The kids are back in school.  College freshmen are tucked into their dorms with first day jitters behind them.  Our son is on an entirely different path.  The dreams and experiences that I had at his age will look different for him.  It’s harder for him, harder than most.  The question remains…what makes my dreams for him more valuable than the dreams and goals he sets for himself? How do I choose hope for him as we navigate uncertainty?

This is where I got in trouble in the first place.

October is Discovery Month.  As I reflect upon our family’s journey, it is gratitude that comes to mind.  I could share with you about my son and his struggles, but I prefer to share my growth.  Our son has been my greatest teacher.  As he has grown, I’ve learned to do a better job of staying out of his affairs.  I try my best to stand aside and let him make his own choices.  I may want something else for him, but what is my motivation?  Perhaps it’s because I want to appear to others as a “good” mother.  Am I defined by his success and failures?  There was a period of time when this was entirely true for me.  Today I am learning to separate from my child and meet him where he’s at… today.  I choose hope.

I choose hope for him.  

Fear, anger, and sadness still come around to sit beside me.

I’m also making room for joy, peacefulness and pride.

Once I started to understand that I’m not defined by my child, that we are separate, that I will be ok even when he’s not ok, a door opened for me.  

On the other side was a person who had been neglected because I was so focused on “fixing” this person that I loved.  Today I am more focused on “fixing” myself.  I’m learning to take better care of myself, my health, and my well-being. Often that means making hard decisions about boundaries and putting my needs first. This totally goes against my parenting and codependent instincts.  

I used to think that hope was this passive feeling that showed up when you needed it.  It was a desperate attempt to hang on to some semblance of normalcy in this world.  Today I understand that Hope is a choice, a decision.  Hope is an action word that takes agency and guts. I choose hope for our son.

October is discovery month.  I’ve discovered that this journey has led me back to my authentic self.  I couldn’t be more grateful to my son for steering me into the path of what’s most important in my life.  This is the love we have as a family and the respect that each path is valuable and unique.  

These are some things I’ve discovered that my son has taught me…

  1. Expectations breed resentment.  Letting go of expectations is extremely difficult and it is also extremely liberating.
  2. Very little scares me anymore.
  3. It’s ok to say NO if I’m not ready or it doesn’t feel safe.
  4. People I love are safe to express sad and hard feelings, but I don’t have to fix them.
  5. My connection to myself and to our son is way more important than a fancy school diploma.

Gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes.  It’s a muscle that I’ve learned to use regularly and it’s with deep gratitude that I have come to better understand my son and appreciate all the gifts he has to offer. 

I hope you can join me, and my peer parent Lisa Stark, for our Coffee and Gratitude support group Saturday Mornings at 10am (EST) with Other Parents Like Me.