Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Much Parenting Is Too Much Parenting?

Dear Tazi:

Three years ago, when I was a senior in high school, my mother noticed that I was interested in attending a prestigious out-of-state college. At first, Mother thought nothing of it since she doubted that I would actually move across the country, so when my acceptance letter arrived it was quite a shock to her when I told her I was prepared to accept the school’s offer of admittance. Going to this college would have meant a great deal of financial sacrifice on my part, as well as student loans, but I was prepared to follow my dream. Mother was very upset with my plan, and offered to pay – all expenses – for my junior and senior years if I took my freshman and sophomore years at the local community college. After giving this idea much thought, I agreed. I excelled at my community college, graduating with highest honors and many accolades as well as re-acceptance into my first choice school and the knowledge that it would not cost me anything, thanks to my agreement with Mother. Here is where my problem starts:

Mother is very upset that I still wish to finish my education at my first choice school. She was hoping that the extra two years spent locally would “work things out of my system”; that I would have met someone by now and considered my education complete after only two years. Although I have dated, there has never been anyone serious in my life. I preferred to concentrate on my education, knowing that I would be moving across the country as soon as I graduated community college. I am prepared to go, and Mother is reluctantly holding up her end of the bargain, with a twist: she is insisting on leaving our home and moving across the country with me!

My Papa thinks Mother is being too clingy and has told her so, but she refuses to change her mind. She has told Papa that he can stay here if he wants but she will be moving with me. She has even started looking for apartments near my school so we can live together! Tazi, one of the goals I have for myself is to learn how to live independently of Mother. This is one of the reasons my out-of-state school is so attractive to me, in addition to the excellent scholastic program it offers. Obviously, I cannot force Mother to stay here at home while I am away at school, but I refuse to take an apartment with her. I am also worried about Papa. He loves Mother so much; it would break his heart if she were to move out on him. Do you have any advice on how to mediate this whole crazy mess?

Future Bulldog

Dear Future Bulldog:

Congratulations on your acceptance to your first choice college. You have shown maturity beyond your years by deciding to complete your first two years of college at an affordable community college and graduate debt-free. Your grades and your achievements also speak to this maturity, which is why I believe you are ready to try life on your own terms, even if your mother is not ready for this to happen.

I am not sure if your mother realizes this, but she is being what college administrators call a “helicopter parent”, hovering over her child and trying to control your every move. Not only is this unhealthy for you – since you are no longer a child and are trying to live like an adult – it is unhealthy for your mother. Now that you are grown and ready to take the next steps in your life it is time for your mother to do the same. This can be very scary for a mother, who has spent almost half of her life (or more) caring for her children. While you are trying to establish a new identity as an adult, your mother is trying to cling to her identity as a Mom.

If your community college has an Advising and Counseling department it would do you well to make an appointment with them to discuss the life changes you will be experiencing at your new college. Your mother should go with you; this way, she can hear first-hand what is going on and ask any questions she might have. The counselor will reassure her that you do not need – nor would it be healthy to have – your mother by your side during this transitional stage of life. If your community college does not have an Advising and Counseling department, a clergy member or social worker should also be able to offer guidance in this matter.

If you are planning on living off-campus in an apartment, you might want to move in a few weeks early and ask your mother to come with you to help you get settled into your new place. This would offer a compromise between her moving in with you (and leaving your father behind) and feeling like she has completely abandoned you to a whole new world – one that does not include her. From there, I suggest that you set a day and time to call your mother each week. This will give her something to look forward to, as well as give you the chance to tell her how well you are doing on your own. Your reassurance that she raised her daughter to be a capable woman is the best gift you could possibly give her. As for what she can give you, it has been said that the best gifts a parent can give their child are roots and wings. Use both accordingly.


P.S. Yale? Gonzaga? Georgia? UC - Fresno? All are Bulldogs, and I am curious as to which one you will attend!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

1 comment:

  1. One of my regular readers who connects through Facebook has offered the following perspective, the perspective of a Mom, and I thank her for it:

    "It is going to be terrible when she marries a guy from there and never comes back home. that is really her moms nightmare. No mother wants their child to live out of state when they are married. Worst nightmare…i really don't think the moms problem is her becoming independent. I think it is her moving a long distance away. no mom wants to spend years bringing up a child to have them move away where they see them every couple of years if they can afford to travel and much longer if they can't. she more than likely will meet a man that does not live in the state her parents live and will never go home."