Saturday, July 14, 2007

Never Leaving The Nest, Never Wanting Them To

Angel Jennings touches a nerve with the article Emptying Nest Eggs, Not the Nest. It is one of the most emailed New York Times articles today:

In contrast to previous generations, when young people generally took control of their finances — and their lives — after graduating from college, more parents are supporting their offspring well into adulthood.
Well. The worrisome thing about this forever adolescence is that the umbilical chord never gets cut. The young person is infantilized into adulthood, is forever reliant and doesn't trust himself to take care for himself.

One benefit of my dysfunctional upbringing was that I had no intention of returning home to stay after graduating from college. No. Way. I got married. I got a job. I lived in a complete hell hole--which I still can't believe my parents and my husband's parents didn't see a problem with and would never allow my kids too live.....

See? When I was a kid, I walked a mile to school, at least, at age five. Five. I thought nothing of it, nor did my parents. I wouldn't dream of allowing my ten year old walk to school or my eight year old. Say I'm overprotective if you want, but the world has changed.

I wouldn't let my kids live in an apartment where baseball bat and gun battles were a nightly occurrence, and prostitution, and drug dealing, and wife beating and every other crazy thing you can imagine. I would pay the extra $200 a month so they could be safe...er.

Would I be making the right decision? Would I be delaying their adulthood? When does protection become over-protection? When does love actually turn into narcissism--salving the parents concern, but inhibiting the kid's development? It's tough to know the answers.

And ultimately, it isn't a good idea to indulge the kids when it means potentially having to rely on them in old age to survive. That's just selfish. So while robbing the nest egg isn't a good idea, is it just as wrong to give an extra egg away?

My Vietnamese nail guy couldn't fathom that I would have this dilemma, when I lamented all the teenagers with Mercedes and other impressive cars kids drive these days. He wondered why I wouldn't want the safest, best car for my child. Because the child's physical safety is only part of it. A kid is deprived of a dream is deprived of hope. Providing a child with everything makes them not work for anything. Why bother? Could this be a reason so many young people are depressed?

The answer isn't simple, or the same for any two kids. But I do think that as a society, we've become adept at giving children things that don't matter and depriving them of the things that do.

1 comment:

kman said...

Wow. Dr C I never realized you lived in a place like that...

We are struggling with this balance as well. Something I think we have lost in America is a need for our children. A good explanation of what I mean is the PBS reality show / documentary called Frontier House. In the show several families agree to live for 5 months as frontier families in the late 1800's would have. The rich Californian family was shocking... the parents cheated and didn't like living in the 1800's. But their teenage children loved it and were depressed when they went back to their regular lives. I'm sure there are multiple reasons but a large part of it was because in the 1800's world the children were needed for the family to prosper. Everyone had jobs / chores that the family NEEDED them to do. I'll never forget how the teens wanted to feel necessary.

I try to incorporate chores, volunteering, and thankfulness for all of our basic needs being met (food, housing, safety, etc) into my sons daily lives. I also regularly tell them how important they are to me and let them help me whenever possible. Now when to nudge them out of the nest... I'm going to try to instill the expectation that they will move out after graduating college... but we'll have to cross that bridge when we get there.