Mommying and the older child….how do you do it?

Mom blogs are almost a dime a dozen and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet for all things child related that get written about, the one area where I wish more moms would speak of is how mothering changes as your child becomes a teenager and then a young adult.

A few days ago, I was out talking with someone I had just met and we were talking about our kids and I mentioned having a 6 year old and a 20 year old. As usual, I was greeted with the “Wow, you have a grown child!” This happens often, after all most people who are middle class and above, at 39 rarely have grown kids. Granted this is a relatively new phenomenon as women delay having kids but in reality it wasn’t that long ago that having a 19 or 20 year old kid at my age was a norm. In some areas especially within lower socio-economic groups, having a child before 21 is not abnormal. It’s one of many ways that I am reminded of my status as a class straddler, after all I was born working class and while I am not technically still there, in many ways it’s what I know.

Funny thing is people who have younger kids often assume that by the time a kid is in college, the active work of parenting is over. Yet my own experience as I walk this path is that nothing could be further from the truth. Instead it’s a place of great transition and one that frankly at times I wish more people would talk about.

Last night I had a text exchange with the college boy that reminded me that we both are trying to find our place. My son is 20 but he is also a full time live on campus college student stuck in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin. He devotes his energy to his studies and his music. Since going to college he has learned to live on his own, but the reality is that me, The Spousal Unit and the former Spousal Unit financially provide for his day to day living. As I joke college kid is still on my payroll. Yet what does that mean?

I know that in the almost two years since the boy went to college that both me and the former Spousal Unit have tried to learn new ways of being with regard to allowing college kid the freedom to make his own decisions. I rarely offer edicts, in fact I am pretty sure I don’t but if I feel strongly about something, I will state that I strongly suggest that he consider my point of view. When college boy’s car became a death trap, the former Spousal Unit didn’t tell college kid to stop driving but also strongly suggested that he give up the car since it was beyond repair…again the college kid chose to heed the advice but what happens when a time comes when he decides not to heed the advice?

I must admit this is all new territory for me, at 20 I was getting out of an ill-fated marriage, struggling with being a single mom and trying to keep my head above water. My son often comments that my life at 20 in no way resembles his life at 20. It’s true. My own parents didn’t feel that I needed to be parented at 20 yet in many ways I did still need parenting but it didn’t happen. I think too many times we think that adulthood is this magical thing that happens when we hit a certain age when in fact it’s a process. When the babies are little we know what we need to do, we have a good idea of how to meet their needs but when the calendar says they are an adult, that’s when the process becomes murky. How much space do we give them?

Last night my son responded to a message I had sent him saying “Don’t worry about me, your plate is full” I know he meant well but the truth is as a mother my worrying and fretting  didn’t stop at a certain point, he may not be as labor intensive as my 6 year old but believe me I still worry. I worry when I know he is in a funk, hell I worry when he is not yet I sometimes don’t know when to Mom and when to let go.

The parent child relationship is far more than the early years and it’s an area where frankly I would love to hear more voices from those in the trenches.



Straddling the class ladder and family

Just a quick post as I head off to bed. Tonight after a tasty dinner cooked by the Spousal Unit I ended up spending some time talking with my Dad trying to make light conversation about life and the state of the world. Yet it was one of those conversations that veered a little off course which frankly is quite common with my Pops but by the end I had one of those light bulb moments. My dad has now been with us a few weeks and it’s still an adjustment and part of it is due to his rather acerbic personality, coupled with the fact that ours has never quite been a warm and fuzzy relationship. However the light bulb went off tonight that some of my general discomfort is really based on the fact that I am a class straddler.

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a child of the working class, as I often joke during my childhood we alternated between two states, poor and working class. Working class was what happened in a good year and  poor was the rest of the time. However due to just making different choices than my folks made, I am no longer officially a member of the working class though in many ways it’s what I still identify with. Though as I discovered it’s a lot easier for me to identify as working class when dealing with friends who come from family money than with my own father.

During his time here there has been that sense at times that he does not quite understand how we live, why we make the choices we make. One night he actually commented to us “So this is how you live” on the night in question it was a Saturday night and the hubby and I were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie and share a glass of wine. Ours is a quiet existence, far more stable and frankly quieter than what I grew up with.

Like most working class kids I did not grow up in a household where simple discussions were held for no reason. Instead my parents chiefly my Dad ruled the house as if it were his kingdom and the rest of us were serfs. Rules were laid down and you followed them lest you wanted to get your ass kicked. Alfred Lubrano is his book Limbo talks at length about this, part of the reasoning behind this is that for many working class folks, their home is the only place where they have a say and can actually control things. My father seems amused that our five year old is allowed a voice in things, once again tonight reminding me of the good ole days when you could slap a kid upside the head. Having been the kid being slapped upside the head I have no desire to create those memories for my own kid.

As a straddler I realized even seemingly small things like buying in bulk seem to perplex my Dad, as he asked me today why I had bought multiple packs of batteries. It was one of those moments where I clearly felt the divide between how I was raised and who I have become as an almost 40 year old woman. One of the legacies for me growing up with little is that for years I had behavior bordering on hoarding but now I simply like to keep a well stocked house. After all it would make no sense to buy toilet paper one pack at a time in house with two bathrooms.

I often struggle with my working class roots in professional settings yet tonight I realized that even with family that movement up the class ladder can create a disconnect and frankly it saddens me.