Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wisdom Wednesday-Prepare. Prepare! Prepare?

They say a mother's work is never done. And it's true that once you bring a child into the world, a little peice of that new person will always be "your baby". But there comes a time when they have to go off into the world and just like a good buisness person, a wise parent needs to have an exit plan.

The first time we encountered this was as our oldest, M, was contemplating his upcoming graduation and trying to decide what his next step was going to be. To be completely honest with you, it sort of snuck up on us all. M had been prepared from the time he was a little shaver, to serve a full time mission for our church when he turned 19. Most of the boys do that, and he had assumed that he would do that as well....until. Ah, the dreaded until. Sometime around December-ish of his senior year, M started wondering if he really wanted to go after all. We counciled him to pray about the matter, and start checking out what his other choices were. He started to get a little apatheic about the whole thing and one day, he and I sat down with a peice of paper and I let him know what he could expect in several scenarios. Much to M's surprise, Mom and Dad weren't going to pay for a bachelor pad, tutition and books, and yes, the military is an honest to goodness option for EVERYONE, including somewhat spoiled golden boys who've had it pretty easy up to now. When he realized that real life was about to smack him full in the face, he opted to go on a mission.

He had a good experience serving in the church, and he'll never regret going, but in all honesty, some of his decision was based on what he thought his parents wanted. While obedience is a good thing in most cases, and it turned out all right in this case, it's really not a good way to make adult decisions.

Much of the friction between my parents and my self came to glaring clarity as we guided our second son, E, through his last two years of highschool. I know we've raised good kids. I was also a good kid growing up, and I value so many of the things I was taught growing up, that I passed them along to my own kids. But something in the back of my mind kept nagging at me with E. Every kid needs different things from their parents, and what works with one kid, may not work with another. E reminded me so much of myself at that age. Very head strong, but basically making good enough choices to get by, and a willingness to learn on his own and take responsibility for his actions. This is where things get sticky. We all have to make adjustments to the things our parents did for us as kids, and trying to treat E the way I wished my parents had treated me during my high-school years was the hardest thing I've done as a parent. Relinquishing control while the child is still a child, and living in your home, is a very fine balancing act, indeed. This child needed more space than his brother, and now was not the time to teach or preach obedience.

Like M, E had decided to serve a mission upon graduation. Due to the circumstances during his last two years, he was much more adament about his intentions and repeatedly assured us that nothing was going to change his mind. Well, guess who ended up accepting an athletic scholarship instead of serving a mission? I found myself in the exact same position, two years later, of having to prepare a son with the facts of what we would and wouldn't be able to provide once he graduated high school. Needless to say, it wasn't quite what he was expecting, and as a result, led to some pretty hard feelings.

So having been twice burned, I am moving forward in preparing D for her graduation in two years. She has been very keen on listening to lots of people's collective wisdom in choosing her career path and school options. Hopefully, knowing that the gravy train in this house stops when you complete high school, very early on, will help her make plans accordingly, and make the transition much smother than it has been with her brothers. Her father and I have also decided to let her know starting now, what she might expect in terms of help paying for her eventual wedding. (Sometime in the very, very distant future ;O) )

I think that by providing our children very early on with a clear picture of what to expect, and in very specific, concise terms, we provide them with the tools they need to successfully transition out of the nest with as little frusteration and hardship as possible. I distinctly recall feeling somewhat betrayed when I wasn't sure I wanted to start college, but my parents were pretty insistent I do just that. When I finally gave in and started checking into what it was going to take financially for me to enroll, I was shocked to find that my family wasn't going to pay for school and I was pretty much on my own with it.

I'm not saying that parents should pay for college, in fact, I'm very much for kids having to make all the choices involved with where they school, where they live while they attend school and be responsible for paying their own tuition, books, fees, and if they decide they don't want to live at home to save expenses, then they also need to figure out how to pay for that! I think it helps them make conservative choices, appreciate their education and overall, it empowers them to know that they are capable of taking care of themselves. But I've been shown, three times now, in technicolor detail, that it is unfair and shocking to be brought to the deck of the boat and told that there's no ferry to the shore for you, you are expected to swim.

So call me dumb, but there's my short comings posted for all of you to see. They are what they are, and the best I can do is to improve the job I do with each child. If it gives you some food for thought, even just reminds you of what you already know, then, my work here is done. And *that* is this weeks' Wisdom Wednesday.


Rachelle said...

Great post. My parents let us live at home as long as we were doing something productive in our lives. But it was known that college was a good thing and very much encouraged. We were also told that they could not pay for college. And that's ok. I am grateful for all they taught me!

itybtyfrog said...

Wonderful insights. I am dreading my babies first day of Kindergarten....and already thinking of her graduation day. I will keep your thoughts in mind for when I reach that point. Hope everything works out with your daughter.

Nettie said...

I knew that I would be on my own paying for college and I think that knowledge really helped me focus on doing well in school to get a scholarship, and in carefully planning how I would supplement that scholarship to support myself. I think it did wonders for my maturity level as well as my grade level. My son became a teenager Mon., and suddenly all these issues seem much closer now!

Stephanie said...

These are great tips. I too will keep them in mind. Because of all of your examples, we are already sitting down with our kindergartener and telling her what we expect out of her in the future, good grades, behavior, the type of person she should marry, etc. I hope that if we can instill in her the right type of goals then we will be that much farther along when crunch time comes. I loved hearing the insight of someone who has been there and done that. Your daughter will be okay...she has you as a good example.

By the way, you have been tagged by me.

Amber said...

I'm glad I'm not the only mom out there who doesn't plan on paying for my kids college! I think that laying it out there is important so your kids know exactly what to expect. I'm trying to figure out just how to deal with that myself- and how to teach them to be more fiscally responsible then I was those first couple of years out of the house.

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