We have taken flack from both parents and adult "kids" over our views as empty nest parents and the boomerang kid phenomenon. Our Huffington Post article "Empty Nest Antidote: A Full Life," where we were quoted as advocates for celebrating life after raising kids while adding that adult offspring should not live at home but rather learn to live independently, drew comments from parents like, "How sad for the kids," and "Why do people like this even have kids?"
Our piece, "Bounce That Boomerang," brought fire from the younger generation with remarks such as, "I'm sick of everyone's opinions (and sensational headlines) about 'twenty-somethings'" and "How typical of boomers to see the world through their own antiquated lens."
So, we felt a good bit of happy vindication when we came across "The Drawbacks of Being A Boomerang Kid" at YPULSE. In this story a recent college graduate, Casandra Liggin, affirms our position on adult offspring returning to the nest: "Could it be that some parents may be doing their children a disservice by allowing them to wave their hands in defeat and retreat to the safety of home before giving it the old college try at adulthood"
It certainly could! Ms. Liggin points out something we insisted our adult children learn before leaving home -- work.
Millennials are pained by the idea of settling for a less than ideal occupation rather than pursuing their passions. I think passions are wonderful, I truly do. But I also believe in working until one can draft the desired path to achieve their passion. Work experience of any kind is extremely valuable as it teaches you what you like and dislike in a job and how to communicate with diverse personalities... I would argue that one could learn more behind the counter of a Starbucks than sitting in front of a laptop, sipping a caramel macchiato at their local coffee shop pondering their next professional move.
Precisely! Ms. Liggin has noticed that many of her peers choose to play it safe by never really trying -- our offspring have seen the same thing -- and that often it's the parents who are enabling this lack of effort.
Maybe today's parents are too quick to provide a soft landing for fear that their child will get bruised by life or dare I say it, rejected. From my experience, the sooner you experience disappointment, the quicker you learn to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game.
Obviously, this is a lesson Ms. Liggin learned well, as she writes, "resourcefulness is a skill I'm most proud of and wouldn't have attained unless put in a sink or swim situation. Luckily, I've learned to swim many times over."
We feel strongly that this sort of independence doesn't just happen, it is a product of parenting, and Ms. Liggin sees that too: "Sure, my parents would have let me come back home if I had experienced a major medical emergency, but anything short of that was pushing it. They had been prepping me for independence from the time I entered high school."
This goes to show that strong parenting, even if it sometimes takes the form of helicopter parenting, can lead to happy, independent, self-sufficient young adults.
But as Susan Engel's New York Times article "When They're Grown, the Real Pain Begins" shows, sometimes letting go can be difficult. Especially when things get rough for your children.
Last year, one of my sons went through a series of devastating setbacks. Almost everything bad that could happen to a young person happened to him. He had a catastrophic accident at work that permanently damaged one of his fingers. He will never use it again, though almost everything he loves to do requires the precise and flexible use of his hands. He endured a devastating break-up with a longtime girlfriend. And he got fired from a job he cared about, without any warning or rationale. He seemed just about as broken as a young man can be.
Any parent is going to want to jump in at this point and Ms. Engel was certainly no exception, but her son understood that he needs to stand on his own two feet: "'Mom,' he said, 'when I tell you what's wrong, I don't want you to tell me how to fix it, and I don't want you to tell me it's not as bad as I think. I just want your sympathy.'"
That is one of the keys to creating a true adult-to-adult relationship with your adult children, love them, care about them, but allow them to solve their own problems.
A couple of the comments on Ms. Engle's piece hit the nail on the head: "As the mother of three and grandmother of six all I can offer is -- keep your mouth shut and your arms open. If they want advice, they'll ask for it," and "There's no magic to this. It's the golden rule of parenting. Treat your kids the way you wanted to be treated when you were their age. When you were 28 did you want your Mom to fix everything for you?"
YOUR TURN: You've heard our thoughts, what are yours?