Adultescence: an enabler's view
The newly-coined term for the period of a child's life when his or her parents continue to support and clean up after them, even after they have grown up, is 'adultescence'.
My name is Tofu-Hearted Mother and I am an adultescent-enabler. But I'm on the twelve-step programme.
To be honest, I would deny that I am an enabler until I was blue in the face if you asked me in person. I do not like to believe that I am anywhere near a 'helicopter parent', much less do I like to think of myself as a 'jet-powered turbo model' parent who can't stop interfering in her children's lives . I would much rather see myself as 'nurturing' and 'supportive'; but then I read the following in the New Yorker and was a little embarrassed at how close to my circumstances it sounded!
"In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.
In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her." (Sound familiar?)
Now, I have to admit, some of those are a little too close for comfort. I have been known to do more for my kids than, say, some of the parents of the kids I teach. Or friends of mine do for their kids. But I want to be a good parent! Is that so wrong? Well, maybe it is. But it's all so confusing. Am I a bad mother because I work hard to support my family physically, emotionally and financially? Or would I be a better mother if I ignored them more, did little for them, stopped watching their sporting matches and spent more of the family money on my hair and nails? Why is it all so difficult to believe in yourself as a parent? That I am being the very best parent I know how to be and I am reflectively and (I hope) intelligently putting that into action? But do I do too much? And what is the reason that I sometimes clean up, do the dishes, fold the washing, take the kids to the bus stop in the car, and even help finish the homework? When I know that I should be making them do it themselves? When I know I am enabling their laziness? Well, at least I am not the only one who comes across the "it's easier to do it yourself" mantra of parenting:
"Not long ago, [...] my husband and I gave [the kids] a new job: unloading the grocery bags from the car. One evening when I came home from the store, it was raining. Carrying two or three bags, the youngest, Aaron, who is thirteen, tried to jump over a puddle. There was a loud crash. After I’d retrieved what food could be salvaged from a Molotov cocktail of broken glass and mango juice, I decided that Aaron needed another, more vigorous lesson in responsibility. Now, in addition to unloading groceries, he would also have the task of taking out the garbage. On one of his first forays, he neglected to close the lid on the pail tightly enough, and it attracted a bear. The next morning, as I was gathering up the used tissues, ant-filled raisin boxes, and slimy Saran Wrap scattered across the yard, I decided that I didn’t have time to let my kids help out around the house."
And it IS easier to do it yourself! And I'm pretty sure that women from previous decades who didn't work outside the home had more energy to put into motivating and disciplining their children and checking up on the progress of the chore given. There is so much frustration and annoyance in kids being kids that I do - I admit - give in and do it all myself. It's easier and more peaceful for my frazzled brain. It's not that my children won't do jobs or help around the house; it's just that they are normal teenagers and have to be told several times before they get up and do it. And it's the shattering of the peace I hate. As a school-teacher I work all day with reluctant teens and I am firm with my discipline. When I get home I would rather the meditative physical job of doing the household chores myself than the messy and anxiety-producing nagging for someone else to take responsibility.
So I am an enabler of adultescence. And whilst I may be somewhere on the scale between one and twelve of the programme, I am still 'off the wagon', so to speak. If you look again, that's me running along behind, waving my arms and swearing, trying to catch up and finally make that leap on board with all the other good parents.