Happier At Home: The “Safe”, Parent Approved Track

“I know many people who started out on a “safe”, parent-approved track, only to leave it – voluntarily or involuntarily-after they’d spent a lot of time, effort, and money to pursue a course that had never attracted them…it’s painful to see your children risk failure or disappointment, or pursue activities that seem like a waste of time, effort and money. But we parents don’t really know what’s safe, or a waste of time.” – from Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

It started about nine months ago, the persistent questioning (sometimes to the point of nagging, in fact) that let us know he wanted a change. At first we hardly listened, brushing him off with a ‘we’ll see’ in hopes that it was just another spur of the moment idea. The persistence continued, growing more intense each day until we gave in to his request to ‘sit down and talk’ and we heard what he was saying: he wanted to move to a ski academy.

Sugar Bowl AcademyI don’t know why this surprised me, really. My kids have never really taken the ‘safe’ track for much in their lives; they push themselves with extreme, risky sports and always try to live life as an adventure. They love risk – so different from my childhood.

As parents, I think many times we make decisions based on what feels right and how the decision will effect our children – which sometimes is the right way to go. We check movie reviews, investigate song lyrics, evaluate safety ratings on our cars and determine our decision based on really concrete facts. But other times, I’ve found, we make decisions based simply on how it will effect us – will we be inconvenienced by getting up early for a practice, will we be bored waiting at the shopping mall, or will we just simply. miss. them. too. much. when. they’re. gone?

Some friends have called me brave for letting my son move away to pursue his dream. I’m sure some friends have called me crazy, irresponsible, or said “I-can’t-believe-she’s-letting-him-go-away-on-his-own.” Funny-I never considered it an act of bravery on my part – he’s the one who deserves the bravery award. My son is doing exactly what I raised him to do. He’s setting goals, believing in himself, evaluating risks, and taking action. He’s walking the talk. He’s just doing it 120 miles from home.

So when I dried my tears (the first time) and watched him walk into his dorm room on that first day, I realized that maybe this wasn’t a ‘safe’ decision for me, but it was safe for him. It’s his path to walk in life, not mine. It’s the ultimate in mother’s love. And while I’d be a lot happier to have him home every night, I know he’s on his own, parent approved track. And it’s fabulous.

This post was inspired by Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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17 thoughts on “Happier At Home: The “Safe”, Parent Approved Track

  1. Very well said, Jennifer. It’s something we parents grapple with, isn’t it? My oldest wanted to buy a dirt bike with the money he had made over the summer. I wanted him to save it for a car. He is 17. He wasn’t asking my permission, but he wanted my approval. I kept reminding him how “dangerous” it was and how much money it was going to cost him in repairs and gas….. then I realized he was living his life the way I wanted him to, and the way I wish I had in many ways… he was doing what he loved, taking risks, and going for it. Hooray!

    Good for Cam and good for you guys for supporting his dream!!!

    1. Michael Ann, sometimes the hardest part about parenting is saying nothing but “I love you”…and watching as they attempt to navigate the world with the tools we’ve helped them develop. Thanks for your support…it’s an interesting time in our family! Hope to see you more this year. ~Jennifer

  2. Thien-Kim says:

    It was a milestone for both of you. Thank you for the reminder to listen to my kids’ desires and dreams and to try to honor them as best I can. Kudos to your son!
    Thien-Kim recently posted…Book Tour: Raise the Child You’ve GotMy Profile

    1. A milestone…yes, it was. One of the many markers in life that show us how important our relationships with our children are, and how fleeting the time we spend together. Thank you, Kim. ~Jennifer

  3. […] Jennifer Wolfe of mamawolfe reflects on the challenges of parenting a child who veers from the ‘parent-approved track&#821… […]

  4. Lindsey says:

    Bravo, mama. That sounds like a difficult decision and one made with instinct and love, and based in trust of your son’s knowledge of himself. I’m inspired. By the way I loved Happier at Home – in fact far more than the Happiness Project, for some reason. xox

    1. Lindsey, I know you know the fear of change, and transition, and everything that comes from watching your child grow up and grow away…and yes, made with instinct and love and trust, most definitely. Thank you for your support. ~Jennifer

  5. Michelle L says:

    How awesome!! He’s lucky to have a mom that will let him live his dreams.
    Michelle L recently posted…Happier At HomeMy Profile

    1. Michelle, I really feel like I’m the lucky one – he’s a pretty fantastic kid. Thank you so very much for commenting!~Jennifer

  6. Martha says:

    How cool is that?
    First of all, will you please adopt me?
    Second of all, your son is fantastic. I am sincerely happy for you all and your adventures!
    Martha recently posted…Waiting for Something to BreakMy Profile

    1. Haha, Martha! Thank you for the kind words about our son. We also think he’s pretty fantastic! We’re riding out this adventure, taking his lead, hoping for a great learning experience. So far, we haven’t been disappointed. It’s pretty quiet around here, though! Thanks so much for commenting ~Jennifer

  7. […] Gretchen’s name might sound familiar to you because several years ago she wrote the best-selling books The Happiness Project and Happier At Home. You can read my essay inspired by Happier At Home here. […]

  8. […] During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here.  […]

  9. […] During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here.  […]

  10. […] You look so young here, and at the time I felt so sure you were old enough for this. I remember sobbing in the back seat of the Highlander right after we left you – big, heaving, snotty sobs that felt so alone and empty, even though your dad and sister were in the front seats pretending to not hear me. I remember thinking if this was the “safe” track for you, or if I should listen to Gretchen Rubin when she said in her book Happier at Home, “I know many people who started out on a “safe”, parent-approved track, only to leave it – voluntarily or involuntarily-after they’d spent a lot of time, effort, and money to pursue a course that had never attracted them…it’s painful to see your children risk failure or disappointment, or pursue activities that seem like a waste of time, effort and money. But we parents don’t really know what’s safe, or a waste of time.” […]

  11. […] During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here.  […]

  12. […] During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here.  […]

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