Oh man...I hated being a teenager. Maybe "hate" is a strong word. Replaying those short films from my memory of that time, that small blonde girl with the black Camaro and nervous smile is still familiar to me. Wishing she could disappear into the hallways, but pushing herself to be seen. Fighting back fears to find love and connection. Floating from circle to circle, having no idea about who she was or where to find herself. She spent so many of her early years seeking self worth in the safety of friendships (especially those who struggled with their own identities and worth!) and co-dependent relationships. She became a wife at 18 and mother at 21.
I have never lived one day on my own. I moved in with my fiancee from my moms house. When we divorced, I had 4 kids under the age of 7 living with me. I have never been independent. Nor have I traveled and gone on the adventures of a carefree young adult.
So now that I have 2 teenagers, with a 3rd making an approach for landing, I've made it my main mission in life is to provide opportunities for them to explore who they are, discover their passions, and prepare them for a life of adventure.
Only, who knows if they want that adventure.
Andy is 16 in a couple of weeks, and after years of seeing him struggle in school (boredom and complacency), we decided to drop him from high school altogether, having exhausted all other options. To spread his wings, so it were.
We recently discovered that he is indeed eligible to enroll in Running Start, a program where he can attend community college for free in his Junior and Senior years (2012-2014). Technically he's a homeschooled student now, though his "curriculum" is now creating dubstep music, facebooking, beating Twitter records, keeping rock star hours, and playing music and video games. I have nudged him into Running Start because he can take two years of college for free. And that's right in our price range. He's a fantastic writer and musician, so of course I'm going to encourage him to explore that. In college. For free. He also wants to travel he tells me. So I have now researched and acquired flyers and brochures for all kinds of student-based traveling programs. Of course, most of them require us to have a bottomless checking account, but I think we've watched *just* enough bank robbery movies to put together a solid crew and nab a few mil. Or we'll have to do something crazy like SAVE MONEY or force him to pay for his own travel and education. Oh god...the student loans...don't make me think of that right now. Maybe I'll just find some far flung friends or relatives to ship him off to for a while to live in a foreign land and travel around with no particular agenda...only just to experience his life unencumbered.
The other teenager is dead set on going into the Navy as soon as that Principal hands over his diploma. I can see him running off stage, stripping off his cap and gown to reveal a Navy uniform like some sort of teenage military superhero and running straight into the arms of his Commanding Officer and heading off to to some far away base, only to be heard from in coded messages about becoming a Seal and going on special ops and telling me he may or may not be home for Thanksgiving. So of course I'm planning on taking him down to the recruiter to discuss that future and how to prepare. And now I have awesome ammo to "encourage" him to a more responsible lifestyle. "NAVY SEALS DON'T SLEEP IN! NAVY SEALS DON'T MISS THE BUS! NAVY SEALS ALWAYS DO THEIR HOMEWORK!" And by god, that is working. Which is scary and simultaneously reassuring.
I'm trying EVERYTHING to empower them to follow their passions and to tap into that fertile soil of their minds to plant seeds of self worth and confidence. I don't want them to be 37 years old still trying to figure that shit out. At the same time, it's a careful tightrope to walk.
Am I encouraging them to do things based on a strength or gift I see in them, or am I encouraging them to do something so that I can vicariously live through their carefree adventures?
Do you know how HARD it is to see these little humans growing up, taller than me even, almost ready to take on the world, and have to LET GO of the expectations that they are going to go through Door A or Door B? I'm moving through some weird transition from a parent to a coach to a mere bystander, cheering them on and holding up signs that say "THE END IS NEAR!!". Yeah...I'm *that* guy.
Have I mentioned before that I *might* have control issues? Yeah.
I chose my path, and I turned out fairly awesome, so I don't want a do-over, god please NO. But there is this sense of awe that the world is all right there in front of them, and they can choose any old path they want. It's a lot of pressure. For them, AND for me. I have a little bit of panic going on that they'll bag it all and end up searching for their self worth in toxic relationships, lifeless careers and the bottom of a bottle. I just have to hope that all this preparation I'm doing with them now will help them be better equipped adults, able to conquer their fears, chase after their dreams, and find happiness within themselves, no matter what they end up "doing".
AND DID I MENTION FREE COLLEGE?