Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.

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Breastfeeding Dads, or Birthers Strike Again

Today I came across a blog on cracked.com which discussed (satirically, I might add) some of the progressive parenting trends that are almost difficult to believe are real.  The article was originally spurred by some controversy over a video that went viral a while back on Youtube of a woman flipping her baby around, claiming it was yoga.

The video, itself, is disturbing, but the idea it brings up (which the blog addresses) is yet another notion that the birthers have struck upon us.  In the name of being progressive, and of doing everything they can to raise their child the right way, it seems they have gone off the deep end.  You all remember my first blog on this new sight.  Titled Birthers, I discussed the fact that it seems new parents today tend to think they are the only people on the planet to ever have and raise a child; as if their experience is wholly unique, even though women have been successfully having and raising babies for the entire course of human history.  After witnessing and even being involved in some vehement discussions on what is right for infants and children, on topics from breastfeeding to pacifiers, brand of diapers to the pros and cons of placing your child into daycare, today’s birthers have become unrelenting (and often ignorant) in their positions on all-things-children that they will undoubtably fight about to the death, even in the face of knowing they are wrong.

Here is one of those things that the birthers of a more “progressive parenting” generation have begun to embrace:  the breastfeeding dad.  Breastfeeding, itself, is a controversial topic.  While science has proven that breastfeeding is (in most cases) beneficial for baby, the best way to do it (nurse versus pump), how long to do it (less than one year versus up to eight years), whether to supplement with formula; not to mention the issue of nursing in public, have all become topics of bitter debate that women will break entire friendships over if everyone is not in agreement.  Breastfeeding dads are another one of those topics.

Reportedly, a man has two options to breastfeed a baby:  (1) he can wear a handy-dandy milk-filled arm strap that simulates the mother feeding the baby; or, (2) he can actually induce lactation over time and make the milk for the baby himself.  Beyond the initial shock of this idea, alone, there is a very serious problem with breastfeeding dads:  that problem being gender confusion.  Let’s not pretend we are living in some tribal state in South America, or even in Eastern Europe, where cultural understandings of mom and dad’s roles are much different all around.  Even in the United States, where families are defined in a number of unique ways (particularly those in gay couples), there is still a general consensus that each family provide motherly and fatherly characteristics in the Western World.  Empirical science – psychological, sociological, and neurological studies – have proven that this is a necessity to children growing up in this and other Western countries.  To muddy those waters by not keeping boundaries around certain child-rearing behaviors (including breastfeeding) raises concern as to the long-term psychological and sociological affects of such an action.

Are the birthers right in the controversy over the breastfeeding dads?  As of right now, all we have is the research, which suggests to us no.  In the end, whether anyone is right or wrong is not really the issue.  The issue is the absolutely stubborn inability of birthers to accept any position other than their own.  Ignorance and refusal to look at factors other than our own opinions is perhaps the most dangerous thing we, as a society, can do for our children.  In all the time the birthers spend defending what they think is right, they really do nothing more than show just how wrong we all can be.