My son is now 18 and is a senior in high school. That means he’s in the middle of applying to colleges and deciding what is next after high school. I’m a bit removed from it since he’s living at school. Being an empty nester, I’m watching him go through this process from a bit of a distance. I’m watching him struggle with deadlines and decisions. I’m watching him avoid some things and finish others. I’m also watching him slowly turn into a more grown-up version of the young man that I already know. Watching all of this is both scary and encouraging at the same time.
He was just home for the weekend. I got to see all of this up close for a couple of days.
Every time he comes home, I have a bit of an adjustment. I’ve been an empty nester for weeks & all of a sudden I have to put the ‘full-time Mom’ hat on for a few days. It can be a bit confusing for me to go back and forth. Am I the mom that needs to stay on him to fill out those college & scholarship applications? Or, am I the mom that needs to stand back and let him do it on his own just as he has done at school?
He’s become so independent since he moved out for boarding school, yet he still needs our help for many things.
So, this past weekend was a lot of checking in to see where he is in the college process. I’ve asked him if he needs/wants help. He usually says no. That can give me hives at times as I know some of these deadlines are really important.
Here’s the real issue that’s going on right now. It’s the decision about whose challenge this is. I could take on his college applications and check in on him every day to see what progress he has made. I could micro-manage the whole process. Or, I could let him own this challenge and get out of it what he puts into it.
As a mom, this can be such a hard decision. From the time they are born, we do things for our kids that they just can’t do yet. Very slowly, as they grow up, we let them do more and more on their own. It’s our job to teach them to do everything from riding a bike to driving a car. We have to let them slowly take control over their own lives.
The hard thing is when there is a bigger obstacle in their life. Maybe it’s an illness, depression or a big decision like where to go to college. Those bigger challenges are harder to leave to your kids to figure out and get through on their own. As moms, we often tend to take these challenges on as our own.
At some point though our kids (usually) grow up enough to begin to take even these challenges on as their own. Us moms can begin to let go of those challenges and release the day to day stresses that go along with them.
That’s where I’m at right now. I’m in that place of wondering is he grown-up enough to handle this college process on his own or do I still need to be heavily involved. Honestly, I go back and forth. When he’s at school, I tend to stay out of his way & let him sink or swim with this challenge. When he is home, like he was this past weekend, I fall back on old patterns and micro-manage a bit more. I’m definitely moving towards letting him have this challenge all on his own. Of course, I’ll be there to help him if he asks, but if he decides to miss a deadline then maybe that’s a lesson he needs to learn.
Being an empty nester has sure helped me to see which of his obstacles are actually his and which I need to still take on. I now find myself looking at other relationships in this way. I’m beginning to ask myself if some of the other challenges that I’ve taken on are really mine or am I borrowing challenges from other people that I could give back to them.
I’m learning that I don’t have to take over everyone else’s challenges. I can let other people own their challenges. After all, I have enough of my own that I need to pay attention to a bit more.
So, next time you find yourself in the midst of a challenge/obstacle, ask yourself is this really mine or am I taking on other people’s challenges? You might find that you can let go of some challenges that aren’t really yours to begin with. And, as you do this you’ll begin to free up space in your life to tackle your own personal challenges.
What challenge are you ready to give back? Where are you ready to take control of your own life and let other’s live their own? Leave a comment and let me know what you’re ready to give up and let someone else take back.