Every generation has its version of this complaint. For my grandparents, it was, “Kids these days don’t know what love is” when my parents were part of the free love hippie sixties. For my mom and dad, it was, “Fashion? We had to wear homemade clothes. Music? We had to listen to one radio station. Don’t get me started about the television and only three channels.” When I wanted name brand jeans and begged for cable television so I could watch MTV when it was truly music television, this is what I got. Usually, from my dad. My mother was a bit easier for me to convince.
I am exaggerating of course. I am sure my parents and grandparents had legitimate concerns, especially about my generation. I look at teens and twenty-somethings these days and cringe at what I see. However, I also smile and feel proud of the things I see too. They deal with so many different things that weren’t even on my radar when I was a teenager and twenty-something. They are smarter and braver than I will ever be. Some are creative, brilliant, beautiful, peace-filled, respectable people.
What makes me shudder is the lavishness some parents go to make the teens and twenty years olds comfortable. I see teens with no responsibilities, yet have the latest and greatest cell phone. You know so mom and dad can stay in touch with them. I get it if they are driving age or spend a lot of time away from parents with after school activities. Does it have to be the iPhone X? My kid was happy with a Motorolla she paid for herself bagging groceries at the local market when she was fifteen. They get to do whatever they want, speak to adults however they choose and there are little consequences.
Let’s talk about jobs and living expenses. I see some younger folks living with parents well into their thirties. I see college kids going off to college with a car that mom and dad bought. Then moving into a house, not an apartment, not a dorm room, but a brick home complete with a back deck for social gatherings, purchased by their parents. Some of these students have jobs to pay for utilities, but often parents are footing that bill too. I am all for helping our children succeed. I know that some of these parents had to work for everything they have and they don’t want their kids to struggle as they did. I get that line of thought,
but…a house. Are you serious?
How is a child to learn to survive on their own skills and succeed if everything is handed to them?
Let me tell you a hard truth…
The struggle makes humans better.
I am not saying let your semi-adult children starve or live on the street to learn a lesson. Though, I have seen parents go to that extreme as well. Find the balance that teaches but does not enable. Buy some groceries sometimes, maybe offer to help on a utility bill. Then back off and let them do what they can. What you’ll find is your child, if you instilled values that are right, will figure things out on their own. When they need help they will ask for it after they realize they have done all they can.
My daughter is thirty-two. She is a full time stay at home mom with a husband. She is going back to school to get her degree. I am over the moon proud of her. She wasn’t always self-sufficient. Yes, she struggled. I helped a bit early on, but she picked herself up by her broom and flew without me. Yes, I stayed awake at night, still do some times worrying about her struggle.
I did the same thing minus the broom. When I was eighteen I decided I was an adult so I got married and had a kid. I had no idea how wrong I was, but I learned fast. I had a little bit of help along the way as I figured it out. I recently found out that my mother no longer stays up at night worrying about me. That is a recent development that she attributes to my amazing new life and husband, and I am fifty!
My daughter will tell you the tough love her dad and I give her was the best thing that happened to her. I have told my mother the same thing. It is hard not to give them everything they want and need. That is the struggle of the loving parent.
The key is finding the balance of not loving them into dependency.
Love your children as they grow up. Help them be the best productive members of society that they can be, but resist the urge to take the struggle out of their lives.
One day they will thank you for letting them learn how to take care of themselves.