Question Everything

We recently helped our daughter, Cheri, move from one apartment to another, something her brother had previously helped her with when he lived in the same college town. Now in flight school in Alabama, he was quite unavailable this time so it fell on us to help because “you have a pickup truck” as my daughter put it.

I’ve learned that college kids who are dumb enough to take a truck to college are going to make a lot of friends who will always have the need to move into the next best place. Either our daughter has never met such equipped gentlemen or she instead chose to burden her father who spends far too little time visiting his second child.

It is an interesting process to have grown children making their own decisions in life. It is excellent in so many ways but it’s also like watching them cross a rickety old bridge for the first time and you’re unsure it is wise to do so. I think some adult children seek out the advice of their parents for far too long, after marriage, having children and beyond.

Our experience has been quite the opposite. Our children have wanted to pave their own path in a damn the torpedoes manner practically since they graduated high school.

Our oldest daughter had it the worst as she was foolish enough to enter college on the Dad Plan. It’s really not a good plan at all because it involves the Dad in all the decision making because he’s the one paying for it. It took just one year for her to ditch that college plan for the “I’d rather be poor and do things my own way” plan. I was relieved.

The natural order of things has the older raising the younger, assuming the older ones are better qualified to be in charge. It is true for at least the first 17 years of their life as I see it, through high school graduation.

Maybe it is better said that the older have already made all the mistakes that could be made and it is their desire to prevent the younger ones from repeating said mistakes. It sounds noble but in the end this kind of plan denies the younger generation of the rich experiences of learning from their mistakes.

It is one thing to listen to your parents preach about how they did it, but parents often leave out the first part of the story where they failed before they succeeded.

I was privileged to have been raised by parents who taught me more by doing than preaching. They did their part raising us as well as they could do in their circumstances, leaving most decisions to us. The fact that I am the sixth child of ten probably allowed me more latitude than my oldest siblings had.

One of the greatest scandals in our family happened when my oldest brother purchased a Corvette. He was about 23-years-old at the time and our father was furious about the waste of money. Maybe dad was right, but following my father’s advice, this same brother had purchased his first house at age 18 and at age 21 purchased a four-unit apartment building. His previous two automobiles had been a 1949 Desoto for which he paid $100, followed by a 1965 Buick Wildcat at a cost of $500.

He drove the Corvette for a couple of years and sold it for more than he paid, which annoyed my father all the more.

As younger children, we simply went out and purchased our automobiles on our own. By the time our father found out what we had done they were already registered in our name and sitting in the driveway. Had our father been an automobile expert we might have sought his advice, but he was not.

Maybe it is old fashioned to ask permission before we act, but it appears to be the way things are going. Our first son-in-law asked our permission before he became officially engaged to our daughter. The next two children to marry didn’t consult us ahead of time.

The day of questioning everything our children do might be fading but I believe it to be a reasonable thing to do at least while they are living at home. It gets back to the Dad Plan; if you want his help you will need to listen to his advice, though in the end they will always have the agency to choose.

This column was taken from the archives but is just as relevant today as ever

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