Thursday, March 27, 2014

Communicating with Young Adult Children

I thought the hardest time communicating with my kids would be when they were little. Maybe they didn't know all the words yet. Maybe they could understand but not speak.
Communication has been hindered even as they grow up.
This morning, Grace texted me asking if we could talk today -- "face to face."
And luckily, we could. I teach in the evenings on Thursday, so I put aside my plans for the day. My writing, my grading, and drove the half hour to her college, picking her up between classes.
She climbed in the car and gave me a big hug.
We drove to Starbucks and I pulled out a legal tablet. I made three columns and put a heading for each one -- her choices for the summer -- an internship in Scotland that would be behind the scenes theater work; a full-time job at the college as front of the house manager of the theater; or a couple of part-time jobs that would allow her to act in a few musicals this summer.
She filled out her list of pros and cons for each possibility. In the end, it didn't matter which column had more pros and fewer cons; it came down to her heart.
Sensibly, she should take the theater job with a chance to make a lot of money and have a solid management credential on her resume. But her heart is in acting. She couldn't bear to give it up.
"Look, you have one more semester at school. There's no reason you have to make a lot of money this summer. That might not be true next summer. Next summer you'll have to be more responsible. Go with what you love." I told her.
I get to see these two more often and communicate in
person with them. But talking with an 18-year-old boy
is never easy. 
Hopefully, she'll make enough to cover her living expenses this summer and her books in the fall. Come December, she'll graduate and be in the real world. This summer she can act. She's starting with The Graduate in April, then has pretty solid promises of roles in Into The Woods and Legally Blonde. It's probably not the most responsible choice, but for most of our lives we have to make the responsible choice rather than doing what we love.
I'm so thankful that Grace is close enough that when she texted and asked me to meet her, I could. That hasn't always been the case since she started at a college 10 hours away.
The distance is one thing I'm negotiating with my youngest as he decides where to go to college. He liked Mizzou (University of Missouri) which is more than an 8-hour drive from home. But he has other choices 1 1/2 hours away and 3 hours away. I have to try to convince him that being within a short driving distance has its advantages. At 18, the far away colleges seem  to be full of promise and intrigue.
On our drive home from the college visit the other night, in the dark as we both stared straight ahead at the highway, I tapped Tucker on the leg and asked him to take off his headphones. Headphones are like armor to teenage boys -- they keep everyone away.
We started talking in the dark, battling at first until finally the walls came down and we told each other how we honestly felt about the colleges, about these last few days of high school. It felt like a reprieve and I could breathe a sigh of relief for a little while.
Which brings me to my other son, age 20, and attending college in Florida. That's a 16-hour drive away. Only a couple of hours on a plane, but the cost adds up for that. He's on spring break in Miami and called yesterday to say that he dropped his cell phone in the hot tub. It's not working now.
This is the hot tub Spencer dropped
his phone into. 
This is not a new phenomenon for my children. Grace dropped her phone in the Mediterranean Sea when she visited Europe.
Luckily, we have an upgrade available, so I can send him a new phone. He was due for one this summer anyway. Without a cell phone, I truly have no way to reach him. I'm hoping for no emergencies until I can get him another phone.
For now, he's perusing the phone choices on our cell phone carrier. I'm already dreading the time when he gets the phone and I have to walk him through activating it. He's my least technically inclined. He'd much rather clear trails in a forest than navigate a computer or cell phone.
So communicating with kids doesn't get that much easier as they grow up, and we try to figure out new ways to keep in touch.
I'm not complaining though. At least we're all still trying to relate to each other.


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

My sons are only under two hours away , but with families of their own and of course work . One son phones me quite a bit , but the other son works 2 til Midnight , so sometimes I don't hear from him for weeks. I think it is just how things are .

You mention Scotland, Is that Edinburgh? My eldest grandson's aunty (other family) works in Theatre there , having graduated from UNI there.

Paulita said...

Anne, I suppose sons can be bad at communication. Good thing you have one who is conscientious. I may use your connection in the theater in Edinburgh.

grammajudyb said...

My sister-in-law says it best. "One of the hardest things about raising independent children is raising independent children." It is what we all want and the hardest thing to accept.

Just Me said...

Congrats to Grace on landing a part in the Graduate. It's validating that she wanted to come to you to help sort out her choices. I'm here to agree that she has plenty of work years ahead of her.

That's funny about the cell phones in water. For some reason I know about plenty that have ended up in toilets.

To the sons defense, they communicate differently not worse. Case in point, I don't seem to encounter any fathers noticing.

Just Me said...

Love what grammajudyb's sister in-law says. That's a keeper.

Linda said...

I remember being in college and standing in line at a pay phone to call home. How times have changed. I am going to see Into the Woods here in Paris next month.

Paulita said...

Judy, Just Me, and Linda, Thanks for your thoughts and affirmations. My "adult" children continue to keep me busy this weekend. I don't think parenting gets any easier. Glad I have support from you all.

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