Stepping Back is Hard

Stepping back is hard.

T.’s son from his first marriage failed calculus and English class and did not graduate this past May. He would have gotten his associate degree but since he failed two classes, the graduation plans got canceled. He kind of waited till the very last moment to announce the bad news, just in time for T. and his grandparents not to buy plane tickets to fly all the way to California. Well, at least he was aware of that.
Stepping back

Right after the graduation fiasco the young man decided to enroll into a very intense officer training program where he finished week 8 of 10 before he got sent back home due to a physical injury. The intense training definitely took a toll but thankfully he is recovering well, both physically and emotionally.

In the perfect world, at the ripe age of 23 the young man should be well on his way to be finishing up his graduate degree but here he is, instead, having finished only 2 years of the associate program, without graduating. But then, of course, the world is anything but perfect.

T.’s son is a kind, well-mannered, well-behaved and sensitive young adult. He is also a very average student, his grades have never been impressive and there is a history of him failing a few classes (both in high school and during his time at a community college). He enjoys computer classes, coding, graphic design and all that relates to it but otherwise he does not like to study. Forget math, chemistry or English classes, all these are going down the hill whenever he takes them.

Now that he is back from the officers training, the question arises ‘What to do next’?? Everyone is worried. T. jumps in with endless advice, grandparents jump in with suggestions, all of them basically circling around the idea of going back to the community college and finishing up that unfortunate associate degree. This is where I am jumping in with my 2 cents wondering why would he do that while it is loud and clear that a) he is not a motivated student and he, himself, says he is just too lazy to study b) the associate degree alone gives him absolutely nothing and c) is it all worth it for him to take a mountain of students loans just for that?? My idea is that he shall pursue his passion in coding, graphic design and such. Take some classes focusing just on that. Forget associate and other degrees if he is not motivated to study. In my humble opinion, improving skills he is actually good at is what it is about at this point. Something that would give him skills that could translate into making money.

Well, basically the young man got blasted with all these pieces of advice not necessarily asking for it. He says he will figure it out

It’s hard to step back and not comment, not give advice and just watch his next step, especially T. is having a hard time to do so. It is his son after all and I know that he worries. This is the time of letting go though; at 23 I emigrated to the USA all by myself and I immediately started working, supporting myself and sending as much money as I could back to Poland to help out my parents. I had responsibilities, I had so much in my plate. So I chime in saying that and I get everyone upset. ‘You know it’s not the case with the kids here. At 23 they still need support’. They need encouragement, good example and taking on more responsibilities on. That’s what I think they need. They cannot learn any other way.

So I am trying to step back and not advise anything and I keep asking T. do same. What are YOUR thoughts here? What is the magic age when your adult children need to start being responsible for themselves and their actions all by themselves?



  1. TerriCheney says:

    For MY 2cents: My children were all working at high school age and once they graduated there was no going to college, much as I’d have loved to see them do it. Two went into the military and one got a job while the baby got married when she left highschool. Not one of my children asked for advice, or expected to be ‘supported’ by anything other than encouraging words. At present they are all homeowners, parents, and not one of them has asked for money. A loan here and there which they paid back immediately, but never money. Just so you think its not just you and a culture that is unfamiliar in the U.S…Not all parents and grandparents hover over their kids the way this family seems to be doing. It is common enough. Let him figure out what he’s going to do. He’ll make good in the end if he has the qualities you’ve said he does, and he’ll do it despite those who want to tell him how he ought to get it done.

    • SimpleIsGood4U says:

      Thank you Terri for your ‘2 cents’. I do believe if there is ‘no need’ to become responsible the young adults will take much longer to be on their own. Why would they rush into adulthood if there is a ‘hovering’ parent ready to jump in with cash at any time? T. and I are talking about his son a lot and I see there is also a lot of guilt that T. has because his son grew up in a broken home (divorce), it feels like sometimes he thinks that jumping in and providing for every single need for this young, 23 year old man will erase all the mistakes that he made as a parent. (which of course is not the case). I think by doing that one is making a mistake because it only delays the ‘growing up’ process and encourages laziness!

  2. Libby says:

    My brother is the same way, my father paid for a very expensive education for him and he squanders it away. My father still gives him money and it drives me crazy! My father also financed my education which I am extremely grateful for, but I got a job as soon as I graduated and didn’t expect more help. We did ask for a medium size loan when we bought our first house and we paid it back on schedule. I wish he would stop funding my brother so he could learn to rely on himself and maybe find some purpose in his life.

    • SimpleIsGood4U says:

      That’s exactly what I tell my husband, how on earth his son will start figuring things out all by himself when he does not have to? Just this past May when he failed his classes, we found out from his half brother that all he was doing (instead of studying), was playing video games 6-8 hours a day. I definitely do not want to be encouraging and funding that kind of behavior and whenever my husband sends him money, it surely comes our from our mutual budget :/
      If that was his elderly parent struggling I would be the first one helping out and making sure they have enough, but when it is a young and healthy adult, it bothers me. So yes, I definitely see how your dad supporting your brother past his college years, while you manage on your own (which is the right thing to do) bothers you too.

  3. Lea says:

    As a parent, university professor here in the US and someone whose parents paid for her college education, I say have him focus on the skills that will get him a job (coding, etc). Better yet, have him get a job using those skills and then continue the education. Often working helps pinpoint the skills a person needs and helps them understand if they really need that degree or not.

    Not everyone is a good match for college and, even more so, most aren’t ready without some life experience (I’m a HUGE advocate of people taking a gap year or two!). Many drop out and many get a degree they’ll never use because they push through without a real reason for getting it.

    Hovering is a HUGE problem – I could tell stories. And, yes, they need responsibilities, not more coddling.


    • SimpleIsGood4U says:

      Good point. Once a young adult starts working, they can decide if they DO want to continue studying and what direction is best for them. Going to college, just for the sake of college, getting poor grades and getting stuck with student loans, while still not being sure what direction they want to take is a bit of a waste of all the resources.
      T.’s son actually got a leap year in France of all the cool places. (he is bi-lingual as his mom is French). He interned for a IT company and he absolutely loved it.

  4. Amber says:

    This is my perspective and story. I’m an ESL teacher, so I see everything. About half of my students are refugees for Thailand and have seen horrendous things. I teach in a school where we have very high free and reduced lunch numbers, which equates to higher poverty and mobility rate (which affects everything). And I see kids who are killing it. They graduate and are taking life by the horns. I also see kids who are lost and don’t have a clear direction. It is possible to be young and to be self-sufficient. When people say otherwise, I say they are the ones being naive.

    I, like you at 23, was on my owning and had traveled extensively in Europe and finished my undergraduate degree. I come from a very poor family where we were told, numerous times, debt was bad and we needed to hustle, and find our passion. Now the mother of 3, plus one more, we are teaching our children, although very young, college is not for everyone. But it is expected that they must work hard for whatever they want out of life. My kids see us pursing our passions, selling things on Ebay, and trying to get out of the rat-race.

    I don’t want to make any assumptions about your stepson, because I’m sure there are multiple reasons he is where he is now.

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