I grew up believing that 18 was a magical age. I could not WAIT to turn 18 so I could be independent and do things my own way. I was bred to be both independent and credit worthy. I still have my original JCPenney credit card that I’ve had for well over 3 decades. Filling out the application was probably how I celebrated my 18th! I had a “soft launch” shortly after 18 when I moved in with a friend. I paid a pittance for rent while I learned to navigate life totally independent of my parents. Since I didn’t have a car at this point, my friend was gracious enough to shuttle my pathetic a$$ to the laundromat. Getting to work required that I either negotiate with coworkers or walk. After a few months of this, home started looking pretty appealing, so I went home long enough to buy a car. After I got my mobility machine, the independent streak really kicked in and I moved out again. My early independence is what helped shape my views as a parent.
Thirty-one years later, I was the parent of a teenager who had been bred to be both independent and credit worthy. We were both brand new graduates; college for me and high school for her. She entered her first year of community college as she had been groomed to do. Unfortunately, she hated it. She hated everything including the town we lived in. She felt trapped by expectation and didn’t want to waste the time or money to complete college when she had no particular aspirations. I didn’t try to fight her. My own experience had shown me that if you really want to accomplish a higher education, then you’ll make it happen when the time is right. I simply told her that if she chose to end her education that it would be time to be an adult with grown-up responsibilities.
I must digress a bit and talk about what happened the year before. Her senior year of high school was only one class, so she worked full time. When I saw how she was spending her money, I brainstormed for a plan. We sat down and calculated some numbers as though she were going to move out to give her an idea about what “life” costs. We came up with a figure that she would need to pay her own way. Then she was given the following two options:
- Pay the agreed upon sum to me to contribute to household expenses
- I never told her but I would have saved it and given it to her when she moved out
- Put the money in her savings account each month with the stipulation that it could not be withdrawn and that I would look at the statement each month to hold her accountable
I persisted even though she thought I just wanted her money. My true mission, in addition to inspiring her independence, was to minimize the cash that she had been handling so frivolously. I was glad that she chose what most would agree was the only intelligent choice. My mission was accomplished when she was able to eventually leave home with several thousand dollars in the bank. She also did a soft launch by moving in with a friend right after she turned 19, but came home a few months later. What she did next floored even me!
Three months after her 19th birthday, she informed me that she had found a job on-line and was moving to Utah which was almost 1,400 miles from home. She had gotten a phone interview at a popular ski resort and was hired, sight unseen. I guess hospitality workers must be hard to find! She bought an airplane ticket and made it happen. I remember going with her when she closed her bank account. The banker, a young man who appeared to be only slightly older than her, told her how lucky she was. I reminded her that she wasn’t lucky; she had made the decision and she was making it happen. I had a mixture of emotions which ranged from pride to fear. When her dad decided to fly there with her, I cried. With my independent streak, it had never even occurred to me to do so. She was mortified, of course, but I was grateful that he had taken that extra step to help her ease into her transition given the sometimes sinister deceptions on the internet.
She met a lot of different people while working in Utah. Many of them were college educated yet not ready to grow up. She didn’t have the benefit of much college yet, but she was receiving a most valuable education! The first place she lived was in the worker housing with two roommates that she had been placed with. The room was not included in the employment offer; they had to pay out of each check. For anyone who has done any time in a barracks or college dorm room, I think you get the idea. You end up living with people you don’t know and you learn how to deal with all types. I watched in awe as she took advantage of all the amenities Utah had to offer. After a couple years, she moved with a friend to Texas. Four years wiser and infinitely more street savvy, she returned to her roots bringing with her a sassy feline companion. I was thrilled to have her back home with me for almost a year as she transitioned back to the area and continued to do amazing things.
Six years from the time she first moved out, I look at the things she has done and what she continues to do. She is preparing to buy her first home and get married to a wonderful and ambitious young man. She’s working her way through college and dabbling in different careers. She’s learned that you can’t run away from yourself; unfortunately, your problems go with you. She left home a surly teenager and came back a grateful, positive, street-wise and confident young lady.
My beautiful daughter is in transition so I sit here today with her cat, who I am fostering, until she gets settled into her new home. I have not been able to instill the same independence in the cat. Though it is a common perception that cats are independent creatures, just listen to the squalls when you fail to put kibbles in their dish at the appointed time! I have found myself obsessing over the cat just a bit too often these days so I’m trying to focus on my writing instead. I will miss them both as they get settled into their next phase (to see what happened to the cat, read Eviction Papers Served-Launch Lady Style ) I think my firstborn now understands that I didn’t want her money. What I wanted was her happiness and her respect, and I’m very grateful to have experienced both.