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What Position Do You Play in Your Child's Life?

This week, many baby boomer parents, like me, have been going through the experience of sending their children off to college for the first time. We are becoming something called “empty nesters.”

I would like to say helping my daughter enroll into college for the first time was a wonderful and teary-eyed experience---but it wasn’t. My greatest disappointment is the fact that she didn’t even consider my alma mater—but instead, chose to go to the school her father and my WAS-band went to. This decision was made in spite of the fact that he offered no support and no consultation. In hindsight, it’s probably better that he didn’t because that probably would’ve made matters worse!

Unlike my daughter, all I had to do when I arrived on the Ohio University campus was find my residence hall and move in. My daughter, on the other hand, was ill prepared for what was to come on her orientation day because she had not taken care of certain things in advance. She had no housing assignment and no class schedule. Her immunization records had not been turned in.

Some things have definitely changed. Unlike when I was in college, incoming freshman have to take an English and Math exam to see what level they’re on. I though that’s what the SAT’s were for. The good news is she scored a perfect 100 in English but failed miserably in Math. She may end up changing her major from Business to something else since she will be required to take a few Math courses along the way.

While my husband (her step dad) and I were waiting for her to finish with her testing, I stepped up to try to close some of the gaps by trying to get her a room assignment and request her immunization records from her doctor.

Then it hit me. The reason my daughter was so laxidasical with this process is because she had been so accustomed to me doing everything for her. In the football game of life, I was her linebacker. I blocked for her time after time when she was faced with challenges. As her quarterback as I called plays for her to make sure her transitions were smooth. I would also tackle for her if someone was trying to keep her from excelling—especially her teachers.

I have become the type of baby boomer parent I have written about and been critical of. I made it too easy for my daughter to get through life up to this point.

After 12 hours of walking around on campus trying to handle things, once again, on her behalf, I have decided the buck has to stop here. It’s time she learned about struggles and heartaches, success and failures on her own—without my interference. I just hope and pray that I’ve taught her enough that she will stand on her own and rise to the challenge.


David said…
I'm happy to hear that you at least stepped outside yourself to see what you were doing. I did the exact same thing over the last couple of years, realize that I was doing too much thinking for my daughter. She is now starting her second year of college and I made sure I handed all of the financial, room arrangements, etc. to her. I still asked the the questions every once in a while, like did you hear anything yet, etc. She found she could do it and she did so excellantly! We have to realize that although we don't want them to lose out on things or make mistakes that we did, that we are creating a person who can not stand on their own if we don't let them just screw up sometimes. Thanks for your arcicle. I would like to place a post on my blog referring to it if you don't mind. It may bring some more traffic to your site as well.

Keep being there for her but let her go... I know it's hard. I have to remind myself constantly to keep my mouth shut! :-)
Beverly Mahone said…

Thanks for sharing your point of view. Parenting is a tough job---second only to marriage :)

Now I have even more respect for my own parents because I was a lot to handle back in the day as well.
Kathie said…
It's hard, isn't it? We have 5 daughters, 4 of whom just got on with life but we have one who consistently still doesn't do things for herself and she's in her mid 20s. Hubby and I have decided we just can't do anything more for her - she has to pick herself up and live her life. Did we do too much for her as she was growing up? Possibly - she always seemed to be lagging behind the others with respect to organising herself and yet she always excelled in her schoolwork. Perhaps we just have to accept that she's a different personality who just doesn't see timing in the same we the rest of us do.
David said…
Thanks for all your comments! Letting go an knowing that your child may get hurt by their choices is almost impossible to do... but necessary. I try to remember how I felt when I was about 16 years old and I remember that I felt that I knew somethings that my parents didn't or that I would make different choices as I became an adult and a parent! I realize more now why they made their choices and yet I still feel that my choices were good ones also! "You can not know what hot means if you never touch the stove" All we can do is be there to sooth the pain, "if it's asked for" :-)

Take care and I hope you'll continue reading my blog as I will do the same for all of you!

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