I’m Learning to Let Go of My Adult Son and My Identity as His Caregiver

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by Joe MacDonald |

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When my oldest son, Julian, expressed an interest in the theater, with hopes of starting a career in musical theater, I smiled and felt I could be an excellent resource for him. After all, I had a reasonably successful career in the business, having done regional and summer stock shows in my early 20s. I wanted to share with him the mistakes I made so that he wouldn’t have to repeat my poor choices.

I began suggesting to Julian the road to travel and where to audition for the best possible job opportunities. Immediately he fought against my plans as we struggled with each other.

At first, I felt offended and shocked that he didn’t want to hear my ideas. How could he not listen to me? I knew what it felt like to get moving in the musical theater world. My son had an ally in me that I never had at his age, so why wouldn’t he follow my direction?

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We fought over every step he made as I continued to remind him that my expertise in the field could help him achieve his dreams. The more I tried to share my wisdom, the more he pushed back. Finally, in desperation, I turned to my wife, Cazandra, raised my hands, and said, “That’s it! I give up. Let him continue to run in the wrong direction. There is nothing more that I can do for him.” I told her that Julian made me feel unheard and underappreciated.

As I became angrier with each passing minute, I realized something. Julian is his own creation and wants to sit in the driver’s seat of his story. His pushback was his subtle way of telling me, “Look, Dad, I appreciate all you do for me, but I need to find my path without your leadership.”

Fear swept through me as I realized I had to let go and allow him to discover his unique way of moving through the world. Part of me wondered who I’d be if I wasn’t helping Julian manage every aspect of his life. My identity as his caregiver needed to change so I could forge a new relationship with my adult son. I had to leave space for him to make his own mistakes. For him to become an adult, I needed to stop treating him like a child.

I provided Julian with most of his needs when he was a child. I learned everything I could about hemophilia, infused him, and stayed with him when his bleeding disorder raised its ugly head. As he became an adult with hemophilia, I slowly released control and let him take the front seat in managing his chronic illness.

The general transition from teen to young adult proved much harder, and our struggles sometimes left both of us feeling unheard. He wanted to take control of his life and be responsible for his choices, even when I disagreed. I realized that he needed to steer his ship to find his way in the murky waters. His ability to find solutions to his problems equipped him with the confidence to continue his journey.

Letting go can be difficult during those transformative years that instill the seed of independence in our children. The gift of letting go is embracing my new relationship with my adult son. To maintain a healthy role in Julian’s life, I have to respect his choices and allow him to manage his issues. I must stand back and watch as he makes mistakes, but I celebrate his victories.

I hope my son lives his best life, filled with absolute joy. To experience his dreams, he must move forward on his own steam, knowing that I am right behind him, ready to support him whenever he needs a helping hand.


Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.

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