Go Away*

“I can’t wait to go to college!” my 17-year-old proclaimed.

Finally, I thought. I was so excited that I completely ignored the fact that he finished the sentence with: “…so I can get away from YOU!”

All I heard was HE CAN’T WAIT TO GO TO COLLEGE!

Whatever the driving force may be, I don’t care – he wants to leave!

I was worried for a while that I was making his life too easy and he would never want to go to college. He doesn’t need to set an alarm clock because I happily (?!) climb up and down the stairs every morning for at least a half-an-hour begging him to get out of bed. He’s never had to make his own dinner (if food is not prepared he’ll graze until he can get the car keys and go out to eat); and his sheets and clothes are (surprise!) always clean when he needs them.

Why would he want to leave?? (And more importantly, what is wrong with me??)

I know most adults would never leave a place where they are catered to, waited on and downright worshipped, so why would a teen?

But I have finally hit on the best way to get your kids to leave: annoy them, harass them, remove their bedroom door if you have to, whatever it is just do it and let them move out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. But I really, really, really want them to go to college – preferably a college that requires a 3-4 hour plane ride from home. Of course I will miss them but I will see them again – there are lots of breaks from school where they can come home, sleep late, visit their friends and borrow our car. Breaks that are just long enough to remind me that I want them to become productive members of society so they can move into their own homes and do their own laundry.

When we first started discussing college with our son, I didn’t really think that I would need to sell him on the idea of going away. It’s college! It’s freedom! It’s fun! But he just didn’t seem to grasp that.

We wanted to show him college students having fun (no, not playing beer pong or doing shots off of a co-eds belly) so we sent him to a college football game. Take my advice: If you are trying to sell your kid on the idea that college kids have SO MUCH FUN then don’t let him go to a football game on a rainy 43–degree day with his dad, uncle and grandfather and make him sit in the stands until the end of the game even though the final score is 83-10.

He won’t even look at a Big 10 school now.

We tried other tactics like stopping at a college that “just happened to be on our way” to our destination and scheduling college visits with his friends but nothing motivated him…until we demanded that he give up his phone at 11:00 pm every night.

Now he can’t wait to get away. Who knew?

I have to wield this new power wisely though. I don’t want to tighten our rules so much that we find him climbing out the window in the middle of the night to flee from the tyranny. No, I will pull out the demands only when I find him getting a little too comfortable in our home like when he plops himself on a stool at the counter and says “breakfast,” or when he’s out of clothes and asks me when I’m going to finish his laundry.

Then all bets are off…

 

*I’ve been holding on to this piece for the past couple of days because it seemed contrary to what I was feeling since the bombing incidents in Boston. This blog post is about wanting my kid to “Go Away” but on Monday I was prepared to have both of my kids live with me forever if it meant I could protect them from random acts of violence. But with a few day’s distance I remembered that no matter where my kids are I will worry about them. It doesn’t matter if they are running down the stairs too quickly at home or driving home from college, I will worry. If I tried to protect them from everything I wouldn’t allow them to go to the movies or a shopping mall without me and they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in largely populated events, teach children in elementary schools or even attend college. And those are only the events of the past year and a half. And so, it is with that in mind, that I can say my kid will leave home and I will worry but it is the way it’s supposed to be.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christina Jones on April 20, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Awesome! One of your best, Con!

    Christina Jones,LCSW Executive & Clinical Director Hellenic Foundation

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  2. Posted by CSmith on April 20, 2013 at 4:14 am

    I recently offered my daughter the master bedroom with her own bathroom if she lives at home during college. I really trust her, she’s smart and responsible, but I don’t want her to leave yet. Either I did something really right with her, I got really lucky having such a great kid, or I’m a little crazy to want to keep her around. I’m not sure which.

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    • My kids are great. I love them dearly but I don’t think they will truly become independent until they leave home. Although my idea of independent will probably be more along the lines of skyping and texting and talking too often. I guess I just want him to have to do his own laundry.

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      • Posted by C Smith on April 21, 2013 at 2:50 am

        Maybe I like my kids so much because they do their own laundry, LOL. We have a lot of them, kids not laundry, well we have a lot of laundry too, but I don’t do it. My kids do all of the laundry except for my things that I don’t want to risk having ruined. Maybe that’s why I’m in no hurry for them to leave, I might have to start doing laundry myself.

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  3. Posted by DD on April 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Going through exactly the same thing with my son. Shocked he isn’t chomping at the bit to go away! Living in SoCal maybe that’s understandable? Still think he needs to spread his wings…

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