When you think about raising kids, have you ever asked yourself at what age is the “raising” complete? 18? 20? College graduation? And what is the next step in the parenting process with this new adult?
When I was growing up I thought you graduated high school, went to college and “poof” you were an adult. I mean, I already had all the answers so I MUST be an adult now, right?!
So what happens when you have a child, specifically a step-child, decide to quit college and move home to be a kid again? This is just the kind of question that can send a blended family into a tailspin. And it just happened to ours… almost.
Let me explain.
Our 20 year old son came home from college over winter break for what I thought was the usual holiday visit. After a week spent playing video games he admits that he’s pretty sure he failed 2 or 3 of his 4 classes and is not planning to return to school for spring semester. Um, say what?!
This is a multi-layered dilemma for a blended family. First, his father and I had very different reactions. And our reactions would undoubtedly make a big impact on the boy in question as well as all 4 of our other children.
Dad’s response: “Okay, get unpacked – we’ll make it work”.
My response: “You’re blowing off free tuition because it’s harder than you thought?! No way! We don’t have room, money, time, energy for a 20 year old child to sit around playing video games. If you move home you need to take community college classes and get a job. You will pay rent, as well as all the bills we’ve been covering for you.”
My reaction was not popular. Guess which of us is the hero and which one is about to get the wicked step-mother label? So how does a couple find middle ground AND do what’s best for the kid?
In my opinion, what’s best for a 20 year old ready for “real life” is to let him get a taste of what that means. It means bills & responsibilities. It’s actually a lot harder than college. And I think many parents today are afraid to let their kids experience that reality. But if I remember correctly our job as parents is to give our kids both roots and wings. Now fly little birdie, fly.
I’d love to report to you that my husband and I had a meeting of the minds, that we prayed together and reached an agreement. Actually, after spending a few weeks with the family this son decided to go back to school. So yes, we dodged a bullet. But we still need to have that prayer and discussion. We still need to decide how and when to start letting him pay more of his own bills. We definitely need to have a game plan in case he changes his mind again. We need to get on the same page.
How about you? The one thing you can always count on in a blended family is that change is right around the corner. Have you thought about how you’d handle the scenario of a step-child moving into your household? Have you and your spouse discussed what that would look like? I recommend starting those talks now so you know what to expect later.