Unappreciative kids: The readers have opinions, too

May 23, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,SUN COLUMNIST

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column recounting a conversation with another mother in which we lamented that our nearly adult children find us to be endlessly annoying and make no effort to hide the fact.

I wrote that I understood this disaffection, but that it hurts terribly, and I said I hoped I would live long enough to see my children repent of it.

A short time later, I reacted to a news story in The New York Times reporting that some parents continue to financially support their children -- an average of several thousand dollars a year -- even as the children exit their 30s.

I wrote that I hoped to make my final payment on my children as soon as the younger one graduates from college, but that I understood the instinct parents feel to give their children money or to use money to make their young lives easier.

Both columns drew significant reader response, and I thought I would hand the microphone to those readers today.

"My children actually have a special ring on their cell phones [I pay the bill] to alert them to my call," wrote Therese Cosgrove of Marriottsville, who identified herself as one of those apparently annoying mothers.

"My son assures me he will take care of me in my elderly state by finding the best nursing home my money can buy. I am consoled by your promise that quality time with the children will return when they reach 30."

Reader Pat Kern of Delaware wrote that she felt sorry for me. "My two children live just under two hours away from me and my husband. They are the sun, moon and stars of our lives. I truly hope that you made this story up. The only good thing about your column is that it was not printed on Mother's Day."

Bethany Pace of Bel Air, who has a 2-year-old, wrote that I should assert myself and command the respect "you have already earned from nursing all of their fevers, helping with homework and cheering along the sidelines."

"Don't waste another day having a pity party for yourself and hoping that you will be around to see your children miraculously transform themselves into respectful and thankful adults. Chances are that if you don't demand better of them now, you will not receive anything better from them later," she said.

Misery is grateful for company, wrote Connie Fowler from North Carolina. She and a friend -- also an apparently annoying mother -- had just had the same conversation. "I was so relieved to know that this phenomenon was not as uncommon as we had thought and that perhaps we are not `really' bad moms either."

Kirk Laughton of Baltimore wrote that he had trouble sleeping after reading about annoying mothers. "You recount so vividly the problem of all family relationships -- how to access the love that should be there, yet remains so out of reach," he wrote.

"You gave them life, and you gave them love. You can have some, too."

The column on "the Bank of Mom and Dad," drew indignant responses from young adults who were proud that they had never taken financial help from their parents as well as from parents who were proud that they had never given any.

Ann from Annapolis described herself as "a 30-year-old self-supporting female professional."

"My parents were incredibly generous while I was growing up, making sure that I would enter adulthood with no debt. However, my parents were very clear that once I finished my education, I would need to figure out how to support myself even if that meant that I would need to curb my lifestyle.

"I cannot imagine now, as they enter their 70s and are about to retire, having to rely on them [or even having the nerve to ask them] to help me maintain my lifestyle."

She also wrote that being on her own, while scary, was also liberating "to be able to make decisions on my own knowing that I did not have to ask anyone's permission or advice."

Mike Herman of Baldwin warned that we are setting our children on a road to hell that is paved with our good intentions. "When those intentions retard our children, slow their growth and maturity, discount their ability to make real value judgments and erode their own ambition, well, what has been the real impact of your well-intended actions?"

He concluded: "You are who you are today because of what your parents gave you, but just as importantly, what they didn't give you. You and the vast majority of your generation are doing a tremendous disservice to your children by extending the safety net years past its expiration date."

And finally, Peter Frost of Reisterstown had this thought: "Maybe, just maybe, your son or daughter will strike out on their own, never ask for help and appreciate the fact that you gave them the skills and wherewithal to persevere when things get tough. I would imagine that is every parent's dream."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.

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