What I Want to Do When I Grow Up

Senior year in high school is so stressful. Everyone asking about the future, mornings ripe with anxiety about what next year will bring, that sick feeling in your stomach. Every week some new “last.” Last time ordering high school textbooks, last time buying school supplies picked out by teachers, last pasta dinner cooked for the football team.

And that’s just me. I can’t even imagine what my son D. is going through. 

It’s even worse for him than for most, because he’s a boy, and he’s an only.So all of my hyper-vigilant, laser-eye focused, type-A-trained attention is zeroed in on his every move (or sometimes, lack thereof).

But to be fair, I’m not the only crazy parent out there on the edge. On a flight home from Chicago last week, I heard someone in the seat behind me talking about her teenage daughter’s plans, and she said, “I don’t want her to go far away….and yet I also don’t want my fears to be driving what she does.”

My fears drive what he does? That’s ridiculous.

But, when I ask other moms in my boat what their senior is doing next year, they sometimes say, “We have no idea…” or even worse, they respond, “We’re applying to ten colleges. We like BU and UVM best.” And I want to ask, “What are you majoring in?” and “Have you told him what student activities you plan to join?”

I only ask my son D. 6.8 times a week what he thinks he wants to do, all the while knowing it’s a completely ridiculous question of most 17-year-old males. So, I try to restrain myself and offer ideas and suggestions only half of those times.

After we came home from a college open house recently, we were discussing some options he could add to his list (or at least I was discussing them), and as he was looking up one school on the iPad, I was standing over his shoulder, looking at the touchscreen.

“Mom,” he said, “You are so being a helicopter parent right now.”

Helicopter parent? Where did that come from? Where did he even learn that term?

But I have to help him with direction, right? He has so much going on already between school and football, and deadlines are looming, and he doesn’t completely understand the real world yet. Does he?

On the other hand, I do know that it’s his path, his journey, and he has to be the steward of it. He has always been very good about knowing what he needs, and following his inner guidance. I was talking to a friend the other day about the different things he might do, and finally, I heard myself say, “I do know that as soon as I get out of the way, he will find his way.

I don’t know where that came from. But I heard myself saying those words, and I knew they were true.

Dr. Wendy Mogel, psychologist and author of several books about raising adolescents, once said,“It’s our job to prepare our children for the road, not to prepare the road for our children.”

Argh, just another small knife in my motherly back. I’m only trying to map out the whole darn sky. I’m like the FAA. It’s my job.