Cut the apron strings
My son David just graduated from university, and my husband Paul and I are very proud – sort of. I’m not sure yet, but I’m afraid David might follow in his brother’s footsteps. Adam, my oldest, graduated from university two years ago, and he has done nothing with his life since.
We threaten to throw him out all the time, but deep down he knows we wouldn’t do it. Paul and I argue a lot about Adam. Paul blames me for not being stronger. Sometimes Paul comes home from work and sees Adam just rolling out of bed. Adam is too comfortable with his life at home, and I don’t see this ending any time soon. He can’t keep a girlfriend, as no girl would want him like this.
Now I am worried about David. Adam is a horrible role model and David is talking about travelling this year instead of looking for work. He’s worked part time since high school and has saved his own money. I don’t think it’s such a terrible idea, but I’m afraid he will lose opportunities.
I’m scared for my boys and don’t know where to turn. Help!
Mother of Lazy Loafers
Dear Mother of Lazy Loafers,
The reasons parents get into this situation are numerous and often quite deep. Whatever led to it, you are now forced to deal with the present. I suspect you already have a good idea of what needs to happen, but obviously you are not prepared to throw Adam out or you would have done that already. You will, however, have to grow a thicker skin if you truly want to help him. He is taking advantage of you and you are falling for it. Instead of helping, you are crippling him and preventing him from facing his real problems, which will escalate the longer he is allowed to continue in this lifestyle.
Where is Adam getting his money to go out? Where is he getting his clean clothes and meals? I’ll bet he has a computer with Internet and a cellphone too. There’s a big difference between helping and enabling.
You need to force Adam to live his own life. Start by devising a plan together that you will both stick to. He needs a goal and you need a deadline. Assist by guiding him through the plan point by point. Make sure it’s realistic, but do not create it for him. Adam needs to take responsibility for his own life by becoming independent. If he falls along the way, you can pick him up, brush him off and push him forward again. By coddling him you are reinforcing his fears and insecurities.
What it boils down to is guilt. You will feel guilty if you force your child out. By allowing yourself to be ruled by guilt, you are enabling his destructive lifestyle. You must put your son ahead of your own feelings of inadequacy, of thinking you are a bad mom. Adam must take that first step to prove to himself that he can do this. Give him that little push out of the nest and watch him fly. You’ll be proud you did.
And don’t let Adam’s lifestyle affect David’s goals. From the sound of it, David has had this plan all along and he’s worked for it. Allow him to make his own choices. Time to cut those apron strings.
Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: email@example.com. But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.