After more than two years of non-custodial parenting, I am finally seeing just how much influence I have over my children’s lives. Isn’t that odd? But I have traded in the day-to-day influence — what clothes to wear to school that day, what’s for lunch and dinner, and did you do your homework today? — for the Big Picture stuff. This is epic. Life-changing. And the oddest thing of all about it is that it takes no Herculean effort. We just talk regularly, I listen and give opinions when they’re warranted, and over time I see change.
Nathaniel, 14, is a freshman in high school. When he and his sister were out visiting me in August, we stopped by a certain free-flowing college to check out the vibe. “Can you see yourself here?” I asked him. “What do you think?”
“It’s okay,” he said, employing a typical teen laconicism. But I could feel the wheels turning.
A month later I had an epiphany about Europe. He should do a year as an exchange student! I could see all the ways in which this would create Total Awesome Win for him, stretching him and creating space for him to grow into who he is. I mentioned it casually on the phone, trying to turn the volume down on my excitement at having found the Perfect Thing. “Europe?” he asked. “That’s funny, I was just thinking about that.”
O-M-G. We are totally on the same page. Suddenly I could see how his next five years or so would unfold. It was all so clear. “Okay, I have your life figured out,” I told him. And he walked right into the picture I painted. A summer here with me. A year in Europe. Blasting through high school. College in a structure-your-own-degree program. Living life where and how he wants.
I’ve done it for his sister and brother as well. Serena, 10: she can get her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. Eric, 7: he’ll live in a group home and keep everyone laughing.
Is that what we do as parents? Create worlds for our kids to step into — or not — and then hold the door open for them so that they can? It seems so easy when you put it that way. I can totally relax on SAT scores now.
What about you? What things do you do to plan your child’s future?
[photo: thetorpedodog, flickr]