A Community for People Who's Children Have Outgrown Them

This is a blog for people who are reflecting on life after their children have flown the coop.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Almost Adults

They have now been home, give or take two weeks and we are all getting used to it.  As a family we a relearning to adjust to one another's schedules, demands for the cars, food needs and expectations.  It is the expectations part where we really are at the crossroads between adult and kid stage.

For the most part we are supposed to be in charge of food, except when they spontaneously decide to go out for dinner, lunch and maybe even brunch.  The food with friends activity is fairly often as this is a good way for them to catch-up with buddies.  As almost adults, they are better at giving us notice of their impending plans than they used to be and rarely have we planned on them being at a meal and not showing up. However, if we were hoping to enjoy a spontaneous family meal for us to catch-up, this is often scratched.  I also know they are not keeping track of the running tab they are building up from meal to meal. They just assume that this is a benefit from being home, an extension of their campus allowance. We have grown to accept it because we certainly didn't track their dining schedule when they were away.

We have observed real maturity when it comes to assuming responsibility for family chores.  Although I don't see a lot of initiative for taking out the trash or cleaning something up, there is much less resistance towards pitching in.  Coming off of a year of having to care for one's own laundry, shopping and room cleaning, they accept these as duties for when they are living with mom and dad, too.  There is far less complaining about requests for help than there was when they were permanent 365 days a year residents.  I must admin that once in a while, there is even a surprise empty dishwasher.  I would like to feel that the often repeated mantra about as a family we have responsibilities to one another is getting through as they leave their teen years.

We wrestle with the expectations of treating them like adults, enforcing rules and mandating judgments.  Curfews were never big in our world.  Even when they were in high school we didn't require that they punch a clock.  Our concern was more for communication, make sure we know where you are.  In college, life begins at 11:00 so we understand that is their perspective.  Scheduling hasn't really presented any problems because we have few expectations.  They pretty much come and go throughout the nights.  We have given in to the occasional beer, even for the underage because they did it when unsupervised in college.  Susan and I don't agree on this issue.  She comes from the view, not in my house.  I can't control what you do when you are away, but can here.  I on the other hand accept that it is part of their lives and will permit moderate imbibing, provided it is above board.

The challenge remains when to coach.  As almost adults they don't always get things done in the timely manner that we and sometimes the world--those authorities who have deadlines--prefer.  During the eight months that they are living on their own, they either get it done or figure out how to solve the problem they created.  Whether it is turning in a paper late or forgetting a notification or just not living as healthy as they can (lots of opportunities for that in college), they figure out how to deal with it.  Now that they are back home we are experiencing of the dissonance of do we try prevent them from making a misstep or let them live their lives?  We internally debate at what level do we interject (we are past the point of intervening).  Are you sure you want that ice cream today?  Why don't you submit those papers before you forget?  We have to fight that temptation to suggest (this is in contrast to the past when they were younger and we could require) and have to simply just ignore what they are doing and let them make their own decisions.  Fortunately, they mostly get it right. When they make good decisions we will claim credit, whether deserved or not, for good coaching during their youth.  And when they don't, oh well.  Sort of, it is still hard to allow them to screw up.  We are learning to manage our expectations of our almost adults.

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