Growing into Me with Bipolar

I Should’ve ….

I was just thinking about all the recent upset I have had with my son in the last few months, concerning his decision to join a particular church, that is known for being somewhat ‘brainwashing and quite conservative.  

We have finally come to a detant, after I forbid him to attend that church anymore.  He hasn’t changed his beliefs, though, and of course, I shouldn’t have really expected that.  But while I was thinking about whether my decision is useful or helpful in any way other than making me feel better, I realized that in 10 days, he will be turning 17.  

The question then is, what is the difference in a person between 17 and 18 years old?  Oh, sure, there are the legal things, like being able to join the army and able to sign a contract, buy cigarettes, but what about wanting to find your own definition of who you are, and what you believe in?  Is that really going to change significantly in one year, especially if I force him to not act on his choices in the meantime?  Aren’t I really hindering his own self-exploration?  

It occurred to me that I was 17 when my mom kicked me out of the house a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, when I would have graduated at Christmas time.  And what I did then was drive to my dad’s with all my belongings in the back seat of my 1972 AMC Hornet.  My dad quickly arranged for me to move from Chicago, where I had a car, a job, friends, and was about to graduate, to town the size of a speck in the hinterlands of rural Iowa, with some elderly cousins.  

So, in one week, I went from almost complete autonomy at age 17 to being completely trapped and cut off.  And all I wanted was to live my own life my own way.  I just wanted to get an apartment, start college, get a job and take care of myself.  

So, in light of that, I think about my son, and I think about what he would do right now, if he was 18.  And I think he would want to the same things.  And for him, that might include exploring his spirituality, even in a direction I don’t agree with.  But looking at what I could have done if I hadn’t been shipped off to no-whereland, I could have got a friend to let me crash, or found a place to park my car and crash.  I could have kept my job and graduated and taken care of myself.  And I was only 17 too.

So, now I’m thinking that he is as capable of handling himself as I would’ve been;  he’s capable of self-exploration, like I was, and mostly, of self-definition, just like I was.  So, I think instead of blocking him, instead of stopping him, from figuring out who he is, I should let him start taking of himself, let him start to define himself, instead of being forced to go against what he feels is right for him just because he is only 17.  I wish I would have had that chance too, instead of being locked away for another year, unable to figure myself out.


Comments on: "I Should’ve …." (4)

  1. Way to wonder, mom! 😉


    • thanks, meredith. sometimes my brain actually gets in gear and i come to some astounding conclusions. im thinking my son is both as young as i think he is, and he is also older than i think he is. but he won’t get to start figuring his life out if i don’t let him. and that’s exactly the chance i wish i’d had then too.


  2. Wow, Kat. You are making immense strides here, looking at your own journey, and how it relates to your son’s. How sad that you didn’t get to graduate early, to live your own life. How did you manage with the elderly cousins??? Your thought process here digs very deep. I wish you all success in your journey now, with your son. Laura xoxo


    • thanks, laura! sounds funny to me to hear i was being deep–i experienced it more as a ‘eureka’ moment.

      the elderly cousins had raised my dad, and they were in their 60’s when i was sent there. the town is less than 500 ppl, and had not even one stoplight or atm machine. they had lived there in that house in that town since they were small children. they never really left home. so, for me at that time, it was excruciatingly empty, boring, dull. days consisted of making meals, watching soaps, and going to bed again. once a week we made a trek to the nearest town of any size (rural town about 30,000 ppl) to do grocery shopping and any errands. one day was for wash, one for baking.

      i knew they loved me, and i gave them far too much attitude and grief. but i felt like i was in solitary confinement. i wasn’t allowed to stay home while they shopped–never allowed to be in the house alone. if i went in my room, and closed the door, they wondered what was wrong that i was not watching tv with them. the only thing i still had was my music.

      9 mos later i got an acceptance letter for college, and they were super great, taking me to target the day after i signed a lease on an efficiency, and buying outright for me dishes, glasses, bedding, silverware, bathroom products, cleaning products, etc. my dad had come from Chicago and taken me around the college town to find a place, and had paid my first months rent, then took me grocery shopping. So, i was all set up and my cousins dropped me off there and i finally started my own life.

      in any case, making me wait almost a year and trying to direct me in much more dull habits did not really change my mind about who i felt i was and what i wanted. so, that is where i thought that banning my son from church will probably not change anything either.

      ps-the cousins are still kicking, but having more frequent health issues, now that they are in their 80’s, and they are still in that little blip of a town in the same house.


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