There are times I second guess myself.
Times when I look at my parenting, my family, my decisions and wonder if I’ve screwed everything up.
Times when put up against “normal” I realize how strange the path I’ve taken is, how the decisions I’ve made for myself and my family are not the same as the ones that most other people are making.
I ran into an old friend today; one I haven’t seen in 5 or 6 years. We stood in the grocery store like women do, holding on to our carts, allowing space for people to walk through our conversation and spent time catching up.
And I found myself, suddenly having a conversation where I felt like maybe I was screwing everything up.
You see this woman has 2 children. Her 18-year-old son is apprenticing at a local power plant, learning a trade, getting funding for college and starting on the path to adulthood.
Her daughter is a junior in high school, and is taking classes at the local college, and already has her plans for next year and more college credit.
It struck me, the safety of these plans, the status quo “success” that they were on their way to achieving, the security they were creating for their futures at such a young age.
In the next part of the conversation, she asked my 17-year-old who was with me what his plans were after high school.
“I want to get into music.” Was his reply.
“Oh really?” she said, with that tone adults get when they think something sounds interesting but incredibly farfetched.
“Yeah I play guitar, I’ve been learning how to mix and produce music, and I really like it so I’m going to try to do something with that.”
She looked from him to me and said, “Well, that sounds cool!”
She is an incredibly nice person, a great mom… but incredibly practical so the question of how realistic a music career is was apparent in her voice and expression.
Then she asked about my oldest. So I told her, he went to college for two years and decided not to go back the third year. He was majoring in cyber security and on the swim team at a private school… something that sounded prestigious and successful. But he wasn’t happy, he knew he would be graduating with substantial debt, and cyber security was not his passion.
So, I told him to take a break. And now he is studying to get his personal training certification, he is planning a business around that and is incredibly excited about all the possibilities in front of him.
And at 21 I am happy that he is still living at home while he figures out what he wants to do with his life. I am happy to give him the time and space to become who he wants to be.
But I see it in knowing glances, I hear it in offhand comments, I have one kid who quit college and one who wants to be a rock star (and then there is my youngest long-haired hippie boy that always gets looks) and I support them fully.
Is it practical? Is it safe? Is it the “normal” path to success that everyone is told they should walk down?
And sometimes I wonder if I’ve led them astray.
Should I have pushed harder for good grades, and scholarships, and internships? Should I have made my oldest decide at 18 what he wanted to be and encouraged him to stick to it? Should I tell my middle son that making a career in music is hard and he needs a fall back plan…? Should I make my youngest cut his hair?
Those thoughts go through my head. I wonder if somehow my idea of letting them be exactly who they want to be and loving and accepting them for that has set them up to fail.
I stand in the grocery store, chatting across the aisle, and wonder if the reason so many people go the “normal” route is because it’s the right one.
I wonder if safety and security are more important than passion, and happiness.
I second guess myself.
But only for a moment.
Because I ask a question. “Is your son happy with his job?”
“Eh,” a shrug, “It’s a job.”
And in that moment, in those few words, that small gesture I realize that I never want to say that about my kids.
I never want to have encouraged them to walk a path because it is what everybody else is doing, because it’s safe and secure because it is what other people will see as successful.
I know plenty of people who the world views as successful. They have the car, the house, the job, the 2 kids and the nice clothes… and they are miserable.
I don’t want my boys to look back on their lives and realize that they left their passion behind to pursue the practical and the normal.
I don’t want them to have regrets about the chance they didn’t take, the goal they didn’t reach for, the happiness that they let go because the world told them that having those big dreams was crazy.
I want them to know that their mom supported their desire to be a rock star, to build a business, to take time off to find what was important to them… to become a goat farmer in Alaska if that is what they want. I want them to know that we only get one chance at this life and that while they are young and unattached that they can pursue whatever sets their heart on fire and make mistakes, figure out what works and what doesn’t and that other people don’t have to understand.
I want them to live. I want them to be happy, and I never want them to strive for normal.
Maybe they will fail at their endeavors and end up in college and a normal job. Maybe they will find a career that they love and climb the corporate ladder.
But maybe they be successful and create a life that they love that fills them with purpose. Maybe they will look at the path of normalcy they could have taken and be incredibly thankful that they had the opportunity to do something different.
I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want them to make choices based on what everyone else thinks is right for their life. I don’t want them to follow a path that is not true to who they are.
I can’t see the future. I don’t know if I’m screwing up. But I do know that above all else I value happiness, love, and contentment. I know that if my boys are able to find those things in life, no matter what path they take I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded as their mom.
So, if you are living a life outside the box, if your family doesn’t look normal, if you know that there are people who think you’re crazy or weird, I want you to know I’m right there with you. I want you to know that in those moments when you wonder if you’re doing it right that you are. If you are leading with love and encouraging your kids to have wings to fly wherever they want, if you are raising your babies to be thinkers and creators and blaze their own trail, you are not alone.
We can be weirdos together, we can second guess ourselves sometimes, but we must always come back to the knowledge that if our kids are happy, we are doing something right.