My wonderful friend called me with a fantastic topic request. I love it when you make requests because I want to give you what you want. This is dedicated to her!

We all have expectations of what our kids’ lives should look like.

Go to school.

Make friends.

Get good grades.


Do extracurricular activities.

Get a job.


Go to dances. Be involved.


Go to college.

Get a job.

Get married.

Have babies.

Does any of that sound familiar? We have ideas in our heads about what we think our children should be doing. Here is the thing. It is not their job to live their lives how we think they should. They need to build their own life into what they want and what brings them their own fulfillment.

I just went to my friend’s house to drop off Lillie. She told me that her son just left for a party. My teenager was home studying. My automatic thought was, “He needs to go have some fun. Less studying and more fun.” Do I sound crazy? I have ideas of how I think my children should be living. Have I asked them what they think? Yes, I have! I have told my son that he needs more balance. I have told my son that he needs to go out and have fun. He wants to study! He tells me he doesn’t want balance. He wants to succeed. He has goals he wants to achieve, and he will get there by studying. I told him not to take five AP classes at once. I told him I didn’t want to sign off on his schedule. He asked me to sign it anyway and let him do his thing. I listened and gave him what he wanted with some hesitation. This isn’t about me and what I want. I want him to go to dances. I want him to ask a girl (friend) to go with him to the dance. He has other ideas. Our kids don’t always follow our story and it shouldn’t be about our story.

I’m going to stay with Max for a minute before I move on. Max played soccer for about 12 years. A ton of years of soccer. A ton of teams. A ton of training. A ton of money poured into soccer. Max made the soccer team he had been aiming for. His high school has asked him to be their goalie a few times. This is not what Max wants for himself. I wanted Max to continue with soccer. His dad wanted him to continue with soccer. We saw a soccer scholarship in his future. Max decided he didn’t want to play soccer. He wanted to try football. He wanted to give up a sport that he had mastery in to start a sport that he had never played before. Talk about throwing us a curveball. “Let him fly, let him try,” I said to myself. He tried and he loves football. I’m riding the waves and keeping up. This is not about me or others. This is about Max living his life how he wants to build it.

Your child wants to try a new sport – let them try!

Your child doesn’t want to go to a dance – find out why. Encourage them and listen to them.

Your child doesn’t want to get involved in school – I tell my kids they have to join at least one thing at school.

Your child doesn’t get the grades you think they should get – Are they studying? Are they trying? Do they need extra help? Do they need study skills? I told Lillie today to take the pressure off. I told her we love her and are proud of her for her effort. Too much grade pressure! She came home today proud of her grade, but I want her to know that her effort and studying habits are what I am most proud of.

Your child doesn’t want to leave the house – I personally love the word balance. Every child has different needs. Lillie is like me and wants to socialize a lot. Max and Ella need more chilling out time at home. I like to make sure they get out of the house and do things and socialize and yet I respect who they are and what their needs are.

Your child tells you that they don’t want to go to college. With my son being a junior in high school, college is a huge topic right now. Some kids want to stay close to home and live at home. Some kids want to go far away and dorm. I am very against any college absolutes. My husband went away to school and dormed and I lived at home and went to college. Some kids don’t think college is for them. My mom taught me at a very young age that school is not for everyone. You may think that your child needs to go to college, but what is it that they want to do for a career? Maybe they don’t know yet. Max’s friend is working towards being a police officer. A friend’s son wants to be a firefighter. Another friend’s son wants to be a steel worker. Let go of what you think your child needs to be doing and ask more questions. What are they striving for and how are they going to get there? We can help them make a plan that works for them and what they want. This is not about what we want. This is not about our expectations. I told my friend to break the box. Screw the box. Screw what people think. Let your child live outside the box.

I have ideas for my kids of what their lives look like based on their needs and desires. I will continue to encourage them and guide them. They may follow and they may not. Max has found a love for football. Ella has found a love for writing. Those are both things that I didn’t see coming. Maybe the route your children take will end up being even better than the one you laid out for them in your head.

We want our kids to reach each milestone:

Learn to talk. Learn to walk. Go to school. Make friends. Ella showed me from the beginning that she was going to do everything on her own terms. I wanted her to walk, and she was like, “I’ll walk when I’m ready.” There is this imaginary box of expectations that we all have for our kids. I told Max that he would regret not going to the dance. He told me he had a plan with his friend to go to the gym and that he would so much rather do that. It’s hard for me to hear that. I don’t agree. I wanted to go to all the dances. I want Max to go have fun and ask a date. Max is not me. He proves that every day. He has his own brain and his own plan.

When your kids throw you a life curveball:

  • Try to be patient and understanding.
  • What do they want for them?
  • How can you help them with their plan? If they don’t have a plan, they need to begin creating one. They don’t have to be right, but they do need to be working towards something.
  • Throw expectations out the window.
  • Don’t care what anyone thinks. We aren’t living our lives, or our kids’ lives for other people.
  • Break the box. Break the expectations. There isn’t one way to do things.
  • Give yourself some praise. Your child is finding their way in their own way. They aren’t living their lives for others. This is a good thing!
  • Be clear about your rules. Example: if you don’t want to go to college, then what is your plan? How will you earn money and work towards being on your own?
  • You have control over how you respond and deal with things. That is the biggest thing that you can control.
  • Reach out to your supports. Throw shame out the window. What are your friends experiencing with their kids? How do they handle it? I promise you that no one has a perfect life. Don’t buy into the social media façade.
  • Be flexible. Your kids didn’t agree to fit into your box when they were born. They are building their own box.

I was engaged before my husband. I thought life was going to work out a certain way. I’m so thankful it didn’t. Every day I am so very thankful. Life threw me an amazing curveball. A break up led to a wonderful man. I met my husband over 20 years ago and it has been an amazing journey. You don’t know where life may take you. It may be better than you dreamed up. If it isn’t – is it about you or is it about your child? Are they happy and thriving? If they aren’t, it’s time for some guidance and support. There’s nothing like our children hearing the exact same thing we told them from someone else. It’s like we never even said it! Parenting never ends. You signed up for the long haul. When they turn 18 you don’t sign off on no more parenting. Keep riding the waves with them and helping them find their way. With you by their side they will find their way.

If your kids are throwing you a giant curveball, we would love to hear about it. Thank you for reading and keep the requests coming. Parenting is a journey, and we are on it together!

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R


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