Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Not in the DM's Guide (Dads/Moms Guide)

A friend of mine, on his 18th birthday, came home to find his mom, a cake and his packed suitcases. His mom said, “Happy Birthday, I’ve done my job, you’re a man, and you’re on your own.” Now, that is paraphrased from my friend’s account of that day, but the facts are accurate. His mother turned him loose on the world when he turned 18. I have known others who have moved out of their own volition when they turned 18, still others who stayed with their parents until mid-20s or later. But my question is this: When is it time to strike out on your own? And does the impetus, whether internal (choice) or external (forced) have anything to do with the growth process?

I have a son who is 22 and a son who is 20, both still living with me. One is working full time, while the other is going to college. My wife and I told both that they could live at home as long as they were being productive (i.e. pursuing higher education, or working full time.) I am worried that I might be hampering the growth process in some way. Now, I know going to school and working to support oneself is a daunting task, but to the son who is working full time, am I doing him a favor in the long run? We have talked about his future plans and he does want to be on his own, but if there are no other issues (attitude, slacker behavior, etc.) is it really bad to want your child staying at home?

Other parents I have spoken to have handled this in different ways. Some have evicted their adult children, some have taken on a tenant/landlord relationship. I know that I moved out of my parents house and survived; my wife (his mother) did as well. It shouldn’t be an issue of fear, so long as I have done my job as a parent, right? He should not end up sleeping on the streets (unless he chooses that, of course.) And that is the rub. Am I hanging on because of fear of losing him? Cutting the apron strings (or the umbilical cord) is not without some pain. All change is painful, but it doesn’t need to be the end. My dad and I never talked much while I was growing up, but he became a friend when I left home. My own son and I have a pretty good relationship now; I wonder, will it strengthen, weaken, or not change much if he moves out?