I don’t know what it is, but Ellie has taken the concept of consumer items way too literally; I truly think she eats her cellphones. Whether due to an errant yoga pose, collapsing furniture, a paddle board mishap, or a burglary in San Francisco, I have spent more time with ATT&T’s customer service – online, on the phone, and in the store – than I’ve actually spent with Ellie. Seriously, what the hell gives? Needless to say, she never loses or breaks her toothbrush or a pack of gum. Why would she? They’re only a quick trip to the bodega and a couple of bucks to replace!
Aside from the inconvenience, each time I get THE call – distinguished, of course, by a saccharine, “…moooommmmy” – I enter into a heated internal debate that makes my head spin.
- Oh. My God. Do you not take care of anything you own??
- So I’m supposed to just hand you $600 for a new one?
- Nope! No way. Ain’t going to happen.
- Of course you don’t have any money; you don’t have a job!!
- If you can’t afford to pay for your own phone, you shouldn’t have one. Period.
- Okay, so not having one is not an option. I need to reach you whenever…well…I need to.
- After all, I have to know you’re safe.
- I know you’re a student.
- And I know I haven’t pushed you to get a job.
- It really is my own fault.
- I am an enabler.
- I’ve brought this shit on myself.
- Hmmm…I wonder if I have any upgrades.
“Sure, Ellie. Let me give A&T a call.” I’m pathetic. More devastating, though, is the fact that I’m being exactly the parent that I swore I would never be: one that prevents her kids from having to develop a sense of self-responsibility and resilience through real life consequences and – maybe just a tad bit of – suffering. Bad, mommy. Bad, BAD, mommy.
Among the most interesting parts of merging families is the spotlight that gets shined on the choices you’ve made as a parent. When raising kids together, you get to decide in real-time what you both think is best. Yes, there are disagreements, but ultimately compromises are made and choices are reflective of your collective thinking. No such luck when you’re not co-parenting with your partner. And, of course, you can’t change the past to bring histories into lockstep. So, all we can do is compare. Oh, and – if we’re open to it – learn.
In the most basic sense, Jim has raised Rob and Susie to be self-sufficient and productive. While college was always an option, a clear line (maybe even a contract?) was drawn that if anything got in the way of taking full advantage of the educational opportunity (think beer, complacency, or – say – beer), they would pull the financial plug. Jim would say that college should only be viewed as a strategy for achieving a professional goal, so if you don’t have one of those, you shouldn’t go. And he certainly shouldn’t be paying for what surely is just postponement of real life.
On the other hand, I think that THAT is exactly what I am paying for. (Hopefully) Four years of pre-real life experience in a safe and educational environment, surrounded by like people – or at least ones who share a common belief in the importance of education. To me, college years are for developing the next stage of self-responsibility with minimal risk. After all, I want my babies to be safe, safe, and – above all else – safe. And I want them to have fun…safely. Oh, and to learn some things (though I think that happens without their even knowing it or trying very hard).
Now, as I am on hold this time awaiting my turn with the AT&T rep, I wonder if I have been doing it all wrong. Does the college experience delay the inevitable need to take care of oneself? Or, is having college as an option a means of slow baking (pun intended) kids into young adults? Honestly, I’ve always figured that they would go to school, get jobs, have families, blah, blah, blah, so all I’m really doing anyway is making theirs a comfortable and happy ride. I hadn’t assigned anything more than a general timeline. And I certainly never thought like Jim – that life is about having goals and achieving them, at least not relative to careers and making money.
God, that’s embarrassing to admit.
Okay, okay. Mine is a way of thinking that very privileged few have the financial luxury to maintain. That said, I am every bit as dependent on gainful employment in the long run, so why I haven’t helped develop in my kids a sense of urgency about self-sufficiency and financial independence?
I don’t know. I guess I believe that stressors that come with being and staying employed make up the lion’s share of one’s life; so, why shouldn’t our kids be protected from that for as long as is humanly possible? Stress, after all, challenges happiness, and above all else, I want my kids to be happy.
“Yes, Ellie. I know the iPhone 7s+ would make you happy. Yes, 256GB. Rose Gold. Got it.”
Jesus, I’ve raised Veruca Salt.