Her younger son was the better athlete, the more gifted musician, the smarter of her two sons. Where the older son--through trial, error and diligent study--is now on a successful career path, her younger son has failed to launch. So far. After a post-college year of living at home and delivering pizza, he went off to Europe for a one-year graduate school program. But now he's back and once again, living at home and delivering pizza. He won't take his mother's advice about job hunting--at least that is the face he shows his mother. In fact, he won't talk to her about it at all. When he applied for and won an internship at a prestigious non-profit, she hoped it would be an intellectual trigger for possible careers or a jumping off place for a more remunerative job. She was wrong. He quit after a month--he found the chores he was asked to do distasteful, low-tech and stodgy.
So now my friend C sits at lunch and says she is "finished" with him. She says she is going to leave it to her husband to deal with his son and the son's uncertain path forward.
This of course is how she sees it--her son is secretive and unwilling to share what is going on his life.
For all she knows, however, he may be diligently networking and checking out every lead he comes across--not necessarily her leads but those of his peers and mentors. Who knows what's really going on.
I am not unsympathetic to her plight and point of view. It is very hard on us moms and dads when we have to sit and watch our children struggle to find a footing in the grown-up world of careers and work. I tell C to have faith, that her son is smart and talented; she instilled good values when he was growing up. He will find his way. Her problem, I suggest, is that she sees too much.
My children are older than hers---launched by now into careers, growing families and home-ownership. But back in the day when they were recent college graduates, they headed out for points unknown--she went to California; he went to New England. They were seeking respite from the stress of competitive college courses and wondering what they would do with their lives. Their way forward was far from clear. They had their trials and many errors, some of which we learned about--from a distance. And that's the point I was trying to make to C: We didn't live through their day to day decisions, distractions and disillusion. We didn't, in fact, see too much, the way we would have had they lived at home.
When grown-up children are trying to figure out where they fit into the adult world of work and career, watching it up close and personally is anxiety provoking. Why aren't they going down this road rather than that one? Why do they make decisions that seem wrong-headed and counter productive?. And what kind of help or advice do we have that is relevant and meaningful in today's online, social media world--a world in which we may not be literate?
For C, the situation is too fraught to think much about the larger questions. She says--but doesn't quite mean--that she's "throwing up her hands" and giving up on Son #2. If only her son bunked in with friends--was out of sight and less on her mind-- things would be a lot easier on her and on him. He'll get there, but the sausage-making is unnerving.