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How Do You Raise a One-Armed Boomerang?

When I was 18, my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I thought and pondered, pondered and thought. What I really wanted, above all else, was my freedom. I didn’t want to live at home anymore, my only issue was money, I didn’t have any. I devised a plan and presentation, complete with notes and figures. For graduation, I told my parents, I wanted to move out of the house. I would agree to take a class at the local college, work nights to cover my cost of living, if they would fit the bill for the apartment. Knowing that I’d be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the summer, I figured this would be a great “test-run” of the college life. I even called around and found a local complex allowing for 3 month leases. After reviewing my proposal, my parents agreed, and the lease was signed.

That summer and the “Party Apartment” (as it became known) were on my mind when I heard about the “Rising Share of Young Adults living in Their Parents Home“. Apparently, at the end of 2012, 36% of young adults age 18-31 lived with their parents…36%! They are commonly called Boomerang Kids. Sent out of the house for a short while, only to return, like a boomerang, years later. That’s an amazing statistic. As a parent, it’s scary thought. I have three boys, Henry, Charlie & Max, ages 7, 4 & 1. How do I raise three One-Armed Boomerangs that fly straight through life, never making that u-turn back to my basement?

No child dreams of growing up and living with their parents. And, of course, there are situations when living at home, or needing help from a parent is the only choice. I’ve leaned on my parents plenty. But how do I raise my boys to value responsibility?

I’ve heard it said, from parent to child, “Do as I say, not as I do”. I verbalize how I want my boys to act. “Do your homework,” “Be nice to your friends,” “Clean up your room,” “Eat your vegetables.” Each instruction, outwardly describing a behavior I want to instill in my child. Yet, I often wonder, is it my actions, not my words, that are being heard?

Maybe the secret to breaking the arms of my little Boomerangs is to look inward, not speak outward, and examine how closely aligned my actions are to my words. Do I take my work seriously? Am I nice to the people I meet? How healthy do I live my life? Maybe if I want my boys to be disciplined, healthy, and keep a clean room, I should demonstrate constraint, eat right and take care of my belongings. Want a child to be good with money? Ask yourself, “How good am I with dollars and cents?” Want a child to listen, do less talking. Want a child less dependent on you, become less dependent on others. (See: Parents, Grand) Sure, it’s possible to live a life out of balance, only to see your own child choose a life in contrast to your own, but more often than not, it won’t happen.

The most important attribute I can demonstrate is the desire to become better and grow. I am not a not perfect parent, perfect son, perfect boss, but I can be better. Working on ourselves might be this life’s greatest challenge. Yet, it’s a choice, and it’s a behavior that will be learned by my children, and that’s a great thing. Because if I do nothing else but demonstrate a life-long lust to making myself a better person, and my sons only learn that one teaching, how can I fault myself for who they become?

1996 was a great summer, living in that one-bedroom apartment in West Wichita, working nights at Chili’s, and drinking on a fake ID. I aced that English 101 class and left for college later that summer, never to return. I have my parents to thank for raising this one-armed boomerang. And to my sons Henry, Charlie & Max…I don’t care what your presentation looks like, I’m not renting you an apartment for graduation!

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