Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raising Cain...Abel and the rest of them

What I want to know is this: at what point are we done raising our kids? 21? 23? Is every conversation a teaching point with our kids? How is it possible to "teach" anyone to accept responsibility for their own lives, decisions, bodies, jobs or lack thereof, relationships, grades, timliness, and so on? Not just kids...anyone? Can I be the only reasonable, sane person in my little world?

The drama of raising kids never gets easier, according to my mother, who is now 81. I guess she's still teaching me, so I get that - sort of. Still, it ought to be easier at some point, wouldn't you think? My daughter doesn't like living at home and I don't blame her. I didn't want to live "at home" when I was 21 either. But I was realistic enough to know I had to make a whole lot of cash to support myself if I were to move out. That I had to finish school OR get a job making enough money to support everything. Car insurance, health insurance, groceries, rent...the works. It seems no matter how old our kids get, they still expect us to keep helping them. Had that conversation with cousins today who are feeling the same way as parents too. Why can't some phone calls to us just be to say hello and not ask for a favor of some sort?

Accepting that I have done a disservice to my kids by providing SO MUCH to them as they have grown up is a hard one to bear. But maybe that's the case. Perhaps both of them need a good swift dose of cool reality - of paying ALL their bills themselves. Maybe I shouldn't have helped them so much., given them so much, provided so many opportunities. But isn't that what a parent does? Tries their best for their kids? Baby birds get pushed from their nests in a burst of reality. Why not our kids too? Maybe it's just easier to keep them closer by helping. Have to think on that one.

My daughter wants to take a vacation by herself with a cousin next year. I'm all for it, providing she now pays for that vacation herself. Hell, she's 21. And she was up for that until she heard that her Dad and I may go on the same trip. All of a sudden it's not the trip she wanted for herself. She won't be 'free". I say what were you planning to do without us that you coudn't do with us/near us/around us..? It's not as if we haven't been permissive. I started thinking about when it was that I was "allowed" to take my first vacation without parental permission, other than a school trip my senior year of high school (which I paid for totally myself) fully chaparoned by nuns. (OK, they HARDLY chaparoned, but that's for another blog.) I think my first vacation without my family (read: parents, brothers, etc) was probably my honeymoon with my husband. I know, I know - different day and age. And I was 22, the age she will be when she goes on this trip (cruise). Still...I do worry about her taking a trip independently of us. It's a much more dangerous/scary world than when I was 22. So yes, it's hard to let go as a parent.

So how can we understand one another at this juncture - both of my kids wanting autonomy, independence from us, but expecting some measure of financial help as they clamour onto their feet and find their wings out of the nest? I find it so hard to explain (and why should I HAVE to) why I worry for them. That when they lose a job it keeps me up at night. That when they stress over relationship woes it keeps me up at night. That when they are chomping at the bit to gain freedom it keeps me up at night because I see they haven't accepted full responsibility for that freedom just yet, and the sacrifices that have to made for it. Maybe I have failed as a parent in some measure because they aren't so ready.

This parenting thing sometimes just plain sucks. No other way to say it. Just when you think you've done good and that things are going swimmingly with your kids, they have a fit disgorging thier emotional distress and point out how terribly wrong we are as parents that we can't figure them the hell out and what they need at any given moment. That we just can't possibly understand. Huh? I was once 21, 23 years old. I get it. Give me a damned break! But give me the benefit of experience too. We don't dispense advice because we're some know-it-all-sage that can't help themselves for the passing on of their wisdom. (OK, maybe my husband becomes the sage on equal measure with the amount of red wine he's imbibed.) We give advice to you (our kids) because we are afraid you will hurt yourself, or find yourself in a situation you can't get out of, or because we've been there before and know what you may be headed into. Generation gap indeed.

Was I as stubborn with my parents? I'll have to ask them. I hope to hell not. In the meantime, I'm not stopping my parenting ever. They are just going to have to suck it up.

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