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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Drift and Die

One of my friends, a mother very involved with her children, has been talking to me a lot lately as her eldest, a boy, has graduated high school, quit his job, made a ton of bad decisions and figures he can hide out in his room playing video games until his future plops into his lap with no effort on his part.  I know how this goes because I have children older than hers and she watched as I went through this with my own daughter.

We both wondered why on earth kids are not champing at the bit to get out of the house, like we were when we were 18.  Both of my boys entered the Marines as soon as they graduated.  My youngest left home and graduated high school with a month and she has not looked back.  I'm more proud of her than I've ever told her.  She works hard, is married, expecting their first child, my first grand-child, and she and her husband have decided she will be a stay-at-home mom. To them their family is the most important thing and they show how much the value it by making a hard decision to do without her income.  I have no doubt they will both make it a good home for themselves and their child.

I could not wait to get out of my house when I was 18.  It wasn't because it was a horrible place, it was a very easy place to be lazy and coast.  I wanted to get out on my own, live my life and begin proving my parents wrong about how the world really worked. I worked, went to school and found out my parents were right about a good many things, but I was living my life on my terms as best I could.  I had a dog that I got shortly after I turned 18 and there were many times I went without so I could afford dog food.  She was my responsibility and I would do without because I'd taken it on.

Did I ever get help?  Oh hell, yes.  My parents loved me.  When I worked as a DJ at a small radio station in Wharton, TX, my dad would send trucks through the town and the guys would stop at the station and drop off my dad's care packages.  Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup and more mac and cheese and top ramen noodles.  He would even put in small bags of dog food sometimes, knowing I'd feed my dog before myself.

I always wanted my own place, my own home, my own castle.  I've allowed both of my sons to move in with me.  Only one of them has a job, but he's not showing signs of saving up money to get out.  The other one doesn't work, hasn't signed up for school in the fall and basically sleeps all damned day.  He constantly tells me I don't do anything around here.  Wow, Junior!  Who cooks your meals, does the shopping, the cleaning, takes care of the pets you like as long as you don't have to pay actual attention to them...

I've made it way too easy for my free-loaders.  But that's ending because frankly, I want my house back.  The son who does work is planning on getting a house to rent with a friend of his with a yard for his Beagle.  That is good and cannot happen fast enough.  I'm reclaiming parts of my life that have been on hold since they both moved into my home... again.  I need a dedicated office for my writing, so one of my bedrooms will be reclaimed.  Frankly, I don't care which one has to sleep on the curb.  I bet it won't be the one with a job, a car, and a plan for his future, I can tell you that.

My friend and her husband are at a crucial point in their son's development.  The point where you kick them into the deep end, after all the swimming lessons you pray took root in their vapid little minds, and hope they swim.  I had to do that to my eldest daughter when she was floundering after high school.  College was not for her, but she had a nowhere job taking care of kids that was slowly getting to her.  I finally got fed up and kicked her out.  Her brother had to drive her to Houston and drop her at her father's apartment.  She struggled there as well and got kicked out of there.  Once she was kicked into the deep end, she didn't tread water any longer.  She worked three jobs, hustled personal training jobs and she eventually got hired on as a file clerk at a law firm.  She's worked her way into a paralegal position and she now has a nice apartment downtown, a car and she's making money and paying her bills. She still works personal training jobs because she likes to shop, so she earns the extra ducats she needs.  She does not stand around with her hand out yelling at everyone how it's their responsibility to provide her with whatever she wants.

I'm more proud of that kid than there are words in the English language to describe.

I'm proud of my youngest son who seized an opportunity where he works.  He will be using his GI bill to get into an electrical engineering course at the local trade college and will be promoted to an assistant manager position working evenings at his current job. When he completes the program he can pretty much write his own ticket because he will also have years of experience to go with his certificate. He's suffered quite a bit since he's gotten home from his tours with the Marines.  I think his friends shamed into quitting his whining and making some good life choices.  He's in a much better frame of mind since making this decision, because he's no longer drifting.  Very proud of him.

My friend asks my advice because she's a much nicer person than I am.  If her kid were mine, he'd be living under a bridge already.  I can fully understand his father's desire to punch the kid in his useless head.  He wouldn't be hurting anything the boy uses.  I almost cheered for my friend when she told me that she was going to get him a sleeping bag and drop him off at the interstate bridge down the road.  She's getting it that by allowing your child to tread water, to drift, kills any need they have to get out and prove themselves.  Welcome to the Participation Trophy generation.  They get awards just for showing up.  No need to accomplish anything at all.

It's just like welfare, if you do something for somebody they are less likely to even try to do for themselves.  It's easier just to drift and complain how you're entitled to more.  It's also the easiest way to get your father to shrug off all paternalistic protection and punch you in your whining mouth.  I've seen it happen, and I have to say the shocked look on the little punk's face is still one of my favorite sights in my life.  Call CPS, you little stain, you're 18 now and you can get your ass out of my house.

Once our kids are 18, the legal majority in this nation, we do no favors by encouraging them to stay at home and continue being children.  Boot them out.  They will sink or swim.  But drifting and dying is a much more horrifying future than learning to swim.

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