missed another chapter in the parenting book.

This one has to do with providing guidance for your not-quite-adult children.

Son #2 is very, very bright. Since I adopted him, when he was in second grade,  I have heard the same thing, "K is very, very smart, but he doesn't apply himself. He just doesn't work very hard."

I've heard the same thing when it came to sports. "K is very talented (enough so to be the starting quarterback of the varsity football team his freshman year) but he doesn't have a very good work ethic."

We've explored a lot of different interests- football, basketball, track, music, technology. And he starts off strong, but his interests often fade.

I've tried everything I know-- encouragement, rewards, punishment, mentors, therapy, tough love, natural consequences.  And pretty much the results have been the same. It works for a little while, but then, we are right back where we started.

In August, said son decided that he wanted to attend a small college in Alabama. The football coach had called him and wanted him to play quarterback. I had many reservations. First, there was the whole thing about attending school in the south. I was not sure my son really understood how different the attitudes and beliefs about race actually were. The town was small and the school was smaller. I didn't think my son would like that either. One thing I have learned with my boys, though, is that they rarely listen to my opinions. And so off he went.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, K announced that he hated school/life in this small town and was not going back. He didn't want to play football anymore. He wanted to attend a local college. He thought he might like to talk to a coach about playing basketball. I told him, as I have always told my boys, that he could go to school, or trade school, if he chose to do that. That he could play basketball, or football, or no sport, whatever made him happy.  If he didn't want to go to school, that was fine too, but he needed to get a job and support himself.

At this point, K has been home about six weeks and is still in limbo. As far as I know, he has not applied for any schools in this area. He says he has applied for jobs, but he doesn't have one yet.  He knows he wants to make a lot of money, and has identified several possible careers, e.g. anesthesiologist or lawyer. The problem is that all of these require lots of school, which he hates.

He has had several "interesting" ideas about what he might like to do (all with the help of his favorite personal financier):
  •  Several years ago, we were opening a bank account, the banker, a native of French Guinea, said that in his country, K, because of his name, would have been viewed as royalty and treated as a king. People would have bowed to him and awarded him special privileges. My son has never forgotten this meeting. He would like to move to Africa, where he could be treated like a king, (and not have to do his own dishes). 
  • If moving to Africa is not a possibility, my son thinks we should trade his car and his brother's car (both of which actually belong to me) and get motorcycles. He and his brother would have the time of his life on a fabulous cross country adventure. (It's currently -6 with horrible road conditions in Denver, but that is also not a consideration).
  • A third option is trade school. My son thinks that become a gunsmith would be a perfect occupation. Never mind that he knows very little about guns. Or that I absolutely hate guns (yes, I know that they do have some positive uses, but in Denver, I see guns used far more often in heartbreakingly negative ways).
And so I sit here, two days after Christmas, wondering how in the world I can best support this man child, who seems to have totally lost his way.

Parenting is definitely the hardest job I have ever done. And the manual is missing way too many chapters. 


Leigh Anne Eck said...

I see some similarities here at my house. My son wants to be a musician with no plan B if plan A doesn't work out. are right parenting is hard. Hang in there. Hopefully 2015 will bring him a new vision with a workable plan!

elsie said...

You are caught between your heart and your brain. Your heart wants to make everything right for your son. Your brain says he needs to take responsibility. It is a difficult path, but stay true to what you know is best. I've been there too. Eventually (hopefully) he will grow up and fall back on what you've been modeling/teaching all these years. Happy new year, Carol!

shogem said...

Your son is much like my daughter. Loves to try things, but not much follow through. We have been supportive, but it is a delicate balance. She is 24 and finally has settled into a careern and is supporting herself. I hope the new year brings the best for you and your son.

Chris said...

Carol, I was just lamenting to a friend today that parenting never gets easier. I think your son will find his path because you have faith in him and you are a guiding force!

sararenae said...

Hi Carol, my son is only four, so I have not had to experience these challenges. However, I have had a front row seat for my sister's son's transition to manhood. One of the hardest things to do is to take a step back and let them make choices, or mistakes as we might see them, but I have also learned that if we don't, we rob them of the life experiences they need to be successful. At this point, all you can do is love them through the choices they make :-) Best wishes!

Holly Mueller said...

Oh my. Parenting can be so challenging! It's difficult to walk the fine line of support and tough love. I wish you and your son the best. Keep us posted!

Maria said...

Raising our adult children doesn't come with a manual just like raising younger ones. We're in a similar situation and my husband I just finished a conversation, "M needs to learn about life and figure how to make his pieces fit together, not our pieces." It's a constant conversation and for that I am most thankful.

Nanc said...

Ditto on all those constant conversations. They say that 25 the brain is finally fully formed...into what I sometimes still wonder. At 28 it is making much healthier decisions...working with kids in much worse shape and much less support has brought wisdom. I rec. Service..
maybe that is Africa :) xo

Diane Anderson said...

Just remember, there are so many of us who understand EVERY...SINGLE...WORD you wrote. Yes, parenting is one of life's biggest challenges.

Jone said...

I don't think I can add anything new to the conversation, Carol. I get where you are coming from and I hope that your son will find his way. Soon. Hang in there. Parenting is a mysterious thing, isn't it?

Tabatha said...

I wonder if your son would find a volunteering abroad trip (maybe a two or three week trip to Haiti or Africa?) rejuvenating, focus-enhancing.
I have heard that the Resiliency Workbook by Nan Henderson is good, btw. (I think you're doing a great job! It's a shame that the parenting book is always missing the very bits we need...)

Tara said...

They come to us without manuals, and sometimes that is for the best. Tabatha's suggestion sounds wonderful - sometimes, the best path to finding oneself is through the service for others. Happy New Year, Carol - looking forward to meeting you finally in February!

Merry Sunshine said...

You must be peeking in my window! I have a son and daughter following different, but very similar paths, to your son's. I have longed for a "manual" - so many baby books to address each stage but so few available for parenting at this end where it all seems to count so much more :)! I have found some insight from Slouching Toward Adulthood by Sally Koslow. Also we have worked with a counselor and learned a lot about add - the type without the hyperactivity - much more difficult to spot and more confusing to support, with or without medication. Books by Dr. Ed Hallowell have provided some insight. Hope any of this will help you. Best wishes!

Elisabeth Ellington said...

If you find those missing pages in the manual, please forward them to me! It's so hard for me to imagine what my son will be like when he grows up. His dreams right now are so materialistic. I understand why, given his background, but I just hope over the next 6-8 years, we can instill some stronger values. Parenting is most definitely the hardest thing I've ever done too. Made ever so much more complicated for us by our children's backgrounds and trauma experiences.