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An Early Valentine From My Adult Son

Originally posted on February 16, 2014

When my husband and I decided to incur significant debt to send our 28-year old son to the NOLS School for mountaineering training in the Himalayas for 40 days, the judgments from our friends, family, and co-workers were unanimous. We were right up there with the parenting idiots of the decade, members of the Enablers’ Hall of Fame—still trying to pour money into a son who had definite “failure to launch” issues.

Are we guilty as charged? We are. Then again, in this case, maybe we aren’t. When our son became a father in high school and then again at age 23, we started down a long path of helping him not only learn to parent, but to do so while earning a college degree and then a master’s in teaching. And when he was devastated after losing his teaching job and ended up severely under-employed delivering pizzas, we tried again to help emotionally and financially.

Concerned that he was dragging his heels in finding a better job and draining us, his exhausted parents, we gave him an ultimatum. We wanted out of the business of helping support him. He needed to look for a better job. His concerned older brother got into the act too, offering to pay for career counseling.

The counselor helped my son identify that he was best suited to have his own business, and that his passion was mountaineering. But clearly, he needed much more experience and training if he wanted to start a mountain guiding business. When research indicated the best programs for doing so were run by NOLS, we decided to give our son one last major financial gift—attending this program.

Are we crazy? Don’t three out of four startups fail? Why aren’t we pushing our son to get a decent job this minute and forget these crazy dreams of his?

I guess the jury is out on this one. All my husband and I know is that we raised a family and pursued our impractical dream of careers in dance and somehow made it work. We want our adult children to have that opportunity as well.

Yesterday, my son said something to me that felt like a lovely Valentine one day early: “I’ll never be able to thank you guys enough. What I hope is that one day, I can give my children the opportunity to pursue their passions the way you and Dad have for me.”

It just doesn’t get any better than that. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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