Keeping One’s Head Above Water

In his most recent post, Tom Furman gave us the dictionary definition for “Resilience.” In my previous post, I broke it down to “Bouncing Back” and likened it to getting right back on a horse after being thrown.  In the end, I admitted that bouncing back can feel more like crawling back.

The theme for this month is “building resiliency.” How do I talk about building something when I’m not even sure if I’m equipped with an abundance of it myself? How do we build it in our children? I’ve heard various tidbits of advice on the subject:  Nurture them –make them feel safe –but not too safe, or they won’t learn to stand on their own.  Don’t coddle them so much that it sends them the message that you think they can’t handle things on their own;  on the other hand, make sure they have a safe place to fall (metaphorically) within the home.

I think of my older kids, now 22 years old and wonder about what kind of job I did to help build their resiliency.  It becomes an interesting challenge when you have twins with two very different personalities and two different sets of needs. A point I thought Dave and Kathy Mayer covered quite well in their post this month. My daughter would get straight A’s. She could do her homework in front of the TV and still get straight A’s, and when more reading was called for, she would voluntarily exile herself to her room so she could read in peace and quiet. If we happened to catch her in front of the TV after school, we didn’t feel the need to ask her if her homework was done. We knew she had it handled.  Her brother, on the other hand, was like most kids, and had to wait till homework was done before he could watch TV. To this day, he still doesn’t think that was fair. We didn’t think it was fair to punish his sister just because he didn’t have the same ability to concentrate when surrounded by distractions.

Now they are adults, or as I like to call it, “Junior Adults.” Our daughter moved out of state last summer and is working and going to school, and only occasionally asks to “borrow” $20.

Her twin brother moved out almost three months ago, and so far, we’ve helped him with his first month’s rent because he was still job-hunting, and we DO NOT WANT HIM TO MOVE BACK IN. The second month, we refused to help with rent, even though he still hadn’t found work. He managed to get help from his biological dad this time, but it will probably be the last time. He has been “nickel and diming” us for money for gas so he can go job hunting, or because they ran out of milk. We don’t feel comfortable just giving him money because we are concerned it will burn a hole in his pocket.

We don’t think he is a bad person, just young and inexperienced.  So, recently, when he called saying that his girlfriend (who he lives with in a house with a few other young adults) was anemic and hasn’t been able to get out of bed for two days because they’ve only been eating one meal a day, I went out and bought them a few hundred dollars’ worth of groceries.  That was over a month ago,  and though my son has finally found employment, he won’t be paid for another two weeks, and rent is coming up, and they ran out of food, and….When does it stop? Have we blown it? Have we made him too reliant on us rather than on himself? We’ve been trying to make it difficult for him to ask for money. This has the side effect of making him more skilled at the “convincing sob story.” And what if he is telling the truth? I could believe his girlfriend is anemic—she looks it. A gentle breeze could knock her over.

Now, we are worried about whether we should help him with rent again. He says he will pay us back as soon as he gets paid. I am pretty sure what we will hear is: “My paycheck isn’t here yet, I don’t know what the problem is,” or, “It wasn’t as much as I thought it was going to be and what was left, we had to pay for gas money to get to work.”  On the other hand, should we let him get kicked out just when he has finally found employment? Over a year ago, we kicked him out for several months, and during that time, he spent the night at various friends’ homes, was homeless for a while, and finally we let him back home when he was caught trying to cash a bad check that someone had given him as “payment” for doing yard work for him. See, this is why I am having a trouble writing an article that focuses on building resilience, because all I can do is wonder if a good portion of resilience is innate. Or wonder where we went wrong with one of our kids who was being raised at the exact same time as his twin sister, who seems to be doing just fine on her own.

Any thoughts?  I’ll be gone most of the weekend, but I look forward to reading comments, commiserations, and suggestions!

One thought on “Keeping One’s Head Above Water

  1. That is an interesting idea. I wish we felt like we could afford to do that. Hopefully, he will start seeing paychecks within a few weeks. He has gradually been doing better. It’s just more gradual than I would like it to be😉

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