Parenting a 20 year old is really quite hard – who knew?

Mother, father and 20 year old son live under the same roof… The son has had a difficult year. He struggled with year 2 of college and came home … Not ideal. He loved the life of a student, he just got a bit lost in the academia …

Coming home for him was in some ways hard, even though we relieved many of the stresses. His freedom to do whatever he wanted at uni was gone – leaving a half full tin of baked beans on the kitchen surface for days or weeks ; not washing up until he needed something clean; bed linen that was changed once a term ( I admit to making an assumption there, but I did wash the sheets on his return,?so my assumption is based on an experience) ; Coming and going as he wished, nocturnal and unique (to me) living routines. In fact, I’m not sure there was any routine. He lived in the moment, he still does.
Living in the moment is good for us, or so they say. But the son seems to take this literally. There doesn’t seem to be any forethought, planning or awareness of the repercussions of his actions.

This bemuses me. An intelligent, agreeable young man. He is impulsive and spontaneous – something I admire, but this transition between child and young adult feels like the hardest part of parenting so far.

I’m a mother. The housekeeper. I can’t live like a student. Did I influence this behaviour in the son? Is this his unconscious/ conscious rebellion? Is this a form of control? As a child he once told me he wanted to pilot his own life…..

To a degree we did let him pilot his own life. Yes, I ask him to bring down his dirty clothes, empty his bin or change his bed – I always have a sense that I’m nagging, asking for too much. Am I? Who knows … what grates with me (and probably with him) is when left to his own devices, the choices he makes are quite often the wrong ones. Leaving us to clear up the mess, usually financial. We have his back, we don’t want him to muck up too badly, we also see the benefit of learning from mistakes. But he doesn’t seem to learn from past experiences, or he doesn’t want to? As mature adults we have foresight, something he doesn’t appear to have. He knows best, we know nothing. Did we have foresight at the age of 20? I have no idea….

His work, yes he has a job, involves him working long shifts from lunch time til 10:30pm. Perfect he thought, he can have the best of both worlds, working and lie ins! Woohoo!

He has been late for work a couple of times.. Go figure…….???

It’s ok I can’t work it out either …..

On Friday night/Saturday morning it all went a bit Pete Tong. He woke me at 6:45am, he was trying his hardest to be quiet, but he was noisy and full of hiccups. He had been out drinking with his mates, the local ones. They are all returning to uni this weekend. This was their last night together.

We had words at 7am that morning. He was angry with me for checking him out, he’s not often angry, this was good to see. He was angry because I attempting to engage with him at an inappropriate time of day. He wanted to sleep, he was drunk. He had to get up for work in 4 hours.

My reasons for engaging were to assess the situation. I hadn’t realised he had even gone out, as we were in bed before he returned from work. He was on the wrong side of sobriety, basically, pissed. Would he be ok for 1pm, when he had to drive to work? The husband and I were meant to be going away for the weekend. We couldn’t cancel, nor should we. But if we left, we were pretty sure he would get in a car.

Should we take over? What should we do. Should we remove his car keys? Who were we to make the decision? If he lived away we wouldn’t even know. Then I remembered the breathalyser. Bought for this very purpose, so we didn’t leave as early as planned. I cooked him a proper lunch, and we had a heated discussion as he ate it. Still inebriated, eyes red, very tired and not really with it. He believed he was right, we went around in circles.

With food consumption complete I suggested the breathalyser. He believed he was fine. We could see he wasn’t fine..BUT he believed he was. The breathalyser gave us data . The reading said “high” … he was taken a back.

We waited and drove the son the 5 miles to work…. His life will be a tad uncomfortable at 10:30pm, when he will wait for the late train… but surely he must see what has happened? Surely he has learnt from this? I don’t know, but I really hope so!

Parenting never stops I’m told. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t want to believe that! My M-I-L still thinks she knows best, her son, our children, her other grandchildren.. She worries about us all she says.; too thin, too fat, not sociable enough …. I could go on. Imagine if she knew everything that goes on! Her hair would curl !!

I don’t want to still be worrying about my children when I’m 85 (if I even live that long!) … I’m not sure I’m caring enough for that… I look forward to the time when he does actually pilot his own life, and feels fulfilled. It feels like a long way away at the moment.the-only-real-mistake

26 thoughts on “Parenting a 20 year old is really quite hard – who knew?”

  1. I’m the same age as your son and I went through the exact same thing. We’re stubborn adults who just graduated from teen hood; no matter how much we say we’re independent and grown up we’re still clueless. We go off to college and adopt new living habits which are unfortunately our very own. Don’t worry, he’ll come around. It just might take a while for him to find himself.

  2. It’s guesswork! Been there, done that. Said stuff that was not well received. Said stuff that hit the mark. Not said stuff that probably should have been said…. it’s the ‘tween stage that is so hard for some (like one of mine). Not a kid, but not yet a grown up. ANd for boys it’s the overload of testosterone without the finetuning and balancing of a mature executive functioning in the frontal lobe. Main thing is to just keep loving them and live in hope. Good luck !

  3. I can’t say I know exactly how you feel because I’m not a parent, but I can tell you my opinion from the child side. I’m also in my 20’s and I understand the difficulty you may be going through and butting heads with your son. This is normal because we are trying to figure out our lives and be independent but we are meant to make mistakes. I know that you are just caring for your son and trying to look after him and it all comes out of love. But sometimes we can just be stubborn and just know that the fact that your son may seem irresponsible that does not reflect your parenting skills. Kids just have to figure things out on their own, I know that when I went off to college I grew up a lot but I have always been independent. Everyone grows at their own pace, sometimes boys are slower lol. But, what I have noticed is that the only way that people learn from their mistakes or grow is if they choose to by themselves, because we may have people push us but most of the time it is ineffective. I assure you that your son will figure this out too, it is nothing out of the norm. He is also lucky to have a parent like you, support never goes to waste and as we grow older we learn how much our parents really do for us, for we are able to relate to them more. I just graduated from college and I can say that I’m much closer to my parents and very thankful.

  4. The struggle … This was a very honest post and I can feel your internal struggle through your words. How to let go, how much to hold on. Wanting to support but also knowing that the time has come for the boy to become a man and take the reins. Your frustration, anger and desire to be free of the worry and yet unable to not be emotionally invested, because this is your child. So many people will be able to relate to this and so many will have opinions but I just really liked the honesty here. Keep writing … It’s good for you:)

  5. I’ve had some arguments with my dad when I was young because I would always stay up and party with friends. At that time, I didn’t realize I was doing something wrong. For me, there was nothing wrong with going out with friends especially after graduating from college when I spent my younger days always studying. I thought that since I had already graduated, I am free to do just about anything and I guess that’s where we misunderstood each other. I didn’t realize they just simply cared – cared that I could get in trouble, cared about my safety, cared about my well-being. I forgot for how long we were like that. But trust that eventually, he’ll come around and realize his mistakes. Just stay strong and continue to guide him.

  6. I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent but I do know what it is like to feel lost , I’m going to be 20 exactly one month from the 25th and college is hard. Living on your own is tough , there is no Mom and Dad around to cook ,clean , and wash for you. Then some parents, like my own, tell us not to complain and go with the flow of college life. College is not like the movies , we don’t sit on the grass with our multiracial friends discussing Greco-Roman art. We spend most of our time studying for tests that won’t count when we fill out a resume for a job that we probably won’t get because we will be considered over-qualified or under-qualified for not having a Master’s Degree. College Students have it hard its not all binge drinking and salty snacks, its blood , sweat , and a lot of tears during these four years of Uni trying to live up to impossible standards set upon us by parents , nosey-a** friends of parents who ask way to many questions , your relative you may want t strangle during the holidays , nutball professors who tell more wild stories during class than they lecture and most importantly ourselves , students put more pressure on themselves to be “perfect” and excel we either suffer physically or mentally. Then again , sometimes we just give up and I think your son has given up.


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