Recently, we hosted the third in a series of three life-altering, talks. The first talk was the SEX TALK, back when my children were pre-teens. It left me traumatized when I learned that they knew far more about the topic than I did.
The second TALK was about DRUGS. I had been actively involved in a Drug Awareness program in town and, consequently, my three teenagers had been educated in how drugs could jeopardize their health. They knew I was savvy when it came to recognizing drug use symptoms: red eyes, runny noses, lethargy, so when I officially sat them down, it was only to drum into their heads what they already knew.
I had no reason to suspect my perfect children had anything to do with drugs until I reiterated the fact that long term use of marijuana affects fertility in both men and women, and one of them whispered, "Adoption is good."
And now, decades later, Mighty Marc and I prepared for the third TALK: the most difficult to give, and hardest to listen to. The WILLS and LAST WISHES TALK.
My dear husband thought my decision to gather the children together for this disclosure was unnecessary. I disagreed. I had been Executrix twice: once for my brother and once for my mother. Each time it was like navigating through quicksand. In both cases I spent close to two years wading through volumes of papers: town and state records on taxes, birth and death certificates, mortgages, leases, loans, health care, life and car insurance policies, jewelry appraisals, stocks and bonds, Living Wills, and so much more.
I didn't want our children to have to search for vital information through every paper in every folder in every file in our desks and on our computers. I did not want them to have to guess who our lawyer and doctors were, or hunt for names of friends and relatives who might offer clues that lead to vital information. I did not want them to decide where our funeral or interment should be. Grieving is difficult enough without having to endure hundreds of added stresses.
We invited the children to dinner that included a great deal of laughter. During dessert, Mighty Marc started the TALK on a positive note, letting the children know that we are debt free: house paid off, no credit card debt, car paid off, and not only do we have long term health care, we have fully paid for crypts.
We heard several sighs of relief and, to my surprise, one daughter-in-law was crying. I thought it might have been from relief of learning she would not be paying off our debts and hospital bills, but she later disclosed that the topic of our impending deaths was terribly sad for her. I was deeply touched. It was no picnic for us, either.
There was a light moment. When we disclosed that our only debt was the one car we lease, my son-in-law said, "Wait a minute. Car leases are for three or four years. Is there something you're not telling us?" We laughed, and assured him we were in good health, but had decided that we would continue to lease one of our two cars.
After years of nagging, crying and begging, Mighty Marc had yielded to my pleas. He put together a packet that included every bit of information I would need, should he die before me. He purchased a cloth folder from Staples, with a number of pockets; each one large enough to house manila folders. He labeled each folder: INSURANCE, LAWYER, REAL ESTATE, STOCKS, IRA, CHECKING AND SAVINGS ACCOUNTS, LIVING WILLS, SAFE DEPOSIT BOX, etc. and while we saw no need for the children to look into the packet, we advised them that it would be at our lawyer's office when the time came.
Neither of us had looked forward to this FINAL TALK. We had prepared ourselves for questions that might be confrontational, challenging or just plain uncomfortable to answer. They never happened. To our delight the evening went smoothly and lovingly, and while it was far more difficult to talk about than the SEX and DRUGS talks, this talk left our heads a little less cluttered, and our hearts a great deal lighter.
I am now prepared to die, but I can't ever imagine being ready to die.
"Discuss the expectation of parents and kids in terms of how you behave at home and what responsibilities they have," said Katherine Newman, dean of the school of arts and sciences at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Accordian Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents and the Private Toll of Global Competition. "It's better to talk these things over rather than be silent and grinding your teeth behind closed doors." Groceries, cooking, laundry and tidiness can all be areas of conflict, so lay down some ground rules. Photo courtesy of jim212jim
"Instead of saying, 'I don't see you applying for jobs and this can't go on forever,' talk about what you expect," Newman said. Discuss goals for hours per day that will be spent networking and searching for jobs or choosing and applying to graduate schools.
While you're talking about autonomy, also lay down some ground rules for privacy. The most obvious: Knock before entering. Photo courtesy of ricky.montalvo
Boomerang kids are young adults who have typically become accustomed to keeping their own schedules without answering to anyone. That can rattle parents who want more accountability, or just a little courtesy. It's fair to ask an adult child to text you if they are going out rather than coming home for dinner. While it may be fine for them to keep their own hours, it's not fair to come home late and disturb the sleeping occupants of the house who have to work in the morning. Photo courtesy of srwsrwuk
If young adults are doing everything they can to move toward autonomy, parents should be patient and recognize there are larger economic forces at work. Rather than having them pay rent, focus on steps toward independence -- such as eliminating any revolving debt and paying student loans on time.
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