Prompt: What was the bravest thing you've ever done?
My parents were the original helicopter parents.
Not in the way that those parents are now, mind you. They weren't on the phone constantly to my teachers, they didn't make me participate in sports and then complain over every team roster and personal foul. They were what we used to call "sheltering" or "overprotective".
Those terms sound really ludicrous to me as a parent now. Part of me wants to scream that you can never, not ever, protect your children too much. But the girl who grew up with those parents knows that my job as a parent is to equip my children as much as possible to be able to live - and thrive - in a world without me in it.
My parents were of a different time and a different generation. My Mother married my father at the tender age of nineteen, and if he hadn't been in the military and stationed overseas for awhile, it probably would have been sooner. She went straight from her mother's house to her husband's house, and my oldest brother was born nine months and three weeks after their wedding day. She never held a full-time job, never paid rent, never owned her own car, never pumped gas, never balanced a checkbook (that was Daddy's job) and never questioned a bit of it.
My parents wanted much the same for me. They wanted me to find a solid man, a responsible man with a good job that they could hand off my care to, and then feel that they had successfully done their job in raising up their daughter in the way that she should go.
Leave it to me to buck the system. I wanted to go to college. Dad had no beef with a college education - he'd taken some courses himself at one point in time, and my brother being a college student was a never-ending source of pride. He didn't approve of my choice of major, or my choice of school (it was five hours away), but since I financed it all with student loans, scholarships and work-study money, he couldn't do too much about it. That is, until my world fell apart.
In the middle of my sophmore year, my brother graduated from college. Suddenly, our household went from having two students in college to having one, and my financial aid was cut almost in half. I had run out of money. My scholarships and workstudy alone weren't going to cover it, and my student loans were scaled back to where I would have to return home in December, and live there, taking general courses at the branch of another university that was in my hometown.
My parents were thrilled. Mom wanted me home and away from all those bad college influences, and Dad was practically rubbing his hands together in glee, planning the rest of my collegiate career right where I belonged - under his watchful eye.
I felt like I was facing Armageddon.
I had been living on my own for two years. And I liked it! I liked hearing other people's opinions and discussing them. I liked setting my own hours and being responsible for my own life. I loved what I was studying and I wanted to go on studying with my professors and fellow students. I felt alive there, like I had never felt before. My home, no matter how much I loved my parents (and I did), felt like a tomb. A cage. I felt like I was in serious danger of being exactly what they wanted me to be.
I came home for Christmas, morose and going through the motions. A few days after the holiday, the university branch in my town opened for admissions, and I headed down there and enrolled. My hand shook and I was sweating as I filled out the paperwork. I remember I threw up on the way home.
What was I going to do?? I had no money. I had no idea how to take care of myself, either. I'd only ever held a part time fast food job between semesters of college, and I'd spent the money as fast as I made it. I had no skills, no prospects, no way out of this situation. I'd probably end up dating some guy from the nearby Air Force base and marry him just to get out on my own again.
I stayed up all night that night. I cried a lot. I got sick again. I finally left my house around 4am and walked all over my town in the dark. The sun finally rose and I knew what I had to do.
I was going to go back to the university branch and disenroll myself. My father would get 100% of his money back if I did it within 3 days. I would call a friend of mine who had her own car and pay her what little money I had from Christmas if she'd give me a ride back to my old college. I'd enroll there under a payment plan, get a job, find a roommate and pay for my own college. Somehow, I'd do it, even if I had to work three jobs or work jobs I didn't want to work. I had to. I'd find a way.
That morning, I did exactly that, and while it wasn't all roses and I ended up taking six years to get my four year degree, I made it work. And from the day I pulled out of the driveway in my friend's car with my mother weeping softly and my Dad standing with his arms crossed, I have held a job, paid my rent, bought my food and taken care of myself without a whole lot of help along the way.
I never thanked them for all they didn't do, but I thank them now. I know they only wanted the best for me (insofar as they knew it) and wanted me safe and taken care of. I am both now, even after my husband traded me in for another woman and left me with primary custody of girl hitting puberty and a boy with autism. I don't question how I'm going to do this from day to day. I just know I will. I can and I will. I am sure of it.
And another thing I'm sure of: when they are grown, they will, too.
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