Question from Maria in Los Alamos, N.M.: "My son, age 19, has dropped out of college, given away his bed, books, everything, and is living out of his car. He plans to start a company and become a millionaire. I have discussed with him at length the unlikelihood of his business staying solvent, the importance of getting your education first. He says he hears me and will take his own path. He is broke but has not asked for money. What can I do besides being a loving mother and listening to his concerns?"
JC's Answer: Your son is a "man-boy." At nineteen, he's old enough to vote and fight for his country, but not old enough to enjoy a cold one at the local pub, which means that he lacks the wisdom and maturity that comes with being a vintage brew. You share that he "gave away his bed and books," so you are right to be concerned, because a young tycoon in the making would have sold these items for seed money. You don't share what his millionaire company scheme is, so JC can't advise on the wisdom of your son's venture; but you are wise to remind him that an education is always a good investment.
Like a giant puppy with adult size paws, your son is trying to find himself. As his mother, you must allow a long leash as he struggles to learn where you end and he begins. Like it or not, his road to happiness may not be paved with a sheepskin from a four year university. Living in his car may be his way of disciplining himself to jumpstart his hustle and make him "hungry like a wolf!" If he's passionate about his business venture, he will find a way to make it work, which might involve getting a job as a waiter so he can eat while he works his dream. The good news is that you are able to carry him on your health insurance plan until he's 26, so technically, you can still wipe your son's nose should he get a sniffle or worse.
JC believes that a parent has three key goals in raising teenage children: 1. Keep them out of jail; 2. Keep them off the pole; and 3. Motivate them to self support so that they're not living in your basement if they're over the age of 22. So, unless his car is parked in your basement, and he's learning to pole dance, you have not failed as a parent simply because he dropped out of college.
Although he hasn't asked you for cash yet, have a "straight talk" discussion with him about money and his plans for supporting himself while he pursues his dream. Explain the role that "your money" will or will not play during his business venture. Encourage him, love him and know that he hears you. Remember, you are not the first mother to question the "odd, unexpected" behavior of her young adult child. The Google founder mothers probably gasped when their brilliant darlings dropped out of school, and look how that turned out. Pray for his success, definitely let him come inside and shower when he needs to, but let your young man find his own way.