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Extended Parenting

Kristen and I have become aware of something recently.

MEGAN IS FOURTEEN! 

We aren’t freaking out about high school. We’re not even really freaking out about the potential of paying for college.

But we are both kind of freaking out about the not-so-far-off word: Adulthood.

The Parent Test

The true test of your ability to lead a group of people is “What happens when you’re gone?” If things carry on largely as if you were there, you’re doing a good job as a leader. If chaos reigns than you’re not doing a very good job as a leader.

But is the same true for parenthood?

Is the true test of your job as a parent determined by what your children do into adulthood? Yes and no. Your parenting certainly determines a trajectory for them, you can certainly foster things in your child, you have a lot of impact… but you aren’t truly responsible for them indefinitely.

Have I turned out the way my parents probably aspired for me? Not really. Am I in the vicinity of what they were hoping for? Yes.

Extended Parenting

I think one of the things I’m wrestling with as I consider what the next 4, 8, 12 years look like is what it will look like to shift roles in Megan’s life?

I’m well aware and versed in the discussions about extended adolescence / emerging adulthood. But, practically speaking, I’m not sure I really want to extend my parenting well into my children’s twenties. Specifically, I’m not sure I want to finance and house a perfectly capable adult while they figure stuff out indefinitely.

At some point, just like we see in nature, you’ve got to kick the bird out of the nest. I’m not going to feed you forever… the most caring thing for me to do is to prepare you for that moment, right?

But what I see, particularly in middle-class suburban white parents is an unwillingness to kick a birdie out of the nest and mean it. Instead, they tell their children in actions and words that they won’t let them suffer… so these young adults never flourish because they don’t have to. And the parent is satisfied that they still get to parent even if it’s not healthy for them, expressing a codependency, if you will. Is there something wrong with that? Not if all parties are happy about it. But understand it’s not not about cognitive emotional development or physical capabilities… it’s about values. 

One reason, it seems, why young adults can’t make decisions (codify) about what they want to do is that they might not feel the pressure to take responsibility for themselves. As I’ve seen over and over again in my work… it’s amazing how fast a person can mature and take financial responsibility for themselves when the alternative it’s about eating vs. not eating or having a place to live vs. not having a place to live.

The seemingly never-ending existential question of “What do I want to do with my life?” is a question of affluence. Rich kids get to ask that. Again, that’s a values expression that we’re wrestling with because, quite frankly, even if we can afford to finance the 20s for our children… we don’t really want to.

It’s not what we’re about.

We want t raise strong, independent, critical-thinking children– dumb enough to chase their dreams who become strong, independent, critical-thinking adults dumb-enough to chase their dreams.

In other words, we’re OK with this stage of parenting coming to an end. We’re kind of looking forward to it. 

 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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