by Christie Mellor
It’s spring! Spring! Just a few more months of school! The sun is shining on a more regular basis, graduation is in spitting distance, and my son got into his college of choice. Not that it wasn’t GREAT fun waiting for the news, in the midst of draconian budget cuts and universities slashing their acceptance rates to all-time lows. So, that’s certainly a big load off.
Some of us are sending our sons and daughters off to college. Some of us will be welcoming them home. Some of you didn’t read my book Raised by Wolves  on its first go-round, because your children aren’t yet out of the house, and the book was mostly meant for those twenty-somethings who may have left the nest but are still not quite as self-sufficient as one might hope. But in rereading it recently, I realized that it could be useful not only for the adult child who is on his own but also for those parents whose kids are still at home. Because – as perhaps you’ve heard me mention – if you give your children the tools to be self-sufficient and independent NOW, they have a much better shot at growing up to be charming and pleasant adults. Charming and pleasant adults who may even know how to clean a toilet and make a bed. And if you’re looking for a nice graduation gift – Raised by Wolves will be on bookstore shelves – in budget-friendly paperback! – on June 1, 2010. Or you could just print out the following excerpt and casually leave it lying around the house:
Your Very Caring Parents:
Cutting Yourself Off Life Support
Why do you leave your crumbs all over the counter after you toast your bagel? Do you imagine that your invisible mommy will be cleaning up after you? Not to say that this is entirely your fault. Apparently Mommy and Daddy loved you so much they thought they would make your life easier by doing everything for you.
For instance, I am almost certain that you didn't build that to-scale model of the White House when you were in second grade. The mortise-and-tenon construction was kind of a tip-off, as were the tiny electrical lights. Yes, Mommy really wanted you to get a good grade on that seventh grade essay, which is why she pretty much wrote it herself, but she wasn't doing you any favors. Daddy may have thought he was helping you when he yelled at your Little League coach for calling you out, but he was really just making your transition to adulthood that much more difficult.
Well, it’s time to clue Mom and Dad in. It’s time to tell Mom to stop chewing your food for you, and Dad to stop filling your gas tank. As much as they want to smooth your bumpy road, cushion all the sharp corners, and make life easier for you, you need to start learning how to navigate life by yourself. It’s a wonderful thing to have a close relationship with your parents, and to be able to go to them for advice, or an occasional hot meal. It’s one thing if you have a close-knit family and you all like to hang out together from time to time. But if you are visiting your mother so that she can do your laundry, or worse, inviting her over to your place so she can clean your bathroom, it is time to change the nature of your relationship.
Your mother may think she is just giving you a hand, but she is not your maid, she is your mother. You are allowed to accept the occasional pot of chicken soup, or other homemade specialty; and if she is a talented seamstress and really wants to sew you some curtains, that is very generous of her.
If your father knows a lot about car engines, or filling out a tax form, and you need some guidance in that area, well of course you can ask him for help, and he’ll probably be happy to give it, just as any friend would. But he should not be bailing you out of jail or paying your gambling debts. He should not pay off your overdrawn credit card unless you plan on paying him back, with interest, on a monthly basis. If your mom and dad magically make your mistakes disappear, it will seem as if those bad things never happened, and then those bad things might just happen again.
And why shouldn’t they? If you’ve never squirmed under the burden of shame or embarrassment, if you’ve never had to feel the pain of humiliation because of the consequences of your moronic actions, then it’s probable that you will continue to make unfortunate decisions in the future. Your parents need to stop childproofing your life, and you need to help them. It’s time for you to venture out and start up the road to adulthood. Just say “no” to coddling.
Part of being an adult is doing things for other people. Maybe you could offer to help out your mom and dad for a change. Make them a loaf of banana bread, or a nice dinner. Or take them out to a good restaurant, if you’re feeling a little flush. Assert your autonomy by demonstrating how self-sufficient you really are.
Purchase Raised by Wolves  in hardback from Amazon, or wait until June 1st for the paperback version.