Let’s go for a ride together. Not a driverless car or a Bactrian camel. Let’s go out on the sea for a bit. Winds, squalls… rudders… you know, sailing.
When you first have kids, you are undeniably the captain of the boat. At the helm you grip white knuckled even when the skies are clear and the seas are calm because you are so sleep deprived you don’t even see the blue or feel the warmth of the sun.
As kids get a bit older, you start to loosen your grip. You let out the sail and occasionally gaze at the horizon. But make no mistake- you are the captain. You are dictating the “ports” (where to go to school, which neighborhood to live in), and when to “come about.”
As your son or daughter enters adolescence, you let them hold the wheel (granted, you still remain within arm’s length). You may even go up on deck to sun yourself and they take the helm (but you never actually shut both eyes).
If you have a high school senior, I implore you to start climbing the ladder to the crow’s nest. This means taking both hands off the wheel to let your son or daughter try theirs. This means occasionally leaving town with no groceries in the fridge to be sure they’re still nourished when you return. This means letting them do their own laundry, even if only for a month.
Climb up to the crow’s nest for the college admission process. Let your student write their own essay (but call out from your perch a reminder to edit, so they don’t include the name of another school before submission.) Let them be the ones that meet deadlines and get their resume to their recommenders well in advance. Climb up to the crow’s nest and yell down a week before the deadline to check on progress. “Iceberg!” “Shoal!” “You can apply to that school honey, but if you are admitted, we are going to need $20,000 in aid.” Or “The prospects for employment in that major are slim. If you decide to pursue that, you have to get an internship every summer.”
Climb up to the crow’s nest. If you do that now, the conversations you have this year will be far more empowering and mutually enjoyable. More importantly when your son or daughter does select a college and begins freshman year, you will have already positioned yourself appropriately (and they won’t mix colors and whites in warm water.)
After all, you cannot captain from 50 or 500 miles away. Climb up to the crow’s nest. You’ll enjoy the view and will be proud and impressed with the captain below.
See you next week as we round out A Family Affair.