Reader Question #1

Posted: March 19, 2008 in bitching, Family, kids, meme

Jean asked in the comments of this entry to write about adult children living at home (heh, you asked for it!).

Michael is twenty-five (in a couple of weeks). He joined the military at eighteen. Five years later he moved back in with us, then about a year and a half later he moved into the apartment his sister was vacating, because she couldn’t manage it anymore. If she hadn’t had to vacate it Michael would probably still be living at home (he can’t qualify for an apartment so he just took over Marie’s lease payments).

Marie is nineteen (twenty in September). She moved out for a couple of months late last summer, first living with friends, then her own apartment (which we co-signed on so she could qualify). She moved back in with us after she and her ex-boyfriend broke up. At this point I don’t believe Marie has any plans to move out – in fact, her current boyfriend (not the same as the one she lived with) is now living with us too (extenuating circumstances on his end), and they will both be contributing to the utilities starting next month.

Not much in either of their circumstances have changed since last August when the whole apartment thing came up – I’m kind of curious to see what will happen with Michael when the lease is up this August, because we are SO not co-signing again to renew it.

Currently Michael comes and goes a few times a week (mostly unannounced) – raids the fridge, hangs out during the day to watch TV when everyone else is at work (he works nights on varying days of the week), picks up his mail, and has dinner with us occasionally. We’re not on him as much about his finances, job, school, etc. as we used to be because he’s not living at home at the moment. So we just assume that he’s handling his shit and will believe so until proved otherwise. Again, this August should prove to be interesting. I need to remember to drop a bug in his ear to start making plans soon for where he’s going to live or what he’s going to do – August might seem like a long way away to you, but I know our son. He needs the planning time.

Marie works full time and is not, as yet, going to school. The rule was if she was going to live at home past eighteen she’d have to pay rent if she wasn’t going to school. Rent is starting up next month, since up until this point it looked like she was going to go to school at least part time. She started and stopped a couple of times, but in the end things fell through as she realized that she has no idea which kind of degree she’d like to pursue. Anyway, Marie’s home most nights and weekends – she has an 8-5 M-F schedule. Her boyfriend has a funky schedule and works only three or four long days a week. He keeps a pretty low profile and doesn’t seem to like being at our house when nobody else is home. So he heads over to his mom’s or goes skateboarding with friends or something like that. We hardly know he’s there, really.

So, there’s the current situation. There are pro’s and con’s to having adult children living at home/nearby. They are as follows:

Pro’s

  • We like Michael and Marie. They’re good people and fun to hang out with.
  • We don’t have to worry about what’s going on with them, if they’re okay, etc.
  • Calvin and I have always been family-oriented, and it’s good to have family around.
  • It’s hard to be lonely when there’s always somebody around.
  • (Theoretically, hopefully soon to become a reality) There’s someone else to help with the chores and to help with the bills in the form of rent.
  • Free house-sitting when we go on trips!
  • We love them. This is their home too. They’re welcome.

Con’s

  • If I cook for two, four show up to eat and there’s not enough. If I cook for four, two show up to eat and food gets wasted.
  • The potential of unannounced arrivals curtails parental nudity and/or couch sex.
  • Drain on food and utilities if they’re not helping out in that area.
  • No privacy or alone time.
  • Their drama is our drama.
  • With the children comes their friends, and sometimes the house is quite full.
  • We have to sleep with the bedroom doors shut (we’d prefer to leave them open to allow air to circulate – it gets very stuffy in our room especially with the heat lamps on the lizard’s tanks staying on all night). We get woken up a lot in the middle of the night in our echoey, echoey house. Which leads to…
  • There’s coming and going all hours of the night and day, and I’m paranoid that the doors will get left unlocked or even open, that the cats will get out, that unsavories will get in, that electricity is getting wasted, that the heat/AC is left blasting all day long (these are not unfounded fears, all of these things (except that no strangers have come in that I know of) have happened at least once, sometimes more).
  • The knowledge that at any given moment they could lose their jobs (and it’s happened to both of them recently) which would necessitate that we take over their bills because we co-signed on the apartment and Marie’s truck is in my name.  SO not co-signing or in any way tying ourselves to their financial stability AGAIN.
  • Having to hear, “I know,” when we’re trying to explain to them things that they, obviously, don’t.

Which brings me to my next list of general concerns and issues.

  • WHEN did children get that entitled attitude? They (and I’m talking about their age bracket in general) seem to want everything given to them, and want mommy and daddy to subsidize them on their terms. Quit the parenting when it’s inconvenient (say, lectures on all-night partying, going to school, etc.), but expect to parent when they want it (oh, say, birthdays, feeding time, gas money).
  • Michael and Marie (not sure about everyone else’s experience with their own kids in this area) don’t want to start at the bottom and work their way up. They want to move from our house into someplace equally posh on their own. They want to make the same kind of salary, drive the same kind of vehicle, and have the same kind of life that their parents do, without going through the fifteen years of work to get there.
  • At what point should children be deemed self-sufficient? I’ve got nothing, here. I was at seventeen. Calvin was at seventeen. We never went back home, never looked for someone else to bail us out of some financial situation, and handled our own stuff from day one of moving out. The first and only time we moved out. So, because the fact that they still need us and/or they still live with us doesn’t suck THAT bad, at what point do we go tough love on them, for their own good?
  • Neither one of them have any ambition at all. I have no idea what to do about this. They seem perfectly happy to keep doing what they’re doing (no education, dead-end jobs, not truly living on their own) and don’t seem to feel the need to move forward and better themselves.

The tone of this entry makes things seem harsher on Marie and Michael than I intend. We love them, and they really ARE welcome in our home because it doesn’t just belong to me and Calvin, it’s also the house they spent the majority of their childhood in. So how can we be itching for them to be on their own, while at the same time not mind having them around? I don’t know.

Yes, I do. We want to know that they’re able to support themselves. We want to know that they’re capable of being out on their own and being true grown-ups. We want to know that if we kick it suddenly, they’ll be able to make it on their own. We want to know that they’re capable of being mature and responsible. 

(We want to have the house to ourselves to do whatever we want whenever we want to, without the risk of shocking sensitive eyeballs.)

We want to know that our children are safely and successfully and entirely on their own, so that WE don’t have to plan for the crap that their lives throw at us.  There’s nothing like your life being impacted because of something somebody else did.

I already know what a lot of folks are going to say – when you become a parent you sign up for a lifetime of parenting. It never ends and you’ll always have to be there for them. YES, I agree with that. I know that. And I even WANT that. But stepping in and helping out when it’s an emergency due to unforseen circumstances is much different than having to be a constant safety net because of their irresponsibility – or worse (and this is KEY) – their assumption that they don’t have to try as hard because we’re ready to catch them. We want them to be able to count on us when they need us, yes, but we also want to be able to count on them.  Most of all, we want them to have a sense of pride in themselves that they can live life completely on their own.

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Comments
  1. Amanda says:

    Wow. Awesome entry. I think you managed to show that it’s an emotional struggle. It’s one thing to say to someone that you have to let the “kids” be adults when they are, in fact, adults, and if they mess up, they have to learn to bail themselves out, they have to learn to be responsible and to have a plan. And if they lack ambition, then they need to learn that with that there probably comes the sacrifice that they *won’t* have all of those nifty things their parents have.
    However, it’s quite another story to be the parent in that actual situation because how are you supposed to say “no” to your kids when they ask for help?
    I guess the solution, such as it is, is that you have to *help* them. Think of that saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat forever” (or something like that). Instead of bailing them out, teach them how to bail themselves out, and be there for support and to be a shoulder. They will respect you and themselves much more.
    And just to finish off this novel of a comment, I have a family member who gets himself in horrible financial situations and has to ask people to bail him out. Continuously. And he repeats the behaviour. He has never learned. Who is that person? My father. So you need to ask yourself: do you want that to be Marie and Michael when they’re in their 50s and 60s?

  2. Jen says:

    Very Good Post.

  3. Jean says:

    Thanks for your take on this, Laura. As usual, you cover a lot of ground in this entry. I’m trying to get some perspective on the situation. Our oldest is in college (home on spring break)and we just had a discussion about getting an apartment off campus next year, the expenses that go along with that and living at home after he is done with school. We want to help, but want to avoid exactly some of the situations you describe. I understand now that we need to lay it out (namely, if he decides to live off campus, he will need to get his own cell phone plan and take over his auto insurance. and quit asking for money). Also make it clear that as an adult, he needs to support himself – in whatever lifestyle his employment will allow.

    We have too many friends who have adult children living at home and it appears it’s not only crippling the kids, the situation doesn’t allow the marriage to move to it’s next phase.

    Sigh…..more to think about. And I like my kid, too. He’s funny, smart and appears to genuinely like us. He even seeks out our company. But he’s tremendously messy and eats me out of house and home.

  4. melissa says:

    Thanks for this post. My husband and I have 5 kids between us and 2 are heading off to college this fall. He believes that kids should always be allowed to come home and live, rent free, for as long as necessary (his brother who is nearing 50 is STILL at home) and I’m of the opposite camp–if you HAVE to move home (and it better be a good reason) you are going to pay rent and have a plan to get out. I have a feeling he and I are in for some arguments in years to come. He has boys, I have girls. (not that that matters)
    I can already tell that the kids are not really interested in working hard for things. None of the 5 have a job (and 4 are teenagers over 15), nor are they interested in working. My husband has college funds for his boys so they are taken care of in that way.
    I love my kids but I don’t want them living with me forever.

  5. Megan says:

    This was a great post. Thanks. It is a fine line you tread, Laura, and this post does a great job detailing the mechanics of the balancing act.

  6. K says:

    Well said, I know your kids can be a handful!!!

    K

  7. rai says:

    We want to know that if we kick it suddenly, they’ll be able to make it on their own. We want to know that they’re capable of being mature and responsible.

    Exactly! I’m almost positive this was my mom’s motivation for making me take care of my own shit. Of course, my 28 year old brother is still living at home, working a paper route, so I’m not sure what exactly happened there.

  8. Laura says:

    Amanda – Hi! Thing is? We HAVE taught them how to fish, so to speak. We’ve lectured and taught and even whipped out the calculator on a couple of occasions, to no avail. So what do you do with a child (or children) who are too lazy to apply what they’ve been taught? It’s just easier to have mom and dad support them!

    Jen – Capitalized, even!

    Jean – You’re very welcome, it’s of course a subject that is near and dear to my heart. For your oldest I would recommend working up a budget with him – we realized early on and quickly that our kids have NO IDEA how much living costs. And now that they do? They’re even less inclined to be on their own. So, yeah, heh. That might backfire on you. Good luck!

    Melissa – No offense? YOUR HUSBAND IS A CRAZY PERSON. And not to sound all, “Kids these days!” but it seems like this entire generation is not interested in the least in working for things.

    Megan – Thanks!

    K – Even more so than the last time you saw them! 🙂

    Rai – A paper route??? Oh laws.

  9. Jayne says:

    I don’t think anyone has the right answer to this, though there’s no doubt it’s more than possible to do *too* much for our children. As to whether they’d be OK if we pegged out suddenly? Well, of course they would! It’s just *easier* to fall back on good old M & D!

  10. Taoist Biker says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse your position as stated above.

    Oh wait, not running for office. Ok, “Excellent post!” 😉

    As a parent of a special needs kid, I spend a lot of time thinking of how the future will unravel, and where the line is between being a supportive parent and an overindulgent one. Anybody drawing me their own map is helpful.

  11. Laura says:

    Jayne – We do worry about it, though. I know they’d be okay, but… well, the people they’d have to fall back on if we were gone are less than stand-up individuals, if you know what I mean.

    TB – I so respect what you and your wife are doing. It must be so hard and yet so rewarding. You have my respect and you’re in my prayers.

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