Today, #1 turns 18.
I'm in total disbelief that he is a legal adult and have already tried to intervene in at least 2 "bad" decisions that he's made this morning. However, I'm working hard to let him forge his own way. Half-way through the first "Don't do...." lecture, I stopped myself and said, "It's up to you...you have to be responsible for yourself and your choices." Of course, 3 minutes later when the second issue came up, I forgot those words and began spewing unasked for advice, again.
In the US, it is not uncommon for parents to do everything for their children to be happy even when the child is apathetic to the efforts. I know parents that have written college application essays, packed for their teenagers to go on vacation, attended meetings with their child's university advisor when the kid failed out, bought their driver a new car when they wrecked the last one. These are not isolated incidents, this is the norm.
I've been working for years on allowing my children to become their own persons with their own successes and failures, including handling consequences of the decisions that they made. It's one of those things that many of my friends don't understand about me--they see it as cold and disinterested. However, in my world that couldn't be further from the truth.
My sons were quite young when I was diagnosed with breast cancer: 8, 6 and 3 at my first diagnosis, and 9, 7, 5 at my second. One of the things that became clear to me during my nights of pre-chemo, steroid-induced insomnia was that I want my boys to be strong, productive, competent, content, and fulfilled human beings that contribute to making the world a better place. I didn't--and still don't--much care for about their happiness as a final emotional destination because, for the majority of us, it is fleeting, especially when we look to something outside of ourselves for that happiness.
I'll never forget my boys' joy when I walked in the door from the airport with Blue. They were all staring out the windows at the front of the house and when I pulled up the street, they couldn't contain themselves. They were running and jumping and spinning and so, so, so HAPPY! The boys played with Blue, and wanted him to sit in their laps, and took him outside in the front yard to run around.
A few days later, bad weather moved through the neighborhood and you can bet that HAPPY wasn't what they were feeling when I asked them to put on their coats and take the dog out for a walk. You can bet that HAPPY wasn't what anyone felt when Blue snuck into their bedrooms and chewed up their favorite Webkinz. And you can bet that they weren't happy when Blue had accidents and they were picking up poop or mopping the floor.
I don't fault my kids, or think that they're unique in this in any way...but I do believe that my job as a parent is not to make sure that my kids are happy. Quite frankly, I think that is their job, and I believe that it grows from the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a difference in the world.
For a good 8 years, the boys volunteered with an organization called Bands of America, and they love it. It is hard work, with days starting at 5am and ending at 11pm, on their feet, usually in the cold. They are typically exhausted, cold, hungry, and physically worn out. Yet, they look forward to these volunteer weekends each year and come home content. There is a fulfillment and joy that comes from this that a new pair of Jordans will never satiate and that can never be taken away from them. They earned this and the satisfaction will be with them forever.
So, to you my #1 son, my birthday wishes for you:
May you live a life fulfilled.
May you know peace, joy & love.
May you surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you.
May you learn personal responsibility & accountability.
May you experience the satisfaction of completing a job you thought was beyond your abilities.
May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows.
Your life is truly out of my control now, Honey. This life is yours--I hope you make it a grand adventure!
I'll love you forever, Big Guy.