My 19 y/o son dropped out of college and now his only "goal" is to be waiter.

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  • JD
    July 11, 2018 at 7:16 am #762140

    I agree. 19 year olds are selfish. But guess what. This is the time they are supposed to be. They are finally making their own choices. They finally can do whatever they want. I agree you sound obsessed with what others think and bitter for the sacrifices you made. You’ve allowed him to get away with whatever he wants and now you don’t like that he expects it to continue. This is why people put their foot down with their kids, to avoid that.

    July 11, 2018 at 7:47 am #762151

    Sue — You are being extremely controlling of your son. It sounds like you give him close to zero input into planning his own life. He succeeded academically in H.S. but he thinks he paid a big price in social failure. He likely is desperate for social success and more than a little burned out by his heavy academic load and your extremely demanding expectations. He needs to succeed for himself in a way which is important to him and which may come back to being more academic/professional in future. You are all over the place. You stopped his meds because you thought they made him too thin. You implanted this idea in his mind. His meds make him unattractive. Is it any wonder he now doesn’t want to do meds? He is also of the age where more serious psychological problems surface, such as schizophrenia. He may not want to see his psychologist, because the psychologist suggested he has a more serious problem, which he is denying. That’s an outside possibility. Likeliest thing is he has burned out and needs low-stress time to recover and regroup. You have driven this mule too hard and he has collapsed in self preservation. Now you are upset, angry and lashing out and beating the poor mule. That won’t get him to stand up and carry the too heavy load again.

    You seem to have totally linked your own concept of self-worth and the face you present to the world to your son’s academic success. You need to live your own life, while very gently and empathetically helping him as he wants you to help him. He needs help paying for the apartment. Do that as a stop gap. You seem to have rather vindictively taken the view that if your son won’t follow the path you assigned then he can just sink and drown as you move to the other coast and abandon him and the shame you feel he has caused you. He should not be responsible for maintaining your sense of pride. You are supposed to be the mature, responsible, self-sufficient adult here. He is a hormonal teen ager, who is having problems. Almost all kids have problems of one sort or another.

    The control-the-kid-with-money and self sacrifice doesn’t work. You are guilting him and trying to bribe him. What you need to do is assure him that you are in his corner and willing to help him… regardless.

    Each of us is born with just one life to live to the best of our ability. You have to live yours and allow him to live his. Unfortunately, he needs some psychological help now and he is over 18, so your options are limited and you have somewhat poisoned that well for him with your prior insistence that he stop taking his meds. It sounds like it was not so much that he lost weight as that you felt shame to have a son on meds.

    You care entirely too much about what your friends think of your son.

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    July 11, 2018 at 8:57 am #762162

    Perhaps you could take the view that he actually has a job. It could be a helluva lot worse–he could be 19-year old without a job, living with you on your dime, and expecting you to continue to do so. Please let him figure out his path in life–not the one you want for him–but the one he navigates himself. At his age, some self-realization on his part my very well steer him back towards school, or, it may not; but at least let him find his own sense of self and worth.

    July 11, 2018 at 10:18 am #762184

    “he needs to get his a** kicked by life so he can stop having his entitled attitude.”

    Well, there you have it. It’s time to let go, and let him figure things out. Do you really want him to stay in school, wasting your money by half-assing (or failing) his classes? Wouldn’t you rather he attend the School of Hard Knocks for awhile, so that if/when he’s ready to do college again, he’s serious about it and ready to learn? My alma mater offers a program specifically for non-traditional-age students who had their educations interrupted for whatever reason (single parenthood, finances). Those students are *renowned* on campus for being doggedly focused on their studies.

    I get that you’re angry. It must be incredibly frustrating. But it’s his life to live. If you’d prefer not to provide any financial assistance right now, you might consider telling him that whenever he’s ready to go back to school, you’ll help pay for that.

    July 11, 2018 at 10:45 am #762190

    I want to acknowledge that this has probably been a very stressful and tense time between your son, and I do believe you are coming from a place of love and concern.

    But, it seems like because you for so long put your son first, you’ve sort of lost who you are as a person. His choices and success has become entwined yours. If I could make you go back in time, I wish you could’ve put yourself once in a while and on occasion get a haircut or splurge once in awhile on a nice outfit.

    At the end of the day – a parents job is to provide a foundation for their children so they can become self supporting successful adults. Adults that get to make their own choices, even if they aren’t the ones their parents would choose. For you, that day is here. He is legally an adult now, he’s getting to make his own decisions. Hopefully you’ve equipped him to handle life on his own. Your days of trying to mold him and prepare him for life are over. It’s his turn now.

    I know you find it upsetting he’s dropped out of this track you had in mind for him, but that’s his decision to make now. And from where I stand, a teenager self supporting themself financially is still impressive! He could be bumming on a friends couch, smoking weed and playing video games all day. But he’s not, he’s found a way to be productive and support himself.

    He may decide to go back to school one day, or otherwise pursue a more lucrative career. Plenty of young people do. It sounds like he had a super heavy school load for anyone, much less someone dealing with adhd. He is probably burned out and needs a break. Maybe with some breathing space, he will discover what he is actually passionate about. Or maybe he will decide that a high prestige and high paying career isn’t something he values. Maybe he will decide he wants a straightforward job that allows him a simpler life. That would be okay, that is a valid way to live.

    I wouldn’t compare him to his peers. Where people are at at 19 doesn’t necessarily predict where they’ll be at 29 or 59. Life has obstacles for all of us. Some of his peers may make it thru med school to decide they hate medicine, ending up where you son is now but ten years older and with massive student loans. Some may suffer mid life layoffs. Some may fail in their personal lives. Some may just be asshole people. Don’t worry about other people.

    It’s time you start letting your son live his own life, but is also time for you to start living yours. If you want to retire because that’s what you want, do it. If you want to move somewhere you’ve also wanted to live, move.

    Northern Star
    July 11, 2018 at 10:56 am #762195

    You’re mad that your kid acted like a KID when you made adult sacrifices for him. Now, he’s an adult and your investment isn’t paying off. Guess what: Investments sometimes don’t pay off.

    He’s not on drugs. He’s not stealing. He’s not knocking up girls and becoming a deadbeat father. He’s just working instead of going to college. (And you are frankly insane if you think every kid who says he wants to be a neurosurgeon actually BECOMES a neurosurgeon…)

    If this kid had no friends in high school, I am not surprised in the slightest that the idea of a basic job with lots of social interaction appeals to him. He gets to talk to people. He might have “work friends.” He might be succeeding at Chilis instead of struggling every damn day.

    You don’t have to finance his life at this point. If he wants to work instead of going to school, he’ll have to figure out a way to support himself. That’s a fair deal. But when you basically hate your son and want him out of your LIFE because he’s a “loser,” well. Your anger doesn’t match his supposed crime. And you were foolish and wrong to pin all of your hopes and dreams on him becoming a neurosurgeon in the first place.

    July 11, 2018 at 11:18 am #762199

    I understand that you sacrificed for your son. But at the same time, you need to understand that you cannot control him and force him to be what you want him to be because you didn’t get your hair done for 19 years. His life is still his to live. You seem to take your son’s success as the only possible indicator of your worth as a mother. But that’s not true. Many kids will never be neurosurgeons no matter how wonderful a childhood they had. And many kids who had terrible childhoods achieve great things.

    Don’t let your frustration and disappointment irreparably damage your relationship with him. Follow that age-old mom advice “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and give yourself cooling off time until you can let your expectations go. Your son may never be a neurosurgeon, and maybe “all” he’ll ever be is a waiter. If he is happy and gainfully employed and able to support himself (maybe not glamorously in a giant house with pool and car collection, but pays the bills and keeps a roof over his head) then that’s still pretty good.

    And as for your friend’s apparently more successful kids… this is assuming facts not in evidence. Plenty of people got straight A’s, graduated with honors, and still couldn’t find good jobs. Plenty of people took on tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and struggle to make ends meet on their waiter (yes, waiter) salaries. A college degree with a high GPA is no longer a good indicator of who will be successful.

    And ok, fine. Probably some of your friends’ kids will be more successful than your son. So be it. Its not a competition.

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    July 11, 2018 at 11:35 am #762205

    Ok, first of all, I am a mother a kid with special needs similar to ADHD, so I come from that perspective and I understand the unique challenges, the disappointments, the stress, and all of that involved in parenting a child who is neurologically different. I have to say that, for me, this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, and I’ve had my fair share days of feeling sorry for myself, sorry for my child, and worrying that life will always be a struggle for my kid.

    THAT SAID, there is so much to be grateful for!! And so much to celebrate. Of course, every situation is different, and my child was diagnosed much, much earlier than yours so we were able to get lots of support in place very early, which makes a big difference. High school is kind of late for an ADHD diagnosis, and I wonder how much struggling was done before that diagnosis and how many obstacles were overcome without support. You should be so so so proud of your son!! He’s really come a very long way while facing challenges he surely faced long before his diagnosis. I hope you can see and appreciate that.

    Even if he didn’t have special needs — that have largely been unaddressed most of his life, I’m assuming? — 19 is an age that a lot of kids rebel from their parents, take a “gap” year, or step off a trajectory that may have been projected on them to figure out what it is they really want to do. That’s all your son is doing right now. And you need to give him the space and time to do that – to figure out what it is he wants, without the pressure of living up to your very high expectations and ideals.

    I’d also suggest some therapy for yourself if you aren’t already getting some. I understand some of the challenges and worries you’ve likely faced, but your tone and hostility is… well, it’s inexcusable. Your son doesn’t deserve it. Go take care of yourself while your son is learning how to be an adult in the world and figuring out his next steps. It sounds like you both have earned a break. I hope you’ll take advantage of the time and space to practice some self-care so that you’re better able to relate to people in your life from a place of love instead of the hostility and bitterness you’ve exhibited in this thread…

    July 11, 2018 at 11:45 am #762207

    Most people have a friend who has more successful children, however your friend group defines success. There can only be one ‘most successful by our group’s standards’ kid in the friend group. However, almost all of the kids can lead happy, productive lives if they are allowed to step away from the personal competitiveness of the parents in the friend group.

    Second, this kid isn’t selfish, or feeling entitled. Likely what he is feeling is totally lost in life and totally dominated by his mother. From what Sue writes, it sounds like the kid cracked under all the pressure and suffered some sort of mental breakdown, which he tried to hide from Sue, knowing in advance how she would react to this sign of weakness. The pressure of too much school work with parental demands for high grades, coupled with not having a social life, will do that to many non-selfish, non-entitled kids. It doesn’t matter how much Sue sacrificed to give him the right ‘advantages’ and push him along her preferred path. He followed that path as far as he could and then… he didn’t rebel, he didn’t claim entitlement, he simply broke.

    As one advances up the educational ladder, the competition increases. Sounds like the kid got by on sheer effort plus probably average intelligence, while struggling with his ADHD. Now the competition is tougher, professors are more demanding, and he was over-whelmed. He’s not the first kid this happened to. They don’t do it on purpose. It’s not selfishness. It’s not attitude or entitlement or a loser. It’s drowning.

    It is possible that their are more serious mental health issues in play here. That possibility shouldn’t be ignored.

    Any mother can try to be a ‘tiger mom’. Not every boy can grow up to be a tiger. Sometimes parents have totally unreasonable expectations, which their kids can’t satisfy. It truly sounds to me like the son tried very hard to follow his mother’s path and did the best he could.

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    July 11, 2018 at 11:50 am #762209

    I really like Ron’s mule analogy. You blame your sons lack of friends on his ADHD, but also state you put him in all Honors classes with ELEVEN AP classes which he then ran out of and spent his senior year taking university classes NOT with his peers. Geez, this boy did all he could for you to meet your expectations. Taking a year off before college is probably just what he needs to rest and re calibrate. Gap years are pretty common in other parts of the world.

    It is pretty obvious that your love for him comes with the condition that he meet all your expectations and does exactly what you want, which is pretty unfortunate. If you stay this way, considering your son a loser because he knows what he needs right now and is doing it, you’ll lose out on a relationship with him forever.

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    July 11, 2018 at 11:53 am #762210

    First of all, Sue, if you “don’t have time to sugar coat things”, then why are you demanding that WE sugar coat our responses to YOU? Being rude in reply isn’t going to get anyone here to go “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry for offending you!” It’s just going to invite more scorn.

    Second — and I know people have made this point, but I just want to emphasize it because I’m hoping the 12 hours or so since you posted this have helped you refocus and recognize the issue — we certainly have sympathy for you feeling lost and worried about your son’s well-being. It sucks to be in a situation where you realize your son has been lying to you about his circumstances and then to sit back and replay months and months of time in your head wondering if you missed the signs and signals. But where you lose us is when your letter (and replies) turn from “I’m worried about how his choices now are going to close doors for him in the future that he didn’t mean to close” to “How dare he make these choices after all I’ve done! How dare he embarrass me!” Just to turn it around for a moment: how do you that the choices you made were the best ones for him? How do you know that they didn’t harm him? And if they did harm him, would you still have made them? I mean, it’s possible someone could argue “How dare YOU pressure him so much to focus on textbooks at the expense of everything else in his life,” and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.

    Here’s my biggest sticking point: education is great. Education is wonderful. Education can be the silver bullet, the great equalizer. But the key word is “can.” We have been socialized to believe that degrees are the measure of intelligence, but study after study has shown that there are multiple axes in which “intelligence” can be quantified. My brother-in-law is one of the smartest guys I know, and he absolutely loves my sister and nephew to the heavens and back. He also happens to be a brilliant mechanic who can instinctively fix anything and everything that has parts. But when he graduated high school, he did a semester of college and realized that it wasn’t working for him. He was doing OK, and he could have finished, but he didn’t want to waste his time and money on a degree he wasn’t going to use. So he dropped out, and went to work as a mechanic to support my sister through college, and he basically put his shop on the map. And when my sister graduated college and went to work for a defense contractor, she referred people with car issues over to him. And like a fairy tale, one day her boss was bitching about how no one could fix his expensive foreign car’s unusual problems, and my sister told him to bring it to her husband after work as a favor, and my BIL took one look at it and fixed it in 15 minutes. And her boss was impressed enough with him that he made some calls to friends he knew, and one of them was a CEO of an engineering firm who met my BIL, loved him, and offered him three times his salary to come work for him, with a promise to upgrade his job title and salary and pay for the whole thing if he agreed to pursue an Electrical Engineering degree. And he just graduated last December at 30 years old, and he’s got a job most people would kill to have at that age. And all of his success came WITHOUT the degree, not BECAUSE of it.

    Oh, and one other thing that I know people have already mentioned but bears repeating: people only show you what they want you to see. I’m a lawyer from a Top 100 school with a decade under my belt. I had friends with better GPAs and fancier jobs who appeared to have it all. The key word is “had,” because they’re dead. 8 of them, to be exact, in the last 3 years. That doesn’t count the hundreds of lawyers I personally know in a variety of specialties with substance abuse issues, or mental health issues, or divorces, or affairs, or whatever. Doctors are the same way, sadly. I love my job, like REALLY love it, but sometimes it even gets too much for me. So what I’ve learned is that if you love what you do and you are happy with your life THAT is what matters. Your son is still incredibly young, and nothing has been foreclosed to him yet, so don’t give up hope that his life will end up being positive and worthwhile for him. Just have faith.

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    July 11, 2018 at 11:57 am #762212

    you put him in all Honors classes with ELEVEN AP classes which he then ran out of and spent his senior year taking university classes NOT with his peers

    One other point I forgot to make that this reminded me of: with all those classes AND the university classes, let’s be honest here: he could take a year off and STILL probably graduate on time. I mean, I haven’t looked at credit transfer sheets since I was a freshman in college, but assuming he passed the AP classes he’s probably looking at something like 50 or 60 credits on the standard 128 credit system. I mean, that’s basically having finished his sophomore year before graduating high school. Let’s not minimize that.

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