As my 19 year old son lounged on the couch scrolling TikTok, after having not been here, to the beach, in over a year I sat watching flabbergasted, confused and admittedly annoyed. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he’d been here for days before wanting to walk half a block to the ocean. I just couldn’t relate.
In my head I kept starting my thoughts with “when I was 19, I would have…” and I’d have to, sometimes out loud, remind myself that he’s not me. But as much as I said it, it obviously wasn’t clicking because I continued to be frustrated by the entire situation. He didn’t want to explore, he didn’t want to go for a walk, there were no foods he’d been looking forward to eating, he just wanted to veg out on the couch, play his Switch and scroll social media.
After a few days of this, I went out onto our roof to soak up some sunshine and think. As I sat there, repeating the same things to myself, I thought “I don’t get why he wouldn’t want to do these things after being trapped in the Midwest” and that’s when it hit me. He wasn’t trapped in the Midwest, he’s happy there. He spends his days with people he wants to spend his time with. He doesn’t feel the way about that place and those people that I do.
He’s not yearning for adventure and new experiences because I raised him exploring and encouraging him to try new things. He’s not me, because he had me as a parent. He’s not constantly seeking those hits of dopamine like I always have been.
He’s content being himself. He’s perfectly happy relaxing because he’s safe and around people who love and care for him. He’s enjoying his first real vacation since starting his first real job. He’s chilling out on his mom’s couch in her house by the beach. He’s doing what he wants to be doing, and just because it’s not what I want to be doing, or would have wanted at his age, that doesn’t make it wrong or less valid.
As his parent, my job is supporting him however he needs. Not force him into roles he doesn’t belong.
We are not our children, and our children are not us. That’s not always an easy thing to accept when trying to raise little humans, as we have a tendency to treat them like small versions of ourselves, because that’s what we know. Doing so, however, is a disservice to both child and parent. We want better for our kids right? And to be able to experience them as they truly are, not some false idea of who we thought they’d be, is a gift.