Tag Archive | AFROTC

When Dreams Die

cloud-tearsAs parents, we are told to never push our dreams on our children. If we didn’t make the swim team, we are not supposed to force our kids to swim. If we always wanted to be a rock star, we are urged not to hand a guitar to our kids and order them to play. I get that. We didn’t do that. No matter how much I love baseball, I didn’t make my boys continue to play when they didn’t want to.

But no one told us what to do when our kids’ dreams change.

For 4 years our eldest lived and breathed JROTC. He rocked the uniform; he earned the promotions; he participated in the competitions; he won the awards. We emotionally invested ourselves in the dream he expressed of flying in the Air Force. We spent countless hours coaching him through his application to the Air Force Academy. We made sure that we were checking in along the way, ensuring this is what he wanted to do. When the Academy didn’t pan out, we wholeheartedly threw our support behind his entrance into UCF’s Air Force ROTC program. We bought the Air Force T-shirts and put the bumper sticker on our car. His dream became ours.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, he told us he didn’t want to do that anymore.

Wait. What?

He had decided he wanted to drop out of his college ROTC program and change his major. Now, for a freshman just halfway through his first semester, changing his mind on a major is not a big thing. But what happened to the dream?

I felt like I had whiplash. What was I supposed to do now? I had the bumper sticker, for crying out loud!

OK, step back. Take a deep breath. Here are 3 things to do when their dream changes and your dream dies.

1. Assure them that you will support them whatever they decide. Of course, my younger son then informed us that he was moving out tomorrow and heading to “Hungaria” and joining the circus. Seriously, though, Justin needs to know that it’s OK to explore options, as long as he’s doing it for the right reasons. Is he changing for fear that he won’t succeed at what he wanted to do?

2. Give yourself room to grieve the dream, and let them in on the process. I shared with both my sons how I was feeling about this change, and that, in the process, I would be asking questions more for my own sake than for his. (That’s the conversation where the circus came up. Thanks for keeping things light, Son.)

3. Ask them how you can help. With a change of major, even in freshman year, came the need for a conversation with a new advisor in the new college of study. All this had to happen fairly quickly so he could register for his next semester. My question to him was, “What would you like me to do for you?” He asked me to research a couple of things for him relating to what he was considering pursuing next. I can do that. And I can pray. Pray for him and for us as we try to refocus.

I really don’t care what he does. I honestly don’t. He can be a garbage collector (though that might not be the best use of a college education), as long as he is listening to the Lord and doing what He wants him to do.

Getting a bumper sticker off the car is another issue.

image from sourceseekers.com

The Freshman Edition

ucfOur first act as the parents of a college student was to attend orientation with our son. Here are a few things that I took away from our 2-day adventure at the University of Central Florida.

1. They separated the parents and the students for a reason. My son needed to receive all the information for himself. If he had questions, he needed to know where to go to find the answers. He’s a smart guy; he can figure things out.

2. Our role is changing from parenting to coaching. I’m fairly certain this is going to be the hardest part for me. How do you take something you’ve done for 18 years, and just stop doing it? Granted, I’ve tried to back off a lot this last year, but the hard, cold fact is, I like to be in control. Letting him navigate his own way is essential. We’re always here if he wants to ask us anything, but I need to let him come to me. There are benefits to him living at home, of course, but the downside is that he’ll still be around for me to know what’s going on. I will have to learn extraordinary self control to not fall into my old habits.

3. We still have a lot to learn, both about ourselves and about our son. How will I react if he doesn’t receive the waiver he orientationneeds from the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board that will allow him to continue his ROTC and hopefully Air Force officer career? What will I do if he fails an exam or even, heaven forbid, a class? How do I keep the lines of communication without being smothering? What subjects are off limits for me to approach?

Overall, I’m more excited for this next year than anything. I’m excited for the experiences my son will have, for the people he will meet, for the connections he will make. I’m glad he’s going to be close by so that I don’t have to miss him. It’s a new and exciting stage that I’m sure won’t be without its challenges, but I know will be significant in his life.

Stay tuned to That Senior Year for more of what I glean from this freshman year.

What advice do you have for us as new college parents? I’d love to hear from you.

5 Tips For Parenting Your Senior

IMG_2877I’m just starting this new blog on traveling the senior-year journey with my son. I remember praying that Jesus would return before he started high school because I was—albeit jokingly—terrified of what he would encounter in {shudder} high school. And now here he is, entering his senior year.

Yes, there have been pot holes and debris in the road, but I must say the path has been fairly smooth so far, thank the Lord. And now the fun of his last year at home begins. I don’t in any way, shape or form pretend to know it all. But I have some good friends that have walked this path before me, and I will happily be gleaning what I can from them as the year progresses. Following are just a few things that I’ve learned so far.

#1. Give Him Freedom Within Bounds.

He really is a big boy (6’1 1/4″ of big). He has a job. He is going to be the vice wing commander of his 500+ cadet AFJROTC unit in the fall. He’s a part of a smaller group of guys from within his larger youth group who study the Bible and talk about issues. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. He wants to be a career Air Force officer. He really can be trusted. I need to back off. He’s not a toddler anymore.

#2. Be There For Him.

He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, both his father and I need to be available for him, even if it’s late at night. If he comes into the room where I’m sitting, I need to put down what I’m doing and be ready to listen. Sometimes he’ll talk, sometimes he won’t, but he needs to know we’re there for him.

3. Keep The Questions To A Minimum Unless He Invites Them.

My son hates for me to ask questions. I usually get one-word answers, which drives me batty. “How was school today?” gets me, “Fine.” “What did you do?” gets me “Stuff.” That’s how it’s been since freshman year. Now it’s said with a little grin. I still ask, but I don’t dig.

4. Think The Best Of Him.

If I’m always expecting that my teens are going to get in trouble, then I’m doing them a disservice. They are smart, polite, do well in school and have a relationship with Jesus. Sure, they argue sometimes and frustrate me, but this senior boy knows what he wants to do and he’s not out making trouble. If I treat him like a responsible adult, he’s more likely to act like one.

5. Pray Without Ceasing.

There is never a moment in time when I should think, “It’s all good.” During this year, there are going to be myriad of decisions both large and small that he’s going to need to make. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms is the only way he’s going to survive. He knows he’s capable; I want him to know he’s reliant on Jesus. As am I.

What other advice would you give?