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Editorial

Release your children, SET YOURSELF free!

  • PublishedJanuary 4, 2012

It is an amazing experience to be a parent; sounds like a cliché. It can be a frustrating and painful experience to be a parent; sounds more real. I recall once sitting with a group of women friends lamenting how our grown-up children are still living with us. Our views were all different. One woman said the salary her 30-plus son earned could not afford him a house in a decent area, yet she was not ready to release him to ‘Eastlands!’ My honest view – if you are so concerned that your son should live in a ‘better’ neighbourhood, let him pay what he can afford and you pay the balance. Another said her 40-year-old son was so caring and loving and caused no trouble, so there was no reason for him to leave home. My goodness, what kind of reasoning? I am not prepared to live with a 35-year-old man or woman in my house unless there were special circumstances.

What happened to independence? When I left university, I couldn’t wait to get my own pad on getting my first job. I was out of my mother’s house as soon as I got my first pay cheque. Independence! – that’s what I really wanted. I was lucky my mother also wanted the same for me. She didn’t expect any working person to live in her house. And that was the case with parents of our time. They trusted us to get into the big wide world, make good judgments alongside mistakes but eventually grow up to be people who can stand on their own. So what’s wrong with parents of today? Why are we allowing our children to be so dependent on us? And it appears boys have a bigger problem than girls.

I was having a phone conversation with a male friend recently and as usual we asked each other about our children. “Mine are okay”, I said, “Well, I hope,” I added because they are many, many miles away from me. His were also okay but he was concerned about his grown-up son still living with them during the week and in his girlfriend’s apartment during weekends. His excuse – since he plans to go out of the country for his Masters programme at some point in the future, he didn’t see the point of getting himself an apartment. We truly had a good laugh. Those are our children – men and women who are total dependants of parents and girlfriends or boyfriends! What is the world coming to? Can you imagine your father allowing you to live in your childhood bedroom when you are all grown and having relationships? I am told it was taboo and that’s why boys built huts!

When your grown-up children have it pretty cushy – food is provided, bills are paid and a comfortable bed to sleep in is provided, you are doing them and yourself more harm than good. Okay, maybe you expect them to contribute to the household budget, but that is nothing compared to the time and money they would have to find, and the growing up that would come with it, if they left home. And so they argue, why leave the comfort of home? As long as you encourage them to stay, there is no good reason for them to ever go out into the big wide world. They will hang around until, if they are lucky, a wife or husband comes along.

It’s never easy to let children go at any age, but you must let them go at the right time. If they can’t leave home on their own, you need to fall out with them to give them reason to leave. It’s something they have to do, for their own sanity and yours. Some parents relish in the comfort of their children staying at home, describing them as obedient, caring and loving, so much so that they cannot think of leaving their parents on their own. You can say that again! My son to claim he lives with me to take care of me when am not sick, and yet he expects me to do everything for him. Sometimes for children to evolve a foolproof system for taking that big scary step away from the comfort and security of home, and into paying bills and taking responsibility, they just need to be pushed out by their parents.

Thank God mine had no choice but to live on their own in apartments in areas they can afford in Obama’s country. They also know too well that as soon as you are out of school and working, mum will be very happy to welcome you home as a visitor or while in transition, but not as a permanent live-in. For children to leave the comfort of home, they have to find an excuse to reject everything you stand for to give themselves the impetus they need to get off their backsides and get on with their lives. They need to argue with you until they reach a point where that big scary world looks more appealing than staying at home with you. It’s called rebellion.

If you are forgiving and understanding, this can be pretty tough for them. They get their ears pierced and their bodies tattooed and you do not bat an eyelid. They drink and smoke, but you just tell them it is their choice. What next? Answering back every time you ask them to tidy up after themselves? There must be something they can do to rile you, to make you see sense of them moving out of home. You must encourage them to face the world independently, to face the harsh realities and learn how to cope on their own.

Unless you give your children hints that it’s time to move out, they won’t move out until they get it. They will eat all your food, play their music full volume, colour their hair orange, sleep all day while you toil, and make your home the meeting joint of neighbourhood children. They are programmed to break you.

And break you they will unless you allow rebellion to take place. Children who don’t go through the rebellious phase of life never really manage to let go of the apron strings. That makes life much harder for them and trickier for you too in the long run. Sometimes they find a good partner and slowly shift their emphasis away from you – and sometimes they don’t. The whole process takes much longer and they find independence much harder than they otherwise would.

Of course you can’t make your children rebel, but you can make it easier for them to do it by putting up the odd barrier for them to kick against. No working adult living in your house; no alcohol; you eat what you buy and cook; you pay rent and utilities; you clean up after yourself – harsh prescriptions, but perhaps the only way to make them face reality.

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