"We made his needs more important than our own discomfort."
When Ronen told us he wanted to take a gap year we were skeptical. We struggled with the idea that he would step outside of a safe and familiar educational structure. Yet, we also trust him. And his sister Binah implored, “you have to let him explore his dream.”
So we made his needs more important than our own discomfort. He had already decided to walk the Appalachian Trail March – August. But he also needed plans for the fall. With some prodding he decided to work on small-scale family farms in France, Italy and Germany.
Ronen earned all the money for his gap year by working in a restaurant as a bus boy and as a delivery person, so we didn’t have to support him financially. We were, however, available to encourage him during the first half of the year with phone calls and occasional advice. Once he hit the AT, we supported him by sending packages, visiting on the trail, and believing in his goal of walking the entire 2200 miles. We didn’t do much but that was partially the point.
Our whole family worked on adjusting to his increasing independence without having institutional obligations in the middle of that process. We became a family not of two adults and two kids but a family of three and almost four adults. I’m grateful that the gap year created the space for this.
Ronen seems more focused, confident, and authentic. I think every kid has a secret internal landscape. When given the chance to map that landscape onto experiences in the real world that kid becomes much better at articulating what they want from life and figuring out how to get there.
If a gap year is right for the kid you love, who can say no really? Just make sure they do something that will move them further along a path that is most true to one of their dreams.
Dr. Susan B, mother of Ronen S