Your job here, then, is to take care of yourself with that difference in mind. For instance, if you don’t want your grown son living in your house, tell him that this won’t be an option, so that he can make plans to support himself. If you’re worried about his ability to function working late nights and with a lack of structure, remind yourself that he’ll find out soon enough how well that works for him because the best-learned lessons are the ones we gain through direct experience. As for your concern that he’ll have spent “years not making it in the real world,” you might consider that trying to be a stand-up comedian will offer him a crash course in resilience, delayed gratification, perseverance, and hard work—the very skills that people need to “make it” in the so-called real world.
I say the “so-called” real world because your world isn’t more real than his. In the world you both live in, there are people just like your son who have talent and drive and eventually find success doing the very thing they love most. (If all of the world’s talented “creatives” had taken the less risky route, there’d be no art—a huge loss not just for them, but for the rest of us.) Also in this same world are people just like your son who later change their minds, discover something they like better, or switch course when they realize they’d prefer a better quality of life or don’t have the chops to succeed.
But in none of these instances has their time been wasted. Even if your son doesn’t become the next Chris Rock or Jerry Seinfeld, he can leverage his charisma and confidence onstage and his ability to write well and make people laugh into a range of professions that seek those skills: public speaker, trial litigator, advertising copywriter, professor, sitcom writer, or entrepreneur, to name just a few. At the very least, he’ll ace his job interviews. (What a refreshing change from the more conventional candidates who might be less comfortable in their skin or have fewer interesting experiences under their belts.)
It’s natural for parents to feel that our job is to impart wisdom to our children—in part, it is. But sometimes we forget that our children have wisdom to bestow on us, too. Throughout their lives, in hundreds of ways, our children are teaching us about control—how illusory it is, how futile our attempts to maintain it are, and how liberating letting go can be, for everyone involved. The good news is, you don’t have to choose your son’s path for him—because the reality is, you don’t get to.
Instead of trying to steer him in the direction of your comfort zone, let him find his own. Lucky for him, parents provide plenty of fodder for comedy. As you watch him blossom, I hope you remember to laugh.
Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.