June 18, 2013: Adventures in Adult Parenting

Zach and his new car
I spent the night grocery shopping with Zach. My twenty year-old son is a man on his own. He rents a house with buddies, has a full-time job and a car payment. Between my explaining how to prepare baked potatoes and the shelf life of lettuce, we discussed the liabilities associated with car ownership. Gas is expensive; especially when your house is halfway across town from work. The cost of licensing a car? He hadn't a clue on this extraordinary expense.

No complaints from my eldest, just a lot of questions and life lessons during his journey. And it's only beginning. A challenging role as a parent is explaining that we too have been down these same roads. There actually was a day when I was twenty; trying to figure out who FICA was and why he was taking money out of my paycheck.

As we scrounged the dollar aisle for bargains, we talked about the current state of his life. He loves his independence, but expenses and obligations make him nervous. Frugal by nature, this next year will be full of good lessons for him. Ramon noodles will be aplenty and decisions will need to be had over money for beer or gas.

Life brings challenges to my young son everyday. Today he attended the funeral of a classmate. The realization that life is short and precious is not a natural thought to a young adult. Forever young. Forever carefree. Today was a reality check in the fragility of life.

Zach is trying to figure it all out. He thinks he has a good idea of what his future holds and has a plan. But does anyone really know this at age twenty? My hope as a parent is for him to go through his journey with an open mind, a big heart, and a lot passion for all that is good and right. Enjoy the ride, but be responsible.

My job as a parent? Sit back and let him have his own journey. He will make mistakes and will learn from them. He will learn to be resourceful. He will learn what it feels like to be hungry and to be broke. He will learn the pleasure of achieving his goals and the satisfaction of making it on his own. The lesson of the need of a dollar earned for a dollar spent is well on its way.

None of these lessons come from parental coddling or attempts to shelter from potential pain. It is many times harder to step back than to step in. Reminder: pain isn't a bad thing. Learning from mistakes means first making them and then correcting on your own. My best life lessons came through this avenue.

Adventures in parenting continue. I will now comfortably go back to my seat in the parental sidelines. I am getting pretty comfortable there. Coaching from the sidelines is unnecessary at this point. Zach is doing just fine in this game of life on his own. And he knows where I'm at if he needs me.


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