What Have I Done For You Lately?

My son turned 18 on March 15th.  He’s not the most independent young person I’ve ever known.  As a matter of fact, he’s not independent at all.  Not to turn this into one of those rants about “back in MY day”, HOWEVER, when I was his age I had applied to numerous colleges, selected which college I’d be attending, had already decided to study in Europe for my junior year, picked a major, and was applying for scholarships and financial aid.

My son has no idea what he’s doing “today”.  Tomorrow is a word he can barely say, and he certainly doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “future”.  If a scholarship essay is due tomorrow, he’ll start on it the previous evening.  Everything is “last minute”, rushed, and therefore never looked over twice or edited or thought about for more than a few minutes.  Preparedness does not exist in his vocabulary.

Therefore, I find myself helping him get everything done on time.  Is this enabling him or should I just let him fall on his face until he “gets it”?  Of course when he was growing up I did everything for him.  Duh.  He was a kid.  But he’s still a kid.  He is no more prepared for life on his own now than he was when he was 3 years old.  These past two years we’ve been trying to “prepare” him for life in the big people’s world and although he says we treat him like a baby, he doesn’t manifest any behavior indicating that he’s any older than a toddler.

This entire head discussion I’ve been having with myself was prompted by his telling me last night that I never make him any meals any more.  THAT was prompted by the fact that his 13-year-old sister has been sick for the last 5 days with a high fever and a cough and I’ve had to do everything for her.  He sees me being the maid for her and wanted the same.  And I thought to myself, what the heck is he talking about?  I’ve done everything for him for most of his life and he’s complaining that I don’t fix him dinners any longer?  Could it be because he’s never around and doesn’t call to tell me whether he’s even coming home for dinner anyway?  Or could it be that every time I set dinner down on the table he screws up his face and says he won’t eat it.

Hello?  Do I feel under-appreciated or what?


Posted on April 6, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Goodness Patti, i think you are telling my story. Lol. Having been given much responsibility as a child, I didn’t want my children to feel that pressure, so I too am seeing the fruits of my labor. Lol. Yes, we have enabled our children. At least my grandchildren are learning the desirous responsibility considering the mind-set of their parents. Lol. Seems I’m partially responsible for the current generation’s expectations of entitlements. Argh.

    Great post as always! Love ya.

  2. I read somewhere that each generation is the opposite of the one before. We decide our parents were wrong to make us work so hard and take on so much responsibility, then we do the opposite with our children. Our children will — of course — decide which errors we made as parents, and do the opposite. It’s a vicious circle. LOL!

  3. All of the above.
    It’s part of growing up, of course, I was overly responsible like you.
    But with my own kids, I dealt with the same thing as you express.
    It gets better. They all graduated from college, have good jobs and are happy. One is still at home saving for a car.
    And the dinner thing, yeah, still happening.

    When will I learn to just take care of me and make a salad?

    Thanks for the fun.

  4. Patti, I am a grandmother for heaven’s sake! Been there, done that. Enabling is what it is called. Insecurity and fear are its favorite companions. I am guessing that you are about the age of my kids, since your kids are about the age of my grandkids. So listen to me. Pay close attention because I don’t give these gems of wisdom to just anyone.

    I had one of each. The older a boy. I was told by numerous teachers, one Asst. Principal, AFTER he took a special test and made two of the country’s top math and science high schools … “don’t send him to either” Her prediction was that he would either be a very successful criminal or a very successful businessman.

    I paid for therapy, I yelled and ranted. He still never did one science project, played hooky to play handball, refused to do homework, flirted with girls instead of studying and showed up the last day and past his finals. He read three to four books a week and created worlds with D&D. He was my genius. My unrealized genius and a pain in the a$$. He got a math medal for the love of irony!! I turned gray and white and guess what? He is a successful businessman with three kids (twins in high school), a mega-great job and he still doesn’t know how to sort laundry.

    STOP now while you have a chance to save your sanity. If you cut them both off at the knees now, they will thank you later. You are a lover of nature and in nature the young are not shielded from the cold reality of the world. Don’t do that to him. Sorry for the rant … but hey … who knows you and a couple of more Gen X’ers out there might listen and learn 🙂

  5. Patti – I’m late getting to my reading this week – but I mentor a high school senior that must be your son’s twin – – – I thought maybe this young man lived a charmed life–but it is the fact that so many things seems to happen instantly these days? Wish I had an answer.

  6. As a 78 year old grandma who is blessed with 3 wonderful kids and 7 grandchildren I think I can say with some authority that you are, indeed, an enabler. It never ocurred to me to allow my kids to become dependent. Life is wonderful when we have to figure some of it out for ourselves. As the youngest of 4 kids, born in 1934, I was surrounded by much older siblings and left to my own devices much of the time. But I survived and adored my parents who had such faith in me. I sometimes think today’s generation of parents are afraid their kids won’t love them and do too much. Love comes in many forms, not the least of which is to give our kids the basics and then let them grow on their own. That is real love and they know it. Let him go and grow. It’s not too late.
    Good luck! Anne Crowder

  7. lorriethomson

    I have one of your son’s twins at my house, too. I can relate to the pic of the woman tearing her hair out of her head. Don’t do it! You’ll go bald. Perhaps you can suggest that your son make dinner now and again. Remind him about his responsibilities, but don’t take care of them for him. Fingers crossed, ten years from now, we’ll both be telling others how our slow-to-reality guys turned out just fine. I bet yours is a sweetie, too.

  8. Patti,

    My heart feels your frustration and pain. But remember what a disservice you potentially could do to him once he goes out into the world and expects the world to be his Mom. It’s not happening, especially these days.

    I’m sure he’s a sweetie and ten years from now he’ll say something like “You’re the smartest person I know.” and these memories will get relegated to the spiderwebby part of your brain. Mine did. 🙂

  9. LOVE all the words of wisdom. As the mother of a strong-willed 9 yr old boy, I can definitely relate!! I’d fear 10 years from now except for that fact that I’m already warning mine ahead of time (daughter, too).

    Listen, my only job is to see that you’re fed, have clothing, shelter and water—that’s it. So when you decide your “britches don’t fit anymore,” that means my job is done. And you’ll buy them with your own money, too!

    Can you tell I have a couple of sassy children? Pulled my hair out over the both of them many a time! But God love them, kids mature at their own rate and in their own way. My other job? It’s to love them. 🙂 Sometimes that’s all we can do.

    Hang in there, Patti!

  10. Patti, you’re not alone. So many parents I work with want everything for their children bc they love them so much, but they end up making their children dependent and insecure. It takes time to develop independence, but in your situation I’d advise a crash course for your eighteen-year-old. Sit him down, be sure to tell him how much you love him and how much you believe in his potential, and that it’s time for him to begin learning how to be an adult.

    Teach him how to make 2-3 simple meals for himself when you’re not available, how to do his own laundry (I just started teaching my 13 year-old son, and he’s getting the hang of it), and make his own bed. As for school choices, model how to use a daily planner (either on one of his techy gadgets or hard copy, whatever works for him), and he’ll be on his way.

    He will likely screw up a bit; that’s to be expected, but they will be his mistakes and he’ll learn from them. It breaks our hearts when our children fail or suffer disappointments, but think of how proud you’ll be when he succeeds. Because he did it all by himself. Also, be prepared to give him more freedoms as he shows more responsibility.

    I wish you luck, and know that your kids will turn out great because you care enough to let them learn and grow. Like one of your other commenters said, it’s not too late.


    • Thank you so much for replying, Jolyse, with a ton of wisdom, I might add. Yeah, I’ve begun a little of that, i.e. he can do his own wash now and he made chocolate chip cookies the other night! Can you believe it? And he makes his own bed now without asking me to help him. He’s on his way, bit by bit. And, he knows I love him more than life itself. Thanks again, Jolyse. Patti

  11. Parenthood is the toughest job out there. We constantly second guess ourselves for not doing it “right”. Except, every child is different; every relationship is different. Stop beating yourself up! You did it your way because you love your children. It’s neither right, nor wrong. There’s nothing wrong with tough love every now and then. Use it without guilt. 🙂

    • Well, Tracy, if you got my e-mail a few days ago, you’ll know I can’t leave comments. I just tried again and it didn’t work. But I wanted to say thank you for commenting. I need as much advice as I can get and I got plenty here and am grateful. He does know that I love him to death and that counts for a lot. Patti

  12. I’m late to this discussion, but you have both my kids. My son is 22 and has ended up learning many things the hard way. My daughter is 17 and lives by the seat of her pants. Assuming she makes it through high school, she’s going into the Navy in a year….*buwahhahhahaaa* I cannot wait to see the woman that emerges from that.

    • I appreciate all the comments I’ve received on this post. I don’t feel like such a “loner” and I know he’ll be okay. Thanks for chiming in, Sharla. I know you’re hecka busy right now with your book and I appreciate your kind words.

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