More about the money

Jenny’s comment (will open in new window) got me thinking about that old issue I love to ponder: when and where and how parental limits are defined with regards to responsibility and, yes, money.

First, I’m fairly certain I’m over any bitterness I felt towards my parents for their choice to drop college financing on my lap. In part, this is due to the fact that I completely understand their decision (and did even as they made it–it was not a surprise to me), and in part this is because they did, in fact, help me when I needed it during the school year.

Second, I don’t think Jenny is spoiled (necessarily) for having parents that buy her things. I know I am spoiled, actually, but that isn’t a reflection on Jenny; my parents bought me a car, they kept me well supplied in toys as a child and books when I wanted them. I never lacked for clothing, my mother was almost always willing to transport me when and where I needed it, and my father kept me supplied in the latest and greatest computers and Internet connections. I have lived like a princess because we had the money to do so and because my parents are generous.

The problem, or, rather, the difference in opinion, comes in expecting these things, and in feeling that those that spawned me and spoiled me are obligated and should continue to spoil me, despite the fact that I am of legal age and fully capable of working (although, yes, it would be very hard to work enough to be completely independent). For me to run home and say, “So, Daddy. Where’s my new car?” since I trashed mine never crossed my mind.

Even bigger yet, though, is my issue with mental separation of child from parents. I continue to feel that around the ages of eleven to thirteen, morality between parent and child diverges (or can very easily diverge, if the kid so chooses). With this divergence, however, comes the parental choice to give the kid space or to forcibly attempt to mold them into their image of an ideal adult. That’s not to say that “giving a kid space” means letting them run wild, although occassionally it seems to, but rather to back off on the moral/religious posturing and constant attempts to fix things and to let the kid learn some lessons on her own. It’s all about the parents seeing the kid as a separate, thinking, entity, rather than this overprotective “flesh from my womb” mess that can hinder development. (Of course, this is slightly exaggerated–my mother was overprotective, and my development is hindered in that I run the next nearest person when a bug needs to be killed. Not that this is my only flaw, but…)

So if parents are going to treat their kids as separate entities capable of making rational decisions (even if the rationality behind these decisions seems somewhat foreign to the parents), then that kid is certainly free to develop a sense of responsibility along with those morals, and the two may be [frequently are?] entangled. With “certainly free” meaning that she better get on that real quick, or else she’s going to become one of those twenty-five year olds still living in the attic/basement. “Certainly free” also means that to complete the separation from the parents, this needs to be done, at least to some extent. Can someone’s parents ever see her as a “real” adult if she has yet to wean herself off them, in terms of responsibility–getting them to clean up messes (financially, socially, legally) or relying on them to provide for her “needs” (car, non-campus food [if she’s a student with a meal plan, for instance], leisure reading)?

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with parents doing these things, certainly. Should I spawn or raise a child, you can bet your ass I’m saving for that child’s college, at the very least, and I’m always friendly with book money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting an adult spawn to live comfortably, and providing for them to do so. The problem lies in there being some societal obligation to do so, or in the adult spawn expecting to live comfortably off their parents. In all senses, my parents’ “obligation” to me ended when I turned eighteen, and it is by their fortune or kindness or some self-imposed sense of obligation that they continue to aid me. No more, no less.