Parenting Guru: When Expectations Run High and Reality Falls Short

For as long as I can remember, my 18-year-old daughter has been the center of our lives. At first it was because she was an only child, then it was pretty much because she was used to it and was never going to relinquish that position in the family. That, I'm sure, was the problem. While I watched as so many of her friends chased boys and went boy crazy, she seemed more grounded, more focused, more goal oriented. And then it all changed.

As much as I have pondered it, I can't help but blame myself. Her father and I divorced. I was happier. I found Sam. We dated, we lived together, and we married. And though she was always important, never neglected, she was never a fan of sharing me. Maybe that's when boys became more interesting. Or maybe being interested in boys is just the natural progression of things.

Also natural were our discussions of the future, our expectations for her life. And while she might have complained that I never tried to force her into a career, hoping instead that she would select a career that she was suited for, a career that made her happy, I did have some off limits occupations. We had also discussed...forever...that she would go to college. I took her to countless college fairs. We researched. We planned. We prepared. She was there. She was an active participant. Only...now...not so much.

There are ways to stray from the path. I know. I did them, too. I took a three year leave of absence from college when I changed my major. It took a while for me to find my way back, to figure out what degree to pursue. And from the moment I decided to go back as a married 22-year-old sophomore with an eight month old baby, that baby was my reason...for everything.

My daughter hasn't even made it that far. She graduated early from high school, eager to grow up and get out. Only she had to move back in. She never registered for college classes. She decided instead to try to earn money, working as a hostess at a restaurant and adding a summer job as a face painter at an amusement park. Neither of these should be a career option. She can't support herself on that money. She really can't support herself and her on again/off again boyfriend. And she really, really won't be able to support the baby getting added to that mix in October.

Yes, that makes me a grandmother... at 41. It makes my husband, who is eight years younger than I am... a ridiculously young grandfather by any standard. And it makes our daughter an aunt at 21 months. All of that feels strange, but I'm more concerned with my daughter and her future, and how she expects to provide a future for a child when she hasn't even created one for herself. I worry that I will be the grandmother who ends up raising her grandchild. I worry that I am not qualified to do so, since I may not have done well enough with my daughter, given her choices of late. She wants me to be happy for her. And I can't be. I'm not mad at her, either. I'm just... sad and disappointed and discouraged and scared for her. We have months to work through this, months to try to get her back on track, months to prepare her for a life with limits like she can't imagine.

How do I help her without enabling? How can I balance loving her through something I am so opposed to?

When Nicki isn't weighing her parenting failures and successes, she can be found blogging at Suddenly *Not So* Single Journey. She is a contributor to Project Underblog. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.