Parenting For Dummies
February 15, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: daily | Tags: , , ,

My grandfather’s family owned a successful candy business in my hometown through most of the 20th century. He was expected to take it over eventually. He was not allowed to go to college or become a pilot, his dream.  He was expected to live out of his daddy’s pocket for the rest of his life. This mostly served him well. He had a steady job, where he was given a lot of money. They built him a very large house out in the country. He had 4 children and a beautiful wife. He also had no freedom or respect from his own father: he was ordered around, forced to do his father’s bidding. He had the head for business, but then constantly butt heads with his father and brother who didn’t. When my mom was 16, he walked away from the business, and was disowned. The bottom dropped out. It was rough for them. My mom paid her way through college, even though her grandfather paid for her older brother to go to college, because girls weren’t supposed to go to college. They fought tooth and nail to keep that big house until I was about 11 when the upkeep became too much. Nobody talks about it, but everybody knows my grandfather regrets not being able to stand up for himself and become a pilot like he wanted. He was too worried about having the approval of his father, and it has dictated the course of his life even now, at 83, some 30 years after his father died. It genuinely makes me sad to think about that.

Because of this, my parents have been absolutely vigilant about giving me space to become the person that I want to be. Going to college was never doubted: I had the talent for it, and their only expectation was that I do my best in everything, especially school. However, what I wanted to do at college was up to me. My mom told me when I was a senior in high school, “Whatever you do, I want you to have the ability to support yourself and your family, no matter what happens.By that she meant that I need to acquire the education and skills to be able to have a decent job and earn the money to support my family if something should happen to my husband/marriage and I am the only breadwinner. I think it is the most important advice anyone can give a young person, particularly young women. You don’t have to “be” anything per se. The greatest prize of the feminist revolution isn’t women being high powered businesswomen; the greatest prize is that women have the choice to do what they want, no matter what that is. They have the power to support themselves and their families if they want to, or if they have to. At no point in this day and age should a woman EVER wake up and find herself divorced/widowed/caring for an incapacitated husband and think, “How will I take care of my children? How will I pay the bills? I can’t get anything but a minimum wage job!” If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom, she has every right to be. However, if the bottom drops out, she needs to be able to deal with that.

That requirement that my parents gave me leaves me with a lot of room. I have their support, no matter what I do. Once I graduate, and I am off the family dole, my mom will be done making decisions about what I can and can not do. That is why I can live with my boyfriend out of wedlock: she might not be happy about it, but from now on, those are my decisions and she won’t try to interfere. I am grateful to her for this amount of trust and support. I believe that this is why we have such a good relationship. She does not control me. When I lived at home, I was a minor and I had to abide by her rules. When I went to college, and she was paying the rent and food, she was unwilling to pay for me to live in sin. Once I’m paying for things, what I say goes, and she respects that. I respected her rules, and she respects my right to make my own now. She saw what happened to her father when he lived under the thumb of his father, who wouldn’t allow him to do what he wanted. She saw what happened when her father waited till he was in his 40’s to walk away, and the financial fallout that resulted in such a long wait. She’s not willing to stunt my life or my development in order to fit me in a box she picked out, nor is she willing to lose a relationship with me by fighting over it.

Because of that, it makes me see red when I see ROOMMATE! dealing with his father trying to force his hand in making life decisions. It infuriates me that he worries every time he checks his email or his voicemail, for fear of what cruel and vitriolic words he will have to swallow from his own father. I am SO mad that my roommate has a father who does not respect him as a person or an adult, who is trying to bribe him with money to stay attached to his strings, and then calling him an idiot for not taking “free money.” Money isn’t free when it takes away your personal freedom. Money isn’t free when it comes with strings, nay ropes and chains to tie him down to a life HE DOES NOT WANT. Money isn’t free when the cost is his self-respect.

That is why I am so proud of him that he choosing to walk away now, at 21 almost 22, forcing his father to respect him and his choices. I am so proud that we signed the lease that his father called idiotic. I am so proud that he is making this decision, even though it might be one of the hardest paths to walk. The only harder path is sacrificing himself to his father.  I am so very proud. It will all turn out for the best, that I can guarantee.

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