the nest

the nest

Friday, February 14, 2014

it's all about the love...

Since I last posted, I've written any number of blog entries in my head.  They just haven't made it here.  I've thought about how quickly time is passing.  I've thought about what is different about kids who launch successfully and those who stay home.  I've thought about new careers.  I've thought about a lot of things.  I've thought that blogging more often might be a good idea - maybe the middle of the night musings would diminish and I would sleep more.  Maybe not.  I have a busy brain.

What is most recently on my mind has been what makes the difference between successful launchers and unsuccessful launchers.  It's funny to me that this is on my mind as the last project I worked on in graduate school (a million years ago!) was exactly this.
There has been a lot of talk over the last decade about the increasing numbers of adult children who either never leave home or who move back home.  The conversation generally leads to talk of economics, lack of jobs, cost of housing etc…  These factors have often existed through time though, so what's different now? I'm going to propose a few other theories (I'm pretty sure ones that are out there too), that I think make a difference today.

1) We as parents sometimes make life a little too easy for our children.  Why would they want to leave to tough it out in a tiny apartment where they have to cook for themselves, do their own laundry, pay their own cable etc…  For some reason, the very things that so many past generations went through as part of "growing up" appear too hard or unappealing and we happily (or grudgingly) allow our kids to experience an extended childhood well into their twenties.

2) While the job market has been challenging over the last many years, there are jobs.  Many of them are hard, low-paying, and don't necessarily use the education that today's high school and college grads have gotten and are still paying for, but they are jobs.  They are not careers, but they are jobs and can help pay the bills and move you forward in life.

3) We've created a family system where our children are the center of our universe.  When they leave, what's next?  It's great to be friends with our kids, but that's not really our job.  When our world revolves around them, the idea of them leaving and creating a life that doesn't include us at the center can be terrifying.

4) There are teens and twenty-somethings whose families have gone through divorces, illness or death, right at the point when they are supposed to be heading out on their own.  Sometimes the very real needs of the parents trump the needs of the kids.  For a while this is reasonable, but for some families, they get stuck ~ you can't leave home when your parents desperately need you.  As parents we need our children to know we will be fine so they can move on.

I've just re-read all of that and it sounds academic and unsympathetic.  What's the benefit of launching our kids out of High School or College anyways?  What's wrong with them living at home well into their 20's or even 30's?

I've said this before and I'll say it again ~ from the moment we give birth to our children we are preparing them to leave us.  The more we allow them to do things they are capable of the more we reinforce the idea that we believe they are competent and more than able to take care of themselves and others.  If we continue to do things for them, the message they get is that we don't think they can manage.  We spend a lot of time building them up falsely with trophies and "self-esteem" building experiences when the very things that will most help them develop a sense of personal agency continue to be done for them.  We rescue them when they make mistakes, we bail them out when they do stupid things, we take care of them long after they should be taking care of themselves.  No wonder we have an increasing number of adults who can't function.  Sky-rocketing rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, etc…. If you grow up being told you are perfect and awesome, but you have no idea how to function in the world and are rescued and cared for at every turn, heading out into the world on your own must be terrifying!

As I've watched my children grow, particularly my two oldest at this point, I am more and more proud of them, and not for the things I expected to be proud of.  Andrew is one of the smartest people I know, but his grades wouldn't show it.  While I'd love to see him do better academically, I'm proud that he owns it.  I'm proud that he is working ridiculously hard in a dining hall, washing dishes and mopping floors to help pay for his living expenses in a tiny apartment and an education that while he is not necessarily enjoying it, knows will help him in the future in some way, shape or form.  I'm proud that he is teaching himself to cook and has discovered the joy of feeding others ~ I'm proud of the man he is becoming.  Any imaginings of who he might grow up to be have been replaced by an even better reality of an independent, caring young man.  He knows he can always come home if he needs too, but I suspect that will never be for more than a few weeks at a time.

Katy is preparing herself to leave home by the middle of June and after that, will most likely never be home more than a few weeks at a time as well.  She has hopes and dreams to do great things in the world and I can't wait to hear about her adventures.  Will I miss her?  Absolutely!  As much as I miss her brother.  But this is what they've been moving towards they whole life.  We've been raising them to be adults, not children.  I'm proud and humbled that they can change the world and have no doubt they are capable of doing so.  Will they live in tiny apartments and eat a lot of beans and rice?  Yep.  Is that ok with me? Yep.
When you can struggle through the tough times on your own, you gain the strength and knowledge to thrive and move forward.  At two, when they say "I do it myself!"  they mean it.  listen.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Jane. Thanks. Just what I needed today too!