I have a 19-year-old daughter who’s a great, smart, funny & beautiful girl. She has certainly presented challenges along the way to 19. My plan for my daughter has always been graduate High School & then attend College for a minimum of 2 years. If she hated it after the 2 years; she’d be permitted to leave College & start working full-time. The stipulation has always been that as long as she was in school she could live w/me rent free but if she chose not to attend; she’d be working full-time & paying something in rent. My latest challenge started the other morning during a conversation I was having with her about her ambitions in life. I wanted to help her decide what she wanted to be when she grows up & find a focal point for her education. So begins the back story.
Her ambitions have ranged from cosmetologist; tattoo artist/body piercer; working w/developmentally disabled teens; to being an Irish Lit teacher. She enrolled in college last Fall & took basic classes due to her indecisiveness. Soon there-after I realized we had a problem. She wasn’t going to class. She wasn’t waking up for her early A.M. classes; & just wasn’t going to her afternoon classes. I was foolish enough to believe that if she could get herself up everyday to go to High School, why would College be any different? OK credit where its due; she does work for a fast food chain in the evenings that’s open to 1 AM or later as a ‘closer’. There are nights (mornings really) when she comes home very late. So Mom to the rescue; I will call her from work & wake her up so she can make these early classes. It worked; until she started turning her phone off. One day I came home early from work & there she is; playing video games when she was supposed to be in class. After almost 3 months of being her personal alarm clock/day planner & failing; knowing she’s still not going to class despite all my attempts to help her; I stop trying to wake her up, or do anything to get her to attend classes in utter frustration. I’d paid her tuition, she took it for granted; & I wasn’t going to do that again. I decided on some tough love & told her that I wasn’t going to pay for Spring semester, only to watch her not attending classes I’d paid for again. If she changed her behavior; I’d reconsider paying her tuition for her second year. I was trying to teach her a lesson in responsibility. HA! She continued not going to class & snaked her way into getting me to pay 1/2 her Spring Semesters tuition by not applying for Financial Aid or student loans as I’d directed her to in a timely fashion. Before I knew it, it was the day before the semester starts & I’m finding out if 1/2 the tuition isn’t paid she can’t attend. Fearful if I didn’t give her the money despite my previous ultimatum; & she didn’t attend the Spring semester; she’d never go back to College. So Mom to the rescue; I paid it & was explicit that the other half was her responsibility.
So begins the Spring semester. I seriously injured myself in late February & have been home on disability for the past 2+ months. What an education I’ve gotten on just how infrequently she attends any of her classes. The first 2 weeks I was home; I was heavily medicated & mostly slept, but anytime I woke up she was home & hadn’t been to class. By week 3 I was getting more acclimated to all the medication & was able to wake her up most days to get her to class. There are still days I sleep too long & am not awake myself to get her up for class. Yes, she does have an alarm clock but she sleeps right through it. Matter of fact she has 2 & sleeps through both. Then there are days when I’m in a medicine haze, get my days confused & don’t realize I need to wake her; so she’s still missing classes.
Her school called the other day to remind her she needs to schedule her classes for next year. Being the brilliant & resourceful MOM that I am, I decide that if we can pinpoint an interest; some ambition & get her away from the basics; make college more interesting & fun she’ll want to wake up & go to class. Thus ‘The Plan’ is hatched. I start suggesting different careers; until we hit on Business Management. The fast food chain she currently works for is grooming her for a promotion to Crew Trainer & she says she wants to work her way up to a manager someday. I’m thinking what a brilliant MOM I am, she’ll sign up for Business Management related classes & someday she’ll be a CEO for a Fortune 500 Company. She’s interested, & excited by The Plan. She’ll continue working where she does; move through the ranks while going to school to get a degree in Business Management. When she graduates, she’ll have management experience & a degree; how irresistable to potential employers she’ll be. MOM to the rescue, problem solved. I am great!
I reminded her there’s a financial aid seminar I want her to go to so she can apply now for grants or loans whatever she needs to pay for the upcoming school year. I’m sticking to my ultimatum; I’m not paying for her education when she isn’t getting one. Prove you’re taking it seriously & I will. Proud of myself I make another cup of coffee, thinking we’re going to continue talking about her brilliant future & the classes she’s going to take next year. Instead; she tells me something that makes no sense. She’s thinking about getting her own apartment because she has to pay me rent if she’s not in school. (But you’ll be in school so why even bring this up? Right?) She says she’s considering moving out next summer after her second year is over. Now she’s got a notebook & is making a list of what she’ll need for her own place. Before I know it I’m explaining exactly how little money she’ll have left of her current salary after paying ‘real world’ bills. I think I’m reinforcing what a great idea The Plan is, not really taking what she’s saying seriously. It’s not till later that something went BANG! & I saw the light.
When I reminded her about the Financial Aid seminar; I also reminded her to schedule her classes. Her response was if she didn’t qualify for financial aid, she wasn’t going to schedule any classes, quickly adding she’d schedule them the following day. She came home from school later & informs me if she saves $60.00 a week she’ll have $600.00 in 10 weeks. The importance of this being; when making the Real World budget, she’d mentioned that she could get an apartment for $600.00 a month & of course she’s going to have a roommate. $600.00 represents her share of the first months rent & security deposit. Suspicions on the rise now, but cats got my tongue. Oopsie, did she have a slip of the tongue; or is it a blatant hint ’cause she thinks I haven’t gotten it yet? She tells me she’s decided to move out after the summer after goes on a road trip w/friends, Oh! wait she means next summer, tee hee hee. Next she wants to know if I will continue to keep her car insured on my policy; & her cell phone on my plan when she moves out. She’s asking a lot of questions for someone not moving out for over a year. I remember that while hatching “The Plan” she said she’d been reluctant to tell me she wanted to be a manager w/her current employer because she didn’t want to disappoint me. Disappoint me? Why on earth would her wanting to work hard & be promoted to a manager be disappointing to me? Unless her “plan” is to drop out of school in order to do this.
OK I get it; the move will be after this summer is over, not next. I’m paralyzed that ‘her plan’ is to not go back to school & work at the fast food restaurant. I don’t think she’ll tell me the truth either from when she said “if I’m not in school I have to pay you rent” while discussing my Plan. Obviously I’ll charge her rent for whatever period of time she lives w/me until she gets her own apartment, if I confirm that she’s not going back to school. Her district manager has her ‘Glamoured’ with the three cars he owns & she is too young to realize how long it will take her to make it to district manager; or how few opportunities there are within a corporation to be one. I’m dismayed by her naivety in thinking that an assistant manager who makes $10.80 an hour, makes a lot of money. I thought I was Brilliant Resourceful MOM who had taught my child about the realities of life.
I realize that it’s been about 2 weeks since I’ve heard her alarm clock go off at all. If I hadn’t been home to wake her up, she would have missed all her classes. Or maybe she just gotten accustomed to me being here to wake her? I think about just how many times she’s missed class in all this time I’ve been home on disability. It’s a lot, more than I’d like to admit. I think about all the days her alarm clock has gone off for over 45 minutes before I get fed up hearing it & storm downstairs to get her up & shut it off. Or just how hard it is to wake her up every day, no matter what time she gets home from work. If she’s missed this many classes while I’ve been home, I can’t even imagine how many she missed before I hurt myself.
Yesterday was a day when I didn’t wake up until after she was already supposed to be in class, but she also had a 2nd class @ 12:00. I woke her up around 10:30. I’ve had a hinky feeling since our talk the other day & yesterday was test day. She was up in plenty of time to make her 12:00 class & I waited for her to go get herself ready & go to school; I didn’t remind her. She didn’t go. Surely the school has an attendance policy? She’s missed so many classes; can she even still be in school? I check the web-site & the attendance policy is between the instructor & student; at the discretion of the instructor. I have the user id & password to her college account & it’s about time I use it. I try it, can’t log on & I don’t know if it’s because she changed it; or she was thrown out of school for lack of attendance.
And now I don’t know how to do what I know I must. I can’t force her to do anything obviously. If she’s made up her mind to drop out; if she hasn’t already; I can’t force her to stay in school. If she wants to work @ this chain & get her own apartment @ 19; how do I stop her? I want her to understand what she’s missing out on; & the doors she’s forever closing by leaving school, but I can’t tell her anything. As a firm believer in the Forbidden Fruit theory if I try to stop her from moving out so young; she’ll only want to do it more.
I’m going to have to let her do what she wants to do & make her own mistakes. But I don’t want to. My maternal instincts are screaming at me to protect her. I can’t; I have to let her make this mistake so she can learn from it. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face as a Mom. I’m all about action & solutions; ‘fixing it’. There’s nothing I can do, I can’t fix it. I hate this. I can’t talk to her about it; I don’t want to make it easy on her. I want her to tell me whatever her plans are, knowing she’ll have to face me, my disappointment & disapproval. I will not let on that I got the hints she’s dropped. I hope by continuing to play stupid & not confront her; it will buy some time for her to realize she’d be making a mistake. (Or at the very least, the potential room-mate changes her mind.) I don’t want to let her go. I don’t want to miss her. I don’t want her to leave the nest. She’s my baby.