I guess "the baby" of the family really does have it easier than her older siblings do -- at least that's the case our house. For example, my 11-year-old has it much easier than my twins ever did. And I know this because the twins tell me so; loudly, often and usually with utter disdain. The sad truth is that they are right. I bent many of the long-standing, hard-core disciplinarian rules in my house over the years for my youngest; primarily because she needs a different parenting style than the twins did, and I recognize that. However, the twins' claim got me to thinking: Is it really so bad to make exceptions to the rules?
We were the world's strictest parents
I make no apologies for the fact that I am a hard-core believer in accountability and discipline when it comes to child rearing. Growing up, the twins had chores, responsibilities galore and rules up the ying yang. I had little to no interest in micromanaging (helicopter parenting) my sprogs. Indeed, to hear the twins tell it, we were the world's strictest parents.
All the same, we also spent time listening, guiding and instructing our offspring. We were raising adults, not children. And that style coming in handy was never more clear than it was just yesterday.
Laying down the rules
As the twins rounded the bend to adulthood just a few short weeks ago, it was their responsibility to get everything prepared for their journey into higher academia. Life offers no babysitters and it was time for them to graduate into taking care of their school requirements on their own, sans help from mom and dad.
And even though I realize college isn't for everyone, it was a goal we pushed hard for our kids to achieve; even if that only meant that they tried it out for a short time. And while I don't believe a college degree is a necessity to be successful, I can't argue with statistics that show having one helps -- even if that only means getting your foot in the interviewing door.
With that said, one of our twins was all set. Her orientation was done; she registered for her courses and is now completely prepared to start her life as a college freshman in just under two weeks. Our other daughter, on the other hand, was a little further behind, but was just about "done". Or so we thought.
The college aid hold blow
After her initial counseling session, the counselor told my daughter to show up for orientation in two days. As we left the appointment I said, "Call the financial aid office and make sure everything is squared away." She agreed.
When we got home, she logged on to her financial aid account to check and what we saw was less than encouraging.
As it turns out, everything with her financial aid wasn't okay. Despite the fact that I had submitted the FAFSA last January, the college required an additional form. I didn't know about it, and hadn't heard about it before that night. Unfortunately, that form was the one thing standing in my daughter's way of enrolling and registering for the fall semester. In an attempt to be proactive, we completed the form that night and had it in hand to take to the financial aid office prior to her orientation appointment on Thursday. We figured all would be well. But that was when all hell broke loose.
The financial aid appointment, the decision and the orientation
This form, according to the financial aid department, was something my daughter had known about since registration. And since this form took 10 weeks to process, they wouldn't even acknowledge her FAFSA until that form had been receipted. As I sat in the office and passed the form to the counselor, he immediately handed it back to me and said quite bluntly, "There is nothing we can do for this semester. If your daughter had checked her account, she could enroll. Since she didn't, there is nothing I can do."
I was crushed. I felt lost. I didn't know what to do to help my little girl (even though she wasn't a little girl anymore). All of the work she had done was unraveling. At the same time, I was furious with her. She had known about this form for months and should have turned it in months ago. She didn't have an excuse. I was teetering between tears and screaming at the top of my lungs.
When life knocks you down, you get back up
Life knocks us down. Yet, it isn't the moments when life knocks us down that define us, it's how many times we keep getting back up. So, instead of yelling, screaming and stomping my feet at my child, we strategized. I told her what her options were:
No. 1: Register and pay out of pocket using the money she earned over the summer.
No. 2: Wait for the spring semester and work full time in the meantime to save up more money for college and use her financial aid next semester.
She asked me for my opinion. I refused to give it. "This is your choice," I said, "You're an adult now, and being an adult means making hard choices."
She thought about it for a few hours and chose the latter of the two options. And while I was originally a little perturbed by her choice (the hard-core disciplinarian and regimented parent in me reared her ugly head), as I listened to her explain why, my demeanor softened.
She explained that if she took this semester to study for her entrance exam a little more, she could test out of the three remedial courses she was required to take. She went on to explain that she would get caught up with her twin sister by taking the spring and summer semesters instead of the fall and spring semesters, using her financial aid for each. In short, she had a plan; and that plan was a workable one.
I found myself breaking all the rules
The old me would have had a fit. I would have cut her off mid-sentence, told her to go register and bailed her out by giving her money. Yet, if I had, she wouldn't learn anything. She wouldn't learn the consequences of adult mistakes.
However, the rule breaking me was actually proud to see that I've raised an adult; one who can critically think herself out of difficult situations and come up with well thought out, workable solutions. I guess this one time I bent the rules and went against the grain of my instinct paid off, because even in light of a crushing blow, I have to say that I have never been more proud of my daughter than I was in that very moment.
Rules matter. But sometimes (and only sometimes), rules are made to be broken. And in this case, my regimented, discipline heavy method wouldn't have worked. It would have hurt more than it helped, and my daughter wouldn't have had the opportunity to make me proud all on her own. After all, I raised an adult.
Now, I want to know: When do you find yourself breaking your own rules?
Shauna Zamarripa is an accomplished blogger, freelance writer and financial counselor. When she isn't running errands on college campuses, she is spending time breaking rules with her youngest daughter and enjoying every minute of it. If you want to see more about what Shauna does, visit her Penny Pinchers blog, her personal blog or check her out on Facebook.
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