back off

I so enjoy things you guys send my way. The following is a small snippet from a CNN article that ran this summer. Who cares if the article ran in July? Wasn’t that just yesterday? In fact, here in Texas, it still feels like July – so bring it on.

Sally Koslow (Hey, baby boomer parents, back-off, CNN July 10, 2012) shares some encouragement to her fellow baby-boomer parents to back-off and let, okay force, their kids to take the road less traveled – toward independence. Its a good word for us still in the trenches.

Boomers have established the 2.0 model for self-involvement, enhanced by boasting about our most prized assets, our kids, whose attention we crave, and who all too often exist on a broad plain of entitlement that we’ve hired gardeners to maintain if we’re not hoeing and mowing ourselves. In this devil of a job market, many young adults now exist in a cloud of overconfidence with an illusion of endless time.

Parenthood requires constant renegotiation, which is where boomers often bomb. We remain overinvolved in adultescents’ lives, another twist on not wanting to get old. It’s painful for us to recognize that biology’s imperative is for youngsters to manage without parents, and that many life lessons must be learned alone. We can’t teach kids how to learn to meet deadlines, get along with people and deal with rejection. These are solo projects.

Once kids graduate from college, it’s time to collectively peel off the bumper stickers and remind ourselves the ultimate goal as parents is to stop trying to vaccinate our children against every conceivable catastrophe. The best and most lasting gift we can offer our children is the chance to develop independence so that one day they can teach their own kids to do the same.

This means boomers acting like tough coaches, not fairy godparents with an indefatigable ability to solve problems and limitless credit cards: 59% of people 18 to 39 who are not students receive some financial aid from parents. Mothers and fathers should start early, or at least earlier, to give kids a crash course in the DIY drudgery — from tax prep to turkey trussing — that doesn’t make it onto school applications and resumes. These are the tasks our country undervalues.

And when young adults return to live at home, we need to establish rules as well as time frames for how long stays will last, along with encouraging kids to expand job searches and perhaps take any position until dream jobs come along.

I was talking with some other moms today about our first jobs. Not to start a walk-uphill-both-ways-to-school story, but my first office – which it clearly could not be called that – doubled as the copy room. Okay, so it’s primary purpose was the copy room, there just happened to be a table that could double as my desk. Oh yeah… glamor. Is that what I had gotten my degree for. Did all my great internships and summer jobs lead me to such a  pinnacle? The copy room? Honestly, I did care, but not that much. It was the late ’80s, middle of the S&L crisis, jobs were scarce and I was thrilled to have one… a great one at that. Some of the least glam offices were my favorite jobs.

Looking back on it all, those slightly uncomfortable, less than favorable, difficult boss, humbling situations seasoned me and built character. Not quitting all those times I wanted to produced a reflex reaction to persevere. Add all the curve balls and disappointments as well as straight shots and excitement … and who knew? Sounds a lot like parenting.

Anyway, thanks MOAT Elizabeth for sharing the article. Good food for thought … and thanks for walking the road with me.


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