My Kids Will Never Leave Home

How does a parent teach common sense? This is not a rhetorical question. I need to know the answer. Or my kids will never leave home.

This has been on my mind of late, as my oldest has wandered aimlessly into her teen years.

I listen to a radio talk show on the way into work, and yesterday one of the hosts related a story about his kid who just went away to college. For his mother’s birthday he sent home a card. It arrived with a 1¢ stamp and 41¢ postage due. When he asked his son why he bought only a 1¢ stamp he replied that he thought it made sense to buy the cheapest one they sold.

After some well-deserved teasing of his son, the host asked if this indicated a fundamental lapse in his parenting. His co-host responded, correctly in my opinion, that eventually people have to take the responsibility to ask questions, and that it’s not possible for a parent to know everything his child still needs to learn.

This anecdote gives me some comfort that my kids are not unique in their inability to question and learn from everyday life. But it does little for my hope that they will one day evolve to the point where they can safely leave home.

I mean, at 13, Claudia should understand why it’s important to take the pots and pans out of the oven before preheating it. And if she forgets to do it, she understand the reason she should use a potholder to correct the problem.

At 11, Gabe should understand that he should close the door before letting the dog off the leash.

They should know this, right?

I remember asking questions when I was young. And not just the why is the sky blue variety. Why do we pay sales tax? Why do we need immunizations? How do you mail a letter?

Sure my kids ask why, but it’s more a way to question authority than in a quest for understanding. Why do I have to clear the dishes. Why do I have to go to bed now?

All this makes me wonder if—both in our own home, and in society as a whole—we are nurturing a generation of people who desperately want control, but who are wildly unprepared to get that control.

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2 thoughts on “My Kids Will Never Leave Home

  1. Interesting article Dale.

    It’s almost like a generations of kids growing up with a deeply embedded sense of learned helplessness. Like you – I asked questions as a kid and I had a pretty good head for common sense.

    When I was at uni doing psych I remember my tutor talking about Erikson’s stages of moral development – and how until 8 or so,kids don’t really get cause and effect in the moral sense of it. I didn’t want to accept that with my son.

    He’s now four and I try where possible and without being patronising to help him understand the cause and effect of his behaviour. He might not quite get that his actions affect other people yet, but I want to lay the groundwork young. The questions and observations he makes with very sound logic makes me hope that he will get it all very soon.

    The ‘why’ you spoke about in regards to authority makes me think of a comment my soul sister made years ago (she’s been a high teacher now for 17 years!)that we’ve now got a generation of kids who are all too educated on their ‘rights’ in this world but don’t actually understand the whole concept – that the flip side of ‘rights’ is ‘responsibilities’. We have a generation of kids who want to have all the rights but none of the responsibilities.

    I also wonder … that this is the first generation of children, in this modern age, who have been raised from small children outside of their homes and their families (ie they’ve been in some kind of care arrangement to allow both parents to work) which means that they are disconnected from every day life from a very early age. I don’t know what the circumstances are with your kids in this respect.

    There are possibly kids out there (the radio commentators kids as a point of example) who may never have been to the post office with their parents to post a letter. Who may not have done many of the mundane tasks we were dragged through as kids.

    Oh I could go on for days!

    What I actually came by to say is thank you for your comment on my FF .. I’m glad I was able to put a slightly different spin on the topic.

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  2. OMG – I have recently learned the term “boomerang” child. Not just the actual definition but as a living experience. Both of my 20 something children are living at home.

    Neither one of them have successfully completed college. One has no intention of returning and the other protests loudly that he will return but is sitting out his second, consecutive semester. His grades are less than stellar.

    I am not sure that either one of them have a clue as to what they would like to do with their lives. Not that I even expect them to have a plan for the next 10 years much less know the career they choose for the rest of their lives. It is as you said as if they are helpless.

    The youngest has a good steady job which he has held for close to two years. The oldest bounces. First from school to school and now job to job. Confused, clearly angry and frustrated with quite a chip on his shoulder. What bothers me is the lack of acceptance of responsibility. Sure he can say he blew his scholarship by partying now he admits this a few years later. But now at a few months shy of 24 – it’s time to get it together. He doesn’t own a car, no job and how can he get one without transportation. And why is it everyone else’s “responsiblity” to help him out.

    I asked him to move home over the summer. When I saw just how much he was struggling. At the time he had a job. A good job. We worked out a plan for him to take a second part time job in order to provide himself transportation. He quit the job and took a construction job with a company that didn’t have enough work. And blew every penny he initially earned and had saved on a laptop and rifle. Oh and the second job…never materialized.

    I want both of them to be on their own. Not because I don’t love them. Because I need my own space and I feel so taken advantage of at this point. I can’t believe the lack of understanding that I am not a grocery machine, nor am I here to pay for everything!

    I am protesting right now and have not purchased any groceries. We have eggs, bread, tuna , pasta, frozen meats, veggies, rice, potato, can soup, beans, peanut butter, cheese. Yet we have “no groceries” and need to go to the store. Really??? I am tired of buying two large bags of chips in hopes to make queso…… only to find (after long hard hours at work for days on end) I have no chips to do this with….why???? Everything is instant gratification. No one seems to want to work towards anything, not even a meal.

    I don’t understand this at all as I have raised them as a single parent. I started them at a young age on learning to pick up after themselves, having to do their own laundry and chores. I did not pay them for these things thinking I was teaching them that this is how you live. You cook, you clean you take care of what you have. Our “possesions” are to be respected and taken care of and are not easily or casually replaced.

    They never had the mobile phones, the ipods, the extras that most kids had a a “norm” and I thought that this would have taught them that if they wanted “things” they would have to work hard. It’s not that I didn’t want to give them these things – I was not able to afford them. Yet surprisingly they seem to have gone in the opposite direction I expected. And there seems to be some sort of strange disconnect – they seem to think they should have all these things. Hence the running out to buy a mac book with the almost $2000 earned instead of saving towards a car. Then another $1000 on a scooter – $3000 could have bought a car!

    How do I get them off their keisters, out of my house and hopefully on a path to being able to take care of themselves. Helpless is not an option.

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