Adventures in Parenting

Monday, July 6, 2009
The Smart Boy is technically an adult. He's had his 18th birthday and he's graduated from High School. But he still lives here at the Yellow House, and he's still a full time student, and thus covered under my benefit plan. We split some of his expenses (like car insurance and vehicle maintenance), I pay for some by myself (health care) and he pays for some by himself (gasoline and cell phone). He doesn't have a curfew, although he is required to let me know if he's not going to be home for dinner (or home at all). He's digging his new-found freedom, and has basically been adhering to our agreement regarding adult children who still live at home due to full time student status.

And yet, when his vehicle wouldn't start yesterday while he was working, his first call was to me, with the expectation that I get a tow truck out there so we could "take care of it right away." In this case, I think "we" can safely be assumed to mean "Mom."

Um, not so much.

I explained that I would not be paying for a premium tow on a Sunday when the soonest a mechanic could look at it was this morning. I'd make sure he got to and from work so he wouldn't lose his job, but his social life was not my concern, and I was not going to drop my Sunday plans so I could spend yet more money his second Hooptie car.*

I think he was actually shocked.

What both of us are learning is that having your mommy swoop in to solve your problems is not typically a characteristic of young adulthood, even if you do still live at home and go to school. I don't know how he's adjusting to this new fact of life, but I can say that it's a bit strange for me. I'm so used to "fixing" things, not only for my kids but in every aspect of my life, that learning to wait and see how he's going to fix things is hard for me. I know it's the right thing to do - I want him to be a self-sufficient, contributing member of society, and this is the way to achieve that goal. I know this. Yet I'm in the habit of putting on my Mom Cape and saving the day. It's my first impulse, even though I know I'm not doing him any favors by doing so.

So both of us are learning this lesson, and it's hard. The latest? He's managed to infect his PC yet again, and neither the Smart Man nor I are taking any action. We've told him there's something going on with it, and that he needs to investigate. Then we disconnected it from the network, and we'll wait to see what he does. I'm itching to see what's going on, but I will resist. Because my duty to him as my child is to let him learn how to be an adult in an environment that is safe, not to protect him from all of life's unpleasantness.


*The Hooptie ended up starting at the end of his work day, but was 4 quarts low on oil. Yes, we had explained that older cars go through oil more quickly. No, he had not been checking his oil. Yes, we explained that if the engine seizes up due to his negligence, he'll be walking. Sometimes that boy stands on my last damn nerve.

15 comments:

Wendy said...

Maybe a recommendation to him to join AAA would be a good idea about now? The local/regional office would be able to let you know if there is a tow service provider in your town.

Most AAA tow drivers will go through a quick routine and check the basics when they get there just to see if maybe the car just needs a jump or a shot of oil or gas.

My parents always had AAA, when I started driving they were able add me to their membership for a discounted price for several years. That way my first call was not to them, but to AAA to see if/when they could come get me. Then to the parental units to have them meet me at the garage.

With a couple of the hooptie level vehicles I had over the years, it was well worth the price, even the times I had to pony up for overdistance tow-ins.

WendyB_09

kimby said...

I think that one of the hardest things as a parent is to know when to let them fail, and when to save them. A lesson that I work on everyday

Stacey said...

Ah yes, grasshopper, this is a difficult one. My daughter is now 25 and knows she can still call me for 'information on how to fix it' but not the actual fixing itself. She has gotten quite good at doing most things herself, just calls on the ones that are new or to bounce an idea. The first ones are the hardest, but it does get easier. Ok, that was hard to type with a straight face....maybe not easier, but more manageable for you.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

AAA - most wonderful thing in the world. For my 16th B-Day I got copies of the car keys and a AAA Membership. Still have it and it has saved my ass on more than 1 occasion.
I'm not a parent, but have seen the results of others who always "saved the day" to the detriment of the youngsters. Not a pretty picture when said youngster couldn't cope with bigger life issues. THAT took MY time. Talk about tap dancing on MY last nerve....

Jeri said...

I bought the Z an AAA membership too. And, plus, his dad is a mechanic.

I understand on the fixing thing though, it is very hard to let go of that reflex!

Stacey, I only aspire. :)

John the Scientist said...

My wife and I have this recurring argument. She wants the kids to go to school close to us.

I think that going to school over 800 miles from home made me grow up in a hell of a hurry.

On the other hand, I would have liked to have been closer to home when my father died in the first quarter of my third year. I was a long, long way from home. It was my last year, and I had overloaded out the wazoo to try to finish school before he died. I missed it by 2 quarters.

Growing up is painful no matter how you look at it. We all (hopefully) get there eventually, but I'm not sure I have figured out the optimal path for my kids, so no advice from me, just sympathy.

MWT said...

My brother needs to move in with you. >.>

He's one of those detrimented youngsters. We tried to move him away from home so he would have to do stuff for himself, but now he's moving back in. And my mother can't not do everything for him.

As for your kids, John: I think it works best to let them decide that for themselves.

Anne C. said...

SmartBoy is also a LuckyBoy. He has a great and thoughtful mom. :)

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

I bought my first AAA membership a week before I picked up my first vehicle. Now I have the AAA RV Plus membership, because it has 100 miles of free towing and my job is 77 miles from here.

The big problem we have with college students, especially freshmen, these days are "helicopter parents" -- they hover and try to run everything. These people are horrified that freshmen registration is done WITHOUT THEM and the new freshmen are NOT ALLOWED TO USE CELLPHONES while registering. In other words, they have to use the Registrar's people plus the schedule and catalog to figure out what they should be taking.

So Wendy... are you going to tell your faux version of your 1969 Camaro, or should I tell everyone the truth? (grin)

Dr. Phil

John the Scientist said...

MWT, when they are 18 they can decide for themselves, but my advice will differ based on what I think they need / can handle. If you have done a good job up to that point, your advice carries a lot of weight.

My parents told me to get out and see another part of the country, and I did. It is just that that part was Terre Haute. On that topic, they were silent. o.O

Random Michelle K said...

It all depends upon the child John.

I went to Marquette my first year and was miserable. Hated it. It was too flat, there were no trees, it was in a big city... I thought I wanted something drastically different, but I was terribly wrong.

I'd have been much better off at a smaller, more rural school, but no one seemed to have figured that out until it was too late.

John the Scientist said...

I dunno, Michelle, maybe I'm arrogant enough to think I can see my kids as clearly as my parents saw me. They knew I'd be miserable at a huge cookie-cutter school like Purdue. I think one thing they missed was the possibility of Honors programs at a larger school but in general I loved the atmosphere of Rose. I just hated Terre Haute. Their advice was good.

By the time I went to the USSR, my mom was a lot more skeptical about my choices, but I was really on my own by then. Those first steps are the hardest, but once you get momentum, you can fly. It is the parents' job to try to ensure the first push out of the nest facilitates flight, not a big stumble.

Right now, academically, I think my daughter could skip high school if she keeps up her work. But emotionally? She'd flame out. Maybe in 6 years I will change my mind, but right now, I am content to enrich, not push faster.

The whole point of being a parent is to make sure that your kids don't have to do everything from scratch. Not that you won't make mistakes, not that they won't want to do some things from scratch, but your years of experience ought to give them a boost in the stuff that can make a big difference in their lives. Stuff that you could do on your own, but at much greater cost.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

Make you rkids run away and join the circus! Or the Navy, whichever is hiring. They will get a paycheck and there are just enough people (Janiece and myself) around to tell them exactly what to do and when.
Oh, and make them take orders far away!
Problem solved!
You're welcome!

NotACat said...

We are in the happy position of having loads of time to think about all of this, since our daughter is only just a teenager. Not so happy is having to take into account her Language Disorder and various emotional issues to do with her being adopted. Right now she's convinced she's going to work with animals, which is actually a possibility given that the local college has a Special Needs option which is relevant. We're fairly confident she'll be able to get some kind of job, although keeping it could be interesting. Whether she will ever be able to live independently is another matter. Don't even start me on the subject of driving…

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, NotACat.

Fortunately, neither of my kids has Special Needs, and in spite of my crying about them, they're both pretty good kids.

I'm hopeful they'll make it to adulthood without too many bumps and bruises.