As I write this, my son is one week into school and he is currently residing in a hurricane shelter in Daytona Beach, FL. It’s kind of hard to believe that I just dropped him off at school. He’s not only now out of school for a week but he is hunkered down in a local middle school to wait out the storm. It’s been an interesting start to his college life for sure.
One of the things that a mom has to do when her kids leave the nest is to let her kids begin to make those big life decisions. I’ve been working towards that time with both of my kids since they were young. They both made the decision to leave home early at age 16 so that they could attend a boarding school for the last two years of high school. They both began the switch to independence at an early age.
I’ve always viewed this transition to independence as a good thing. After all, I don’t want to be making his decisions and running his life forever. I want him to make his own decisions and to learn from his mistakes. I want him to be able to function as an adult who can analyze a situation and decide what is best for him.
So, here is my son. A freshman in college and a week after moving in, he’s faced with a decision about where to go for the hurricane. Stay on campus and see what happens? Get a ride with someone to wait out the hurricane somewhere else? Stay with a local family that offered to put up students from his school?
His decision was to stay on campus and see what happens. Well, it turns out that when a hurricane is greater than a Category 2, the school sends all of the students that are left to a local shelter. And… that’s where he is as I write this. He’s hanging out at a local middle school for a few days and having a bit of an adventure of his own.
Over the past few days, I’ve watched some parents panic over their students in Daytona and other parents decide to put their trust in the strong buildings in Florida. Both reactions are understandable. I can see why a parent would want their child out of the path of a potentially deadly hurricane. I can also see why a parent would be okay with their child staying in one of the stronger buildings in the area.
What I’ve decided from watching these reactions is that some parents are having a hard time letting their kids make decisions.
Once your child moves out, your parenting duties aren’t quite done. In fact, they never are finished. However, they do change. If your children are going to be functioning members of society, then they need to start making their own decisions at some point. They have to practice decision making skills in order to learn from them. Once they’ve moved out, it’s time to really dive into that process.
My son may regret going to a shelter instead of to a local home for a few days, but it is his decision. His stay at the middle school will probably be something that he learns from. Since he’ll be in Florida for four years during school, I’m sure this will come up again. When it does, he’ll either make a different decision, or not, based on what he is learning this week.
It’s not that I don’t care what he decides, but it’s that I trust that I’ve done all that I can in raising him up to this point. My job description has shifted and now he gets to assume some of the responsibilities that I have overseen for almost 19 years with him.
And really, that’s part of what it means to be an empty nester. It’s a shifting of responsibilities from a parent to a child. I give him this gift of being more in charge of his life. In return, I get to watch him soar into this next phase of his life. I also get to reclaim part of my own life. The time and energy that I’ve spent on his responsibilities can now be shifted to something that is in line with my new purpose.
This shift can be scary if you know where you’re headed and even scarier if you don’t. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years uncovering my Next Chapter in life and it’s now time for me let that play out.
So, I’ll spend the next few days watching the weather. I’ll know that I’ve raised a son with some pretty good decision-making skills. I’ll trust that he’s making the best decision that he can in the moment.
I’ll also watch from afar. I’m going to make an effort to let him have this experience without me trying to micromanage it from a couple of states away.
This is a learning experience for us both and we’ll both be stronger for it.
If you’d like help beginning the process of uncovering your Next Chapter in life, schedule a session with me. You have the knowledge within you already. Your Next Chapter is waiting!