“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~Dr. Seuss
Yesterday I wrote about how freeing it is to let your adult children find themselves. It’s not easy to step back and get out of their way, especially if they have been your full-time job for twenty years, but it is a game changer for them and for you. After finishing my post last night, the universe provided proof of this to me.
On September 30th, the day I left Joe at Whitman College to begin his second semester, he attended the Student Activities Fair. When I asked him what activities or clubs he approached at the fair, I was a little taken aback when he told me he was submitting an application to be a DJ at the campus radio station. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Joe has long been aware of and interested in music. In May 2005 when he was not yet four, I put on some classical music for him to listen to and he listened for a few seconds and then said, “I don’t like that song. I just like to listen to Green Day in the car.” Since the day we brought them home from the hospital, our children have been exposed to alternative and indie rock, with the occasional 80s or 90s song thrown in for good measure, because that is what we listen to on satellite radio. Joe’s interest in Green Day grew into interest in The Killers. In his early teens, he acquired a side affinity for Asian pop music due to his love of anime, but ultimately he landed back in the alt rock genre around his sophomore year of high school.
Joe asked me to look over his application. He was putting in for a slot for a program he was calling Breaking Down Alternative. He was planning to go by JC (his first and middle initials) on the air and his show would go behind the music and delve into the artists’ influences and their personal stories. I told him it all looked good and took a “we’ll see” approach because I had no idea what kind of competition there might be for DJ slots. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later he casually texted it was official. He was going to be a DJ on Wednesday nights at 11 pm.
So last night, Steve and I stayed up from midnight until 1 am to listen to our son the DJ through a link he had provided to us. After a little fumbling at the beginning of his time slot, where two other DJs could be heard helping Joe get set up before realizing with a laugh that they were live, Joe finally came online. We heard him introduce himself and his show and then play his first song. With each passing song, the seamlessness with which he spoke and then started the music increased. It was amazing to be part of his first on-air experience. We could hear his smile through the radio, and it made us smile. We texted with him throughout the program. He was relaxed and happy and stunned by the quality of the music through the radio headphones. Our son blew us away, not because we thought he wouldn’t rise to the occasion but because he was out there, pursuing something that he loved and taking risks to put himself there. And this is why I said yesterday that he is a joy. He continually surprises us with his adulting, his knowledge of himself, and his choices. Like any college student, sometimes he misses the mark and stumbles, but he has proven that he learns from his missteps and then improves with the freshly acquired knowledge. Isn’t that exactly what a parent hopes for when they launch their child into the big, wide world?
This is why giving them a strong foundation and then letting them go to see what they will accomplish while they climb their own mountain is rewarding. The things we want or choose for them might pale in comparison to what they choose for themselves. What do we know, after all? As much as we tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves, they aren’t. They are completely different animals with their own ideas and talents. If we get out of their way, they might teach us something.