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Hard Lesson Learned from a Broken Hearted Helicopter Parent

sbgal2011sbgal2011 277 replies21 threads Junior Member
Hindsight is 20/20, and as I sit here with a heavy heart and teary eyes, I can say that I have to accept a lot of blame. Check my old post from a year ago or so, and you will see that my son, who just completed his freshman year in college, was immature in high school and did just enough to get by. Smart kid, but lazy. Enter Mom... I checked the high school's website daily and made sure he completed his homework, studied for tests, etc. Nag, nag, nag. He was too smart to fail, and there was no way I was going to let him blow his future. I'm doing what's best for him, I told myself, because he will thank me once he's in college. It will all pay off in the long run!

But it didn't. He was so excited to go to college, and he quickly made friends. He liked his classes - loved his professors - all was great! Until the work started piling up. Read this, write that, study-study-study! He wanted very little to do with it. It was all about the fun, and doing just enough to get by. He pledged a fraternity, started partying too much - you know the story. It's cliche, but it fits him like a glove. I wasn't there to nag him anymore, and without mom to keep him straight...he veered.

So now here we are, one year and $25,000 later. DS just informed me that college isn't for him. He's moving near his college, will stay with friends, and work at a grocery store. That way he can continue to have his fun, not deal with mom and dad house rules, which he thinks will help him grow and mature.

So here is my hindsight lesson - let them fail in high school. Let them get a Zero on their homework, flunk a test, and fail a class, even if it means summer school in order to graduate. LET THEM FAIL!!!! They won't get into college, but then again, they weren't ready for it anyway. As a parent, I wanted it so badly for my son, and he wanted it to, but he didn't want to work for it. So I helped him work for it. And it backfired. It taught him nothing. But it taught me a great deal, just a few years too late.

My lesson isn't limited to academics. I should not have done all the research of colleges. He wouldn't have done it, but then again, he would have ended up in the same place he is now, so it wouldn't have mattered. Let them go to community college until they are mature and motivated enough to work for it themselves.

I never dreamed I would be the helicopter parent that I have become. My parents certainly weren't that way. I did the research for colleges, looked into potential majors -all back in the 1980's when there was no internet. My parents had no part in it, not because they weren't interested, but because it was my responsibility to do it. And yet I plunged right in with my son because I wanted it so badly for him - much more than he wanted it for himself. And now he's continuing down the path of immaturity, leaving behind the shattered dreams that were once mine and mine alone.
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Replies to: Hard Lesson Learned from a Broken Hearted Helicopter Parent

  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6662 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Don't beat yourself up! You did what you thought was best at the time. It's possible that if your son had crashed in high school, he would not have picked himself up. It's possible that he'd have learned a hard lesson and soared as a result. You will never know. Parenting is filled with second guessing and worry.

    You are where you are now. You can love him for who he is and support his efforts as he finds his way. You can listen (if he shares with you. ) We are not all on the same time table. You may not share the same dreams. But at some point, he will realize that you wanted the best for him and you believed in his ability to achieve. That's a great gift in and of itself.
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 2375 replies15 threads Senior Member
    @sbgal2011 - I am so sorry, my heart goes out to you. But I agree with the others - do not beat yourself up. He graduated from high school, that's huge. He's now taking a break to grow up - that's good. Freshman year was a loss, let it go and know that your son will eventually get tired of working in a grocery store - likely by the time all his friends graduate and leave his college town for better-paid positions. Give yourself a break but also prepare yourself for the time when he comes back and wants to restart his education - it's very likely it will happen. Maybe I don't need to say this but - make sure you don't get guilt-tripped into paying his expenses while he's working or paying off any debt he incurs. He chose to place himself in the adult world - place him there in your mind and keep him there. Invest his college funds as if they are your retirement. Have expectations for him that you would have for an adult child, that he will take care of himself financially. When he gets to the point where he can handle the college work and world independantly then you can re-evaluate how much assistance you can give him. It won't be the dream college experience you wanted for him but it will be "his path".
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24783 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I think he may have learned more than you think. He knows he's wasting money by paying tuition when he doesn't want to be in school. Many kids would have fought to keep going to school just to be in the fraternity and live and play with his friends.

    I have one who breezed through. I have one I'm pushing and pulling through and when I told her to take her time but that it was her money paying for the extra semester, she decided she wanted to hurry and finish, so is taking some summer classes to be able to graduate in December (8 semesters).

    I bet in 2 years you'll be back to tell us that everything worked out.
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  • woodlandsmomwoodlandsmom 409 replies10 threads Member
    Do not blame yourself. He has made some decisions and you have tried to help him. I know a couple who paid for their son to attend college, he pretended to still be attending classes, and took the money they paid and blew it. He dropped out and got a job. As adults, we know that in order to get a good job it is so important to have a college education or to have a skill that will enable you to succeed. But, boys at age 18 think they know best. The good news is, they usually come back around and realize how much they wish they could attend college. At that time perhaps you could allow him to attend a community college and take small steps. But, please stop blaming yourself, as I am sure you love him and want him to be happy. He is lucky to have a mom like you.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3432 replies78 threads Senior Member
    Hugs to the OP. I am very sorry your son's path didn't lead to a continuation of college.

    This is NOT advice to the OP, just my opinion: I'm a little more hard-hearted than the other posters on this thread. If my kid drops out of college, barring any medical reason, I won't be paying for her tuition when she decides to go back. I'd be okay with her taking a reduced course load as long as she was staying in the game and doing okay. Or if she went back and we could afford it, we might reimburse her for a class here and there AFTER she proved she passed it. The greatest gift DH and I can give her is a good education. But another great gift is to be a minimal burden on her in our retirement. So while we've simultaneously been saving for both, we won't be "young" (middle age - shh!) forever. At some point the focus has to be entirely on our retirement.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24783 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I don't think any of us said the OP should continue financing college. I just said that he's showing some maturity by admitting college (right now) is not for him.

    I have a friend whose son started college, then went to Egypt for a while, and never went back as scheduled. After about 3 years, she took the money she'd saved for his college and rolled it back into the general family funds. He never went to college and is 40 and doing just fine.
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  • VeryapparentVeryapparent 891 replies16 threads Member
    You could be telling my niece's story. Her loving parents always rescued her during the high school years. She luckily got an inheritance from her grandmother just before school started. She didn't need loans or anything (which may have contributed to the dysfunction). Pissed through the inheritance and flunked out freshman year. I am happy to report she is on track to graduate next spring after some serious soul searching, awful minimum wage jobs and lack of money. Unfortunately she will have loans to pay back but she'll be a teacher and with the current shortage in her state will have no problem paying them back. She is a good kid and we love her a lot as do her parents. each in his own time. Most figure it out eventually.
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  • CU123CU123 3712 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Everyone is different, I have heard the opposite from others where their child bloomed in college, it’s a judgement call.
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  • readthetealeavesreadthetealeaves 781 replies14 threads Member
    @sbgal2011 I can't add anything more than the above posters did. I am so sorry this is happening to you and your family.It is so hard not to want what we feel is best for our kids and help them go after it. Unfortunately, sometimes we help too much. Hugs to you and hope your son matures quickly and is on a better path. You are a good mom. Don't doubt yourself
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6531 replies1 threads Senior Member
    @sbgal2011 I know this is tough, and none of us can know what will come of this down the road.

    However, it does not sound to me like your son is going to work in a grocery store for the next 20 years. I think that the chances are very good that in a year or two, maybe less, he is going to understand why so many students want to go to university. Assuming that he does return within two or three or four years, he is likely to be a much stronger student for having the time bagging groceries to teach him some perspective on life.

    Of course, it is also possible that in a year or two he will decide that he wants to be an electrician, go to trade school, and ten years from now he will be running his own business with 3 or 4 employees.

    I feel for you. However, life is not a race and I do think that this is very likely to come out well in the end.
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  • CU123CU123 3712 replies77 threads Senior Member
    @doschicos so many people miss that point....
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