Culture Club

I would be remiss if I spoke of adult children without speaking of differences in culture. As Shallini pointed out the other day, it is customary for adult children to live with their parents until they are married. To do otherwise would be radical. And I think there are places where multi generational living is the norm. Some places, the youth take care of their parents. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of thinking: it is just counter to how I’ve grown up.

So, when Shallini asked:

“What if she wants to move home?”

My first thought was:

“No &^#$^ing way”

Because, unless there is a legitimate reason, I have zero expectation that my daughter will ever live with me full time again. First off, I know she does not want to live with me when she gets out of school. Second off, I don’t want her living with me when she gets out of school. I love her….but…..in 21st century America that just doesn’t fly.

How does western society treat adult children that live with their parents when there is no legitimate reason? What do we really think?

Well, Big Bang Theory had Howard, who was continually mocked for living with his Mother, which he did until he married. He was seen as a man/child and routinely mocked. How many women want to marry a guy in his thirties who still lives at home? Who has a Mother that cooks for him and does his laundry? That’s the kind of guy that you tell your friends NOT to go out with. You see a guy living with his parents you scream TROUBLE….ISSUES…..

I had a friend from high school, a woman, who did not choose to move out of her parents home until she was about 40. I will tell you that this was a very weird dynamic and there were issues with her that did not constitute the living arrangement but signaled something was very wrong in her head. The red flag was this living arrangement and her parents did nothing to help her. Correction: they thought her living with them would help her.  This story ends with too many pills and a too early death.

As one blog friend stated yesterday, they have a friend who is in their sixties and still working hard to support a child in their thirties. I’ve heard of many such cases. Is this the new normal?

Or should we start to change out outlook, look towards a more Eastern way of thought, and consider multi generational households? Is there a benefit to many layers of a family residing under one roof? Incomes pooled together, helping one another out when needed?

Is Western society too focused on the individual other than the collective?

So my questions for write my blog Thursday:

What is your opinion of adult children living at home when there is no good reason (saving money for a short term basis, sickness, recent separation and need a place to crash short term)?

Why?

 

 

 

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The First Fight

“I’d love it if she just knocked on her neighbor’s door and introduced herself.” my Husband said. He’d said this phrase about 15 times during the four days of drop off/parent orientation.

“You’re obsessed with her making friends.” I replied.

“WHY WOULDN’T I BE?! I JUST WANT HER TO BE HAPPY!”

We hadn’t even reached the Jersey Turnpike and we’d already had our first empty nest fight.

Seeing my daughter cry when we said good bye unnerved him. He’d already been sad, and that just undid him. I obviously understand his feelings: after all, she’s my baby too….

But here’s the problem. If you talked to my daughter, she was/is not worried about making friends. She was/is worried about academics. My Daughter is used to being the smart one, the kid who got great grades. Now, well, it’s a different fishbowl. Now every student graduated in the top 10% of their class, they all were 99th percentile in standardized tests, they were all captains and presidents and showered with accolades. She’s most worried that she won’t be able to keep up….that’s why she’s anxious.

The friends thing: first off, my daughter has never been the “popular” girl. But, she had friends, good friends, all the way through school. She had kids that she could rely on, who were solid. She might not be a social butterfly, but she is very able to make acquaintances and friendships. This wasn’t really a worry.

“SHE NEEDS TO GO OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE.” was the next comment he screamed.

I looked over to him. “She’s in a new city and state. She’s sharing a room with someone she met on Friday. She’s about to take college level classes. She needs to find out where the CVS is. Cleaning her own bathroom. Doing her own laundry. Figuring out how best to organize her time now that everything is different.” I took a deep breath. “Do you think any of that is in her comfort zone?”

He relaxed a little.  “It would still be nice if she went out of her way to meet people.”

Which led me to my next thought, which was clearly a bubble in my head because I didn’t want to engage in the introvert/extravert see saw. Why do people think being an introvert is bad? Why do they want to change us? Why is it bad that my daughter has no interest in knocking on people’s doors?

Why does he think my daughter needs to change?

Why can’t he accept who she is?

As a parent, you need to love and accept your child for who they are. If your child is introverted, you can’t make them change. And obviously, there are a thousand other examples of allowing your kids to nurture their nature. They are who they are: accept them, love them and help them become the best person they can be.

On a side note. My daughter has the greatest roommate. She has been hanging out in the floor common room and met a bunch of nice kids. She contacted a girl she met during the roommate search and is meeting her for coffee. She’s doing fine socially.

Classes began yesterday and so far, so good. Her professors seem nice, though she found out that “Bleak House” is a thousand pages long so she’s not too thrilled about that….

And there you go…..

 

 

I still Haven’t Cried

As we said good bye, a big fat tear rolled down a cheek.

But it wasn’t my tear, nor was it a tear of my Husband.

It was my daughter who cried the first tear. My stoic, tough, low on visible emotion daughter.

Who saw that coming? Certainly not me.

There I was, tissues in hand, waiting to bawl my eyes out. But then I saw that tear, I took a deep breath, and I went into Mom mode. I was thankful for all the sports movies I’ve ever seen as I gave the pre game pep talk: I’m so proud of you, you worked so hard for this moment, you are prepared for the battle ahead. I made a self deprecating joke and my daughter followed it up with a wise crack and a smile, and as I hugged her that final time she looked at me and said

“I’m good.”

I gave her a thumbs up and watched her walk away from us, across campus towards her dorm so she could change out of her dress from convocation into an outfit more acceptable for the afternoon orientation events. She didn’t turn back.

It’s then that the whining started. Not my daughter’s: she was practically skipping down the steps. Nor was it from me. It was my husband.

“She could have walked us to the gate.” he said. “She didn’t even turn back around to wave.”

So I didn’t cry. I consoled him. I talked straight to him.

“She needs to make a clean break. She still loves us. But this is the time she needs to become an adult. She needed to walk away from us in the middle of campus. She needed to head off into the future and not look back.”

“Well” he said. “I don’t like it.”

We got back to the hotel and loaded our stuff in the car, saying good bye to the concierge who had been consoling parents all morning. We began to drive north.

I did not cry.

We got home and greeted the pets, ordered Chinese food and put some things away.

I did not cry.

I met my friends for lunch on Monday, Mother’s who had just performed the same dropping off ritual that I had. They cried. I did not.

I dropped off dry cleaning yesterday- my dry cleaner sends her son off to college for the first time on the 30th. I watched her eyes well up as she spoke to me, because we are sisters in this: I know how she is feeling as she knows how I am. As I patted her shoulder I did not get weepy, I did not shed a tear.

Alas, as I spoke to my very special friend last night, I spoke of how I have not cried….yet. I know it will come- it’s inevitable. But I need to still be strong for my daughter. She is adjusting well so far, and I know when classes start today she will get better. She likes the routine that classes and activities give her. Neither one of us does well with unstructured time- we like routines and planners and all things like that. We like busy. So she will shed no more tears. She will thrive in her new environment of new studies and new friends.

Then- it will be my turn to cry.

 

 

Prama

My Daughter has Prom tonight.

Well, actually, she is getting her make up done at 10am. Then her hair at 11. Then Pre-Prom starts at 2, and it will be a half hour cab ride to the person hosting pre prom. Need to be at school by 4pm for the busses to leave at 430.

As of now it’s like, a 65% chance of rain.

Pre prom is outside- big roof.

Prom is at a lovely place in New Jersey, with a big terrace overlooking the Hudson River.

Hence prama….

But the whole thing surrounding prom….

Some people hated prom. Others said it was the best night of their lives. Some simply do not go. What makes this night special enough to warrant a million emotions?

My Daughter hates the abstract idea of prom being something that one takes a date to. To her, it is a school dance, and therefore, as a school event, there should be no push to have this a dated event. At the beginning of Senior Year, she and her five best friends made a pact: Unless someone was in a relationship, there would be no dates. This would be their last Hurrah as a group, before they head out to various parts of the country.

Fine.

Except the first prama came when one girl wanted to bring a date- a boy she did not know that well…

In the end, she’s not bringing a date. But the angst….the ridiculous conversations….the prama….

Tables. Who is going to sit where and with whom. That was a fun ten days…

Where are they going to do pre prom? How many pre proms are they going to?

Where are they changing after prom for the after prom….

Do you want to go in the talk of who is renting a space for after prom? Which diner they will go to at 6am?

Prama.

And the anxiety has already begun in my house as my daughter is one very taut nerve. If you want to know why parents lose their cool, it’s events like this….

I’m sipping tea, listening to the jackhammers in the background, knowing that that will be the least annoying sound I hear today. I’m sure the whining will be much worse….

But I also know that at 4pm, when my daughter is standing under golf umbrellas with her friends, and they all look so pretty, and their smiles will be flashing, I will stand next to by friend S, and we will tear up a little, and we will hug each other. We will smile and laugh and cry. We will watch our incredible daughters head off to, hopefully, an incredible night under the stars.

I’m sure that Billy Joel tune will ring in my ears- “Now before we end, and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been, I’ve loved these days.”

 

Girl Talk

I’ve noticed a common theme in blogs recently- Moms upset that their teenage daughters are pulling away from them.  I guess it’s the season: it’s the second half of the school year, kids are getting closer to the next grade, the next school, the next milestone.  Moving up and moving on is right in the crosshairs…Mom’s are in the rearview mirror, waving and running towards the car, tears in their eyes….

What happened to my baby?  The words to “Sunrise, Sunset” purr through the mind.  When did I lose my daughter?

Well, to be fair, you started to lose your child pretty much after they were born.  From the moment they breathe air and the umbilical cord is cut, your daughter is striving for independence.  (This goes for non biological kids too, the umbilical cord is metaphorical)

I know this firsthand.  I have a daughter who is 16, and a Junior in High School.  She will be leaving the nest in August 2019, possibly forever. (It better be forever.  There is an elliptical trainer that is going to look great in that room)

I’m not a therapist, nor do I have any training in this area.  I’m just going to throw some common sense and logic out at you.

Everyone wants to forge their own identity.  Everyone wants to do things their way.

Is this bad?

No.  Of course not.  Your goal as a parent is to make your child into a fully functioning adult.

Your goal is to make sure they can survive on their own.

Your goal is to make sure they see the opportunities that lie before them, and to go for what they want.  A little bit of Carpe Diem.

Though as a parent, I get the whole thought, “Can’t you Carpe  that Diem tomorrow?  Can’t you just sit with me and be my baby just one more day?”

But ask yourself- am I being fair to my daughter?  Is this the best path for her?

Here’s the anecdote- I know you were sitting with baited breath, waiting to hear what actually happens in my house…

A few years ago, I would look at the weekend calendar and automatically include my daughter in the plans.  As of 9th grade- well, her being around just wasn’t an option anymore.  I had to say to her- “What’s on your agenda?”  I would ask, “can you fit in family/Mommy time?”  (I will also add that I have a strict 3 family meals per week rule- but this is actually more for my husband, and this has been a rule forever.  No one crosses me on this)

I would ask her.  I did not assume, nor force her to spend time with me on the weekends.  You can disagree with me- everyone has their own rules for how their household is run. But I felt that she was old enough to learn/know how to manage her own time.  I know how much homework she has.  I know how many activities she juggles, and how much time she devotes to these.

I’m OK with her figuring out her path.

I know she still loves me, even if we don’t have an activity planned.

But, I have found (and this is me- I can’t vouch for it working anywhere else) that my daughter tries to find a little bit of time for me.

She has been very crazed lately- burning the candle on three ends.  Last week I said to her “I feel like we’re ships passing in the night and I miss you.  Can we play this weekend?”

I asked.  I told her the truth about how I felt.  Her response?

“Sure Mommy.  We can get lunch after my SAT class on Sunday.”

Which we did.  I found a little French café that has this amazing hot chocolate selection, and yummy crepes.  The décor was porcelain tea cups and wrought iron tables, the display case showcasing opera cakes and lemon meringue tarts.  The air smelled like chocolate- did I forget to mention it’s also a chocolate shop?  I knew we had an hour- I wanted to make sure the event was special- because I can’t take for granted the time I get to spend with her.

I don’t have a great relationship with my Mom.  I am trying to forge a different path with my Daughter.  I saw the mistakes my Mother made, and I’m trying not to make the same ones with my kid.  It’s a very fine line, trying to have a nice relationship with your adult daughter.  Right now, I’m still the parent- I need to speak to her as a parent.  But, I’m also learning to speak to my daughter as a woman and as an almost adult. (FYI- this is where my Mother made her biggest mistake- she has still not learned to talk to me, not at me- but that’s a whole series of blogs)

So Moms- accept that your daughters are growing up and away from you.  Figure out how to make the new dynamic work for you.  Figure out how to maintain a positive relationship with you child, who isn’t really a child anymore.

Your daughter loves you.

They just need to find themselves and stand on their own.