Unforeseen consequences.

One of the things that makes life interesting are the unforeseen consequences of great events. There’s an earthquake; buildings fall down; things fall down in the buildings. The journalism about the event will concentrate on things like the Richter scale, deaths, damage and recovery. It won’t talk about your grandma’s china that fell out of the breakfront and smashed to bits, and how losing it that way was, in the end, sort of a relief, because you’re really a more modern person, and a casual entertainer, and dragging that century-old Havilland around was sort of weighing you down, but what can you do? It was your grandmother’s china. But in a small way your life was changed. It didn’t make the news.

I think of this often these days. The Grosse Pointes, like all communities in southeast Michigan and many elsewhere, are finally starting to deal with the consequences of the real-estate collapse. Doing our taxes this weekend, I noticed that once again, our property taxes have fallen, which means receipts at city hall have fallen, which means finally, finally, the Pointes are being forced to do what they should have done years ago — consolidate services across the five municipalities.

And then today brings a Wall Street Journal story, which you may not be able to read if you’re a non-subscriber, so I’ll summarize. The headline sort of says it all: Bank of Mom and Dad Shuts Amid White-Collar Struggle. It’s about the increasing inability of middle- and especially upper-middle-class parents to pay their adult children’s bills. It starts with college tuition, which I think any parent can understand, but it ventures into areas of “support” I thought were limited to trust-fund brats:

Angelica Hoyos, a 26-year-old living in Los Angeles, has put her photography and sculpture career on hold since her parents pulled the financial plug earlier this year after the family’s granite-countertop business suffered. Ms. Hoyos has moved in with her boyfriend, cut spending and earns about $1,000 a month doing free-lance design work and baby-sitting.

“My artistic career is put on the side because I have to make a living,” she says.

We also meet the Johnsons of Fairfield, Conn., whose two older kids are in college and whose youngest is just starting her search for one, but who are also suffering, even though they had considerable college savings. The older kids are plucky, saying they’re willing to take out loans to finish school at Johns Hopkins (at $50K each per year), and the youngest isn’t even thinking about the pricey diplomas. Mr. Johnson feels bad, however:

Further expenses such as first homes and weddings are out of the question. “They’re going to have to elope,” he says.

Take heart, Mr. Johnson. Not having a $150,000 wedding never hurt anyone.

Everything is relative. The Johnsons, we’re told, are living on one-fifth of their pre-crash compensation, and while the story goes on to say Mr. J. made “up to $550,000 a year,” and one-fifth of that is still $100K, anyone can understand how they feel blind-sided. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe the Johnsons, and the Hoyos, just lost grandmother’s china. In the end, they might be freed by it. Certainly Angelica will be, who will learn sooner rather than later that when you have “a photography and sculpture career” that requires a parental subsidy, it’s not a career at all.

I’ve read stories like this before. A while back, the New York Times noted the reduction in the number of hipsters lounging around the hot areas of Brooklyn, now that mom and dad were no longer able to front their kids a New York City living stipend. Many of them were, like Angelica, nominally artists who had chosen to live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet, doubtless for the community of fellow artists and all the sidewalk cafes. I suspect by now many of them have faced the truth: They weren’t really artists but layabouts who know how to stretch a canvas. Now they know the truth. I hope it set them free.

(Artists: If you’re serious, try Detroit. Thriving arts community, tons of fun, and so cheap your parents won’t have to contribute a dime. Srsly.)

My parents helped me here and there when I was young and struggling, although the sums were vastly different. They paid for my college, but it was a hell of a lot less money for four years of state school back then. My mom bought me a $150 carpet remnant for my first apartment, and contributed $1,000 to both my wedding and my first house purchase, both of which I objected to, but they said they did it for my older siblings, and so they were doing it for me. Everything is relative. My wedding cost about $5,000 all-in, which was at the time one-third the national average. Who’s to say, though, that the ridiculous excess we’ve seen in recent years in just that area, weddings, isn’t due to nice people like the Johnsons, who just wanted to help their kids have a swell party, and ended up helping inflate the whole business? Would college tuition be as overpriced as it is if more kids had to work their way through, and couldn’t absorb the twice-inflation rate tuition hikes that have been normal now for, what, 30 years?

The financial crisis over the last two years smashed a lot of china. If it breaks the trend of extended adolescence, in which adults stay children well into their 20s and even beyond, thanks to the helping hand of mom and dad, that’s not entirely a bad thing. Everyone has to grow up sometime.

Bloggage? Some:

A pretty good column by David Carr on She-Who’s bootstraps, you betcha.

I haven’t been paying much attention to the California governor’s race, although it’s certainly interesting. Sez one voter in this story: “I prefer Meg Whitman because she has corporate experience and expertise to create jobs.” How many times do we have to learn the lesson that business experience =/= equal political savvy?

If you can stand to read one more thing about the iPad, our very own webmaster got his over the weekend. I won’t be buying until the second generation, if then.

And speaking of which, here’s his latest web-infant: Trowel Tart. The Tart is one of our very own, who is remaining anonymous for now because of her employer’s problems with outside work. The Trowel Tart’s her name and gardening’s her game. Drop by.

Yeesh! So late! Must start work. Have a great day.

Posted at 10:26 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

53 responses to “Unforeseen consequences.”

  1. Joe Kobiela said on April 5, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Jen K,
    You might want to chime in on this subject.
    Pilot Joe

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  2. Deborah said on April 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Whenever I read biographies of famous and brilliant writers and artists I am always astounded by how much they depended on their parents and other family to support them in the earlier years (and sometimes not just early). One that comes to mind is Samuel Beckett (I call him Uncle Sam, because we have the same last name). Guys like that slaved away at their art until they made a name for themselves. I think a lot of young people today think they are of the same caliber and are therefore entitled to the same support. Not close, by a long shot.

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  3. LAMary said on April 5, 2010 at 10:57 am

    We’ve been bombarded with Meg Whitman ads for months. Now we have Steve Poizner talking about cutting off any state benefits for illegals. Between the two of them they sound like Ahnuld. Meg talks about running the state like a business, although she’s backing off a little on this now. Maybe someone on her team noticed that it’s been said before and it hasn’t worked out well. Scapegoating illegals is a risky choice too. Even with our state budget in the toilet I’m not hearing anyone screaming about kicking the children of illegals out of school, and I have heard that before.
    I’ll vote for Brown because I admire his complete lack of charm. He is who is his. The state didn’t do too badly when he was governor previously either.

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  4. brian stouder said on April 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Once, years ago, Governor Brown came to Fort Wayne when he was running for president. All I really remember was his bus arriving, and that when he walked through Freimann Square (a downtown park/green space) I got to shake his hand; and that my very first thought at that moment was that I had just shaken the hand of the man who was intimate with Linda Ronstadt!

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  5. alex said on April 5, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Governor Moonbeam — wasn’t his nickname a Mike Royko invention?

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  6. Sue said on April 5, 2010 at 11:34 am

    A few thoughts about the Bank of Mom and Dad, acknowledging that you are not necessarily speaking about the average family:
    1. This is the first generation in many where the kids are predicted to do less well financially than their parents. Hell yeah they need help.
    2. There are enough parents out there who already subscribe to the ‘do it on your own, kid’ philosophy of college payment. I know several; one is making his living at Menard’s now. But that’s ok, since his major would have been journalism if he could have made it work.
    3. The first time I did a FAFSA, I was amazed at how much the “expected parental contribution” was projected to be. It turned out to be almost exactly what I had to beg/borrow/steal to make college work for the kid who decided to go. This is of course just my contribution; my daughter has a nice chunk of loans to start repaying next June in addition to the physical stresses of holding down a job while going to school. The second we stop recognizing that college has to be a family endeavor for all but the most wealthy these days we might as well give it up and acknowledge that we are exactly where we belong in the world educational system.

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  7. LAMary said on April 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

    The college funds in this family took hits at the same rate as the retirement fund. Everyone lost about 35 percent. I made my own way through college by working several jobs and I’ve told my kids they will have to do this too. I can throw some money into the pot but they need to know that there is nothing wrong with working and going to school at the same time. The older one gets this and does house and pet sitting as well as working for a florist during busy times like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Younger son certainly has it in him to do the same. Let’s hope California’s state schools keep going long enough to accomodate both kids.

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  8. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

    While Butler has been very generous to my daughter with both major academic scholarships, some financial aid, and loans, I too have had to, as Sue says, “beg, borrow or steal” to make it happen. My annual cost to send her to Butler has been pretty much equal to the full cost of a year of tuition and housing at Purdue. For the last two years her paid internship has bought her groceries and given her spending money. And she is seeking a summer job that will let her stay at her house in Indy.

    She is planning on grad school at IU in the fall, where her father’s veteran status entitles her to a full tuition waiver. (Viet Nam, purple heart, Indiana has a very generous definition of disabled veteran.) She will do loans as well for her living expenses.

    We have been feeling very broke these days.

    But even so, Go Dawgs!

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  9. Julie Robinson said on April 5, 2010 at 11:55 am

    When I attended college in the second half of the 70’s, several male friends got factory jobs in the summer and earned enough to pay for their entire year. You couldn’t earn that much today even if there were factories hiring just for the summer. At IU I paid less than $3000 a year, and that was for out of state tuition. I worry that paying off college loans, as well as needing health insurance benefits, will stifle creativity in this generation. Who will be able to afford tinkering and dreaming when they have to punch the clock to pay back their loans?

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  10. Rana said on April 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    My parents were good enough to pay my way through college (despite it being an expensive little place – I learned several years after the fact that they took out a second mortgage to pay for it, without telling me). Grad school, on the other hand, was on my own dime. Partly it was because we all agreed that a young adult with a college degree ought to be responsible for her own apartment and further education, and also because it was so much less expensive when I filed for loans as an independent person and not the dependent of my parents.

    What really killed my parents, in the financial aid department, was that eligibility didn’t take cost of living into account, only income. My parents looked like they were doing really well, because they had two incomes and the salaries were high – but we were living in the Bay Area, where everything was ridiculously expensive and we’d been living in the same tiny house for years. When they finally sold the house – a three-bedroom, 2-bath Eichler on a 1/4 acre lot – and moved out of state, they were able to buy an 80-acre piece of woodland property and build a custom home that was nearly twice the size with the money.

    Meanwhile, my decision of where to go for grad school was predicated less on whether the program was good, and more on it being in state and able to provide teaching work. It worked; I got out with only $7,000 in loans to repay, after 7 years of school.

    Wedding stuff would require another comment…

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  11. Jeff Borden said on April 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    She-Who’s show on Fox did about the same as the Greta Van Susteren show in the ratings, but lost audience over every quarter-hour, which is never a good thing in the teevee business. It couldn’t have cost much to produce, so it’s probably making money for Faux News, but it likely demonstrates the limits of She-Who’s popularity. Again, however, there are enough rubes who think she is the cat’s pajamas to keep her in high clover for the rest of her life. Not bad for a half-assed thinker with one of the most irritating voices in American politics and media.

    I am far more interested in what will happen to Our Lady of Wasilla over the next decade or so. Will she manage to maintain that MILFy persona that so enflames the loins of her conservative lotion boys? Or will age take enough of a toll on her photogenic appeal that a newer model neocon dingbat will take her place? Time has not been kind to Ann Coulter, for example, who has tumbled to Z-list status in conservative celebrityland and must resort to pissing off Canadians to attract any kind of media buzz these days. Even then, only the far-right publications bothered to mention her woes in the Great White North.

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  12. brian stouder said on April 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Jeff – Don’t hold your breath.

    I used to always love love love Jeane Kirkpatrick; bought her book of essays (Dictatorships and Double Standards); and watched with great angst as she got jeered at various colleges and so on.

    Once she was viewed as The Enemy by ‘those people’ (media/academia) it was a sealed deal forever, for me.

    She-who will forever earn royalties on the lightening bolt she caught in ’08. Her resignation from the head of the state government in Alaska was extremely canny, if preserving (so to speak) her mysterious allure and cachet was the goal.

    Everytime she teasingly plays with the possibility that she might run for president – even when she’s 64. will make her target audience swoon.

    Non-sequitur: just saw that the Carroll High School cheerleaders of Fort Wayne made national news on CNN; they have a youtube video that has gone viral. (that 15 minute thing becomes more true every day)

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  13. del said on April 5, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    “Conservative lotion boys,” well put, Jeff.

    As to today’s post’s reference to artistic-types as “layabouts,” I find myself wincing in self-awareness at that description — as I while away more time here in Nall-land. I try to avoid discouraging would-be artists with financial advice as “the world” has a way of taking care of that already. (Now, as my kids age into adulthood, I may change my tune.)

    And as for the chest-thumping stories of how we all paid our own way through college (I’ve one too) etc., I’m inclined to avoid that too. Things are different now. Malcolm Gladwell speculates that the best year to have been born to achieve financial success is 1935. The young people today face a more difficult future than I faced at their age.

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  14. 4dbirds said on April 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Our bank of Mom and Dad is still operating on a month to month basis. 27 year old musician son lives in my basement, we’re down one as his wife has left him (I love her but I feel as if grandmother’s china has smashed. They were too young and ill-prepared for married life). He has another year to ‘work’ on his music on our dime. My 23 year old lives at home while going to the community college. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for Virginia Commonweath this fall. My 19 year old will probably always live at home, her subtle disabilities making her less than self sufficient.

    One wonderful thing is that the 23 year old will get back on our health insurance and I don’t have to worry about my crapload of pre-existing conditions daughter losing hers.

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  15. Jeff Borden said on April 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm


    You may indeed be correct, though I shudder at the comparison to Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who is smarter than She-Who by a factor of infinity times pi. I’m going on the comments to right-wing websites about her appearance for McCain in that skin-tight leather jacket. There were considerably more comments about her alluring look than her politics.

    As noted earlier, it is not easy to fleece the rubes time and again so skillfully they ask you to do it again. I do wonder if the task will be harder when her good looks desert her. Time will tell as it always does.

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  16. Peter said on April 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Julie, you’re so right about those old days – I worked a normal job during Christmas break and summer, and it paid for private school tuition and supplies. Today you’d be lucky to make beer money.

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  17. MichaelG said on April 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Meg Whitman says she will balance the budget and gel the recovery by firing 40,000 State employees, building new prisons and creating new jobs. Whatever “creating new jobs” means. I’ll leave it to somebody smarter than me to figure how all that works.

    Poizner is going to balance the budget by cutting all services to illegal immigrants, despite the fact that the Federal Courts have already said that such cuts are not permissible. I can’t imagine that services to illegal immigrants amount to all that much anyway. Certainly nothing close to $21 Bil. So we have two candidates building their platforms on fairy tales.

    I don’t know who first called Jerry Brown “Moonbeam”. He’s a very smart guy, if a tad quirky. He does have personality and can be an excellent and entertaining speaker. And he can be charming when he wants. I’ve heard him several times. It’s interesting days when he’s the sanest of the candidates. I’m voting for him too. Might as well. I did last time he ran for gov.

    Look at one of the sat maps, google or bing. Mexicali is a huge place with about a million people. I had never realized that until I had a job in El Centro and was traveling to the area regularly. If there’s anything that demonstrates the good side of govt presence, it’s the contrast between places that have seismic building regulations, building codes and genuine inspections and those places that don’t. I would offer Chile vs. Haiti for your edification and also, I would suspect, Mexicali vs. the California side.

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  18. Deborah said on April 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Jeff B, interesting thoughts about SP. She’s so over the top popular now, it will be something to watch as time goes by. Well, maybe it will be something for some to watch, I’ll take it second hand. I can’t watch her.

    Speaking of losing looks, there’s an article in yesterday’s NYT Magazine about Norris Church Mailer (Norman’s widow). It’s fascinating how she describes herself as someone who had good looks and clearly had thoughts that she would do this and that later in her life when she lost her looks. She’s 61 now but looks older (I think) because of some severe health problems. She’s way overly thin but still basically looks pretty good.

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  19. Scout said on April 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    My parents were lucky when they were able to offload me onto my (now) ex-husband way back in the day. As a ballet teacher, I was only able to sustain my arty little “career” because someone else actually paid the bills. It was a great way to work and still spend time with my daughters, though, so no regrets.

    I love the analogy about the broken china. Right now we are suffocating under not just one, but four, upside down mortgages and not a day goes by without one or the other of us mentioning walking away from it all. I wonder if at some point we’d feel like those houses were like that china. At this point we’re still shying away from finding out for sure.

    David Carr sounds like someone who suffers from “little starbursts” in regards to She-Who. He has a point about how she has managed to keep herself in the limelight, but his assessment doesn’t tell the whole story. It looks like her little Fux News vanity project might be a nice little tax write-off loss for Rupert in the long run. http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/fnc/ratings_for_sarah_palin_debut_on_fox_news_157259.asp

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  20. Jeff Borden said on April 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for the link, Scout. I’d forgotten where I’d seen that information on the performance of She-Who’s show.

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  21. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    When my dad would drive me back to Purdue on Sunday nights when I could score a ride back home for the weekend, he’d buy me a Jamocha shake at the Arby’s on Sagamore Parkway and slip me a $20. If he had one. The FAF assumed he’d get a second mortgage on our house, and the financial aid officers always brightly said “he’s your oldest, but your fourth child will get a free ride!” Ask my little sister how that worked out.

    Six and a half years to graduate, lots of grill scrubbing at 1 am after making caramel corn all evening, and a wedding with the reception dinner in the church’s basement, catered by a friend who wanted to run a vegetarian restaurant but just kept having kids instead — I love Nancy’s grandmother-china analogy. The closure of the Bank Of ‘Rents may be a blessing in disguise.

    Right now, I’m feeling very tomcruisish, since I’ve talked to three moms today who all think that if we could just get their sons medicated they’d not have any trouble getting them up and to school. Really? I know meds do wonderful stuff to transform problems into distant memories sometimes, but this ritalin-seeking-behavior is giving me a real downer. Or it may just be the post-Easter sugar crash. Anyone else have Ritalin rants, or contrariwise testimonials to counter my biliousness?

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  22. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    My Dad paid for college and grad school. I was a princess, what can I say? Though I always worked and provided my own spending money.

    I really just wanted to post to see if my gravatar thingie works.

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  23. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Hmmm, wonder what happened to that post.

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  24. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Just looking for my gravatar, my posts must be piling up somewhere.

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  25. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Now I feel like an idiot. Especially since it’s no longer showing up. I hooked it to all three of my email addresses, hmmmm.

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  26. Jen said on April 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    My parents paid for part of my college and expenses when I was in college, let me use their car when I was in college, gave me a little bit of money to help put a down payment on my car (I think) and paid for my wedding. However, I was expected to have a job in college, and as soon as I got a job, I started paying rent to them while I was living at home, and I got my own apartment as soon as I could. I lived very frugally – no internet, no cable TV, nothing like that – until my husband and I both got the decent jobs we have now. If I got into big trouble, I’m sure my parents and my in-laws would help us out, but there was a clear expectation that when I got out of college, I would be self-sufficient, whether I wanted to be a writer or a musician or an underwater basket weaver or whatever other thing I decided to do.

    They had a similar deal with my sister, except substitute “helping her move to New Hampshire” for “wedding” (she is going to elope if she decides ever to get married).

    At many points, I was very, very jealous of my much more spoiled friends, who got what they wanted, when they wanted, without having to pay a dime. I had several college friends and roommates like that. However, I look at all my friends now who are struggling to pay for their lifestyles because, even though they don’t make enough, they HAVE to buy brand new furniture and a flatscreen TV and a new computer and an iPhone and every DVD they ever wanted and internet access and satellite TV with HBO, and I am very, very glad that my parents trained me the way they did. People my age tend to have an expectation that they deserve to have everything they want when they want it, and it’s simply not the way the world works.

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  27. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I’ll just shut up now.

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  28. Sue said on April 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Those of us of a certain age can remember when it was more common that the sons got the educations and the daughters got the weddings. Some girls were given the option of parents paying for a college education or a wedding, not both. Me, I knew from an early age that it was going to be neither and never expected my folks to cough up money they didn’t have. They did spring for a car because I went to a commuter junior college and couldn’t afford both the tuition and the wheels, but I found out later my brother paid for the car.
    *edit – the car was, shall we say, not of the same quality one might expect today’s youth to be accustomed to, and I ended up sharing it with my dad when a carpooling opportunity opened up for me.
    If I had to think about this too hard, I might admit that it’s a big reason I’ve busted my ass to make sure my kid was able to finish college.

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  29. nancy said on April 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Jen kind of nails what I was going for. Every parent wants to help their children, and most do, at least a little bit. My question is, at one point are they expected to make it on their own? College is one thing. Moving back in after college is another. But moving out, perhaps to a different city, and *still* expecting your parents to help with — or pay the entirety of — your rent? Of course there are special circumstances. If you have a trust fund, lucky you. But at some point you have to take care of yourself.

    I’ve thought of this whenever I’ve seen the plushy pads my affluent friends set up for their kids. Some of them have multi-room suites with maid service. Who would want to leave that?

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  30. 4dbirds said on April 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Connie, lol. We’re a split house here. My hubby loves his Dukies but I’m rooting for Butler.

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  31. Sue said on April 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Wow, Nancy, with friends like that why are you hanging around with us?

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  32. Jenflex said on April 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Yeah, Nancy, are they in the market for a middle-aged adoptee?

    Seriously, the only thing I am adding to this whole thread is that I think my husband and I are doing a lot more to involve our daughter in our financial life. Not that she has to know what we make, or that we’re dumping on her. She is, though,aware that the world requires you to pay money to be left alone with stuff. And she is involved in our decisions. She’s 10, so the decisions are “do we eat out tonight, or this weekend,” but we also talk about paying for the house and the car repairs, and everything else.

    I don’t think anyone is well-served by being able to ignore financial reality, for any extended period of time. This week, it’s parents; a year ago, it was over-available credit, and tomorrow, it will still be that good-paying jobs don’t exist in anything like their former abundance. But it’s still all the same thing.

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  33. brian stouder said on April 5, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Well – having met Connie (who is beautiful) on one occasion, I’d vote for an avatar showing her-own-self (and we’ll skip any potential bull-dog joke faux pas)

    In my role of making unoriginal observations, let me just point out that shows like “Friends” exemplify (and validate) exactly the sort of thing Nance points out – wherein these young folks have what must be a hugely expensive flat, and nobody really works!

    I begin to suspect I’ll have a really hard time letting go of the young folks as they grow up, but I won’t have a hard time avoiding spoiling them, since there’s no means (by any means) by which I can.

    By way of saying – I get why a parent would do all they can do, if only to (seemingly) keep their status within their young folks’ lives, and thereby not completely surrender to the passage of time.

    PS – Jeff – Indeed, Jeane Kirkpatrick tickled a different fancy for me than She-Who does for her posse. Whereas Ms Kirkpatrick was a more specialized taste (appealing to people who read books with footnotes, for example), still, the dynamic of undying allegiance once the beau ideal came under attack is the same.

    Anyway, while Ms Kirkpatrick was not unattractive, back in those days (early ’80’s) the public figure that I was most smitten with was of course the Proprietress! (I don’t know about shooting little arrows or flashes of magical glittery electric excitement [or whatever] – but she could defintely cast a spell; and this was augmented by the shrillness of some of her insane critics…and this was when I was an RR guy and [erroniously!] disagreed with much of her worldview)

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  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I’m calling my parents (before the Butler game) to check on whether maid service is still do-able, funding-wise. They’re almost 80, quite healthy, and spending cautiously, but I guess it’s worth a try. You can still hit the ‘rents up for this stuff at 50, right?

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  35. Jen said on April 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Once I was on my own, I was on my own, and same with my sister. She lives in another state, pays her own rent, utilities, groceries, etc. The only thing my parents are still doing is letting her drive a car they currently own and pay insurance on because she needs to get some cash built up before she buys a car, and they’re OK with letting her build up enough cash to buy a good car since she lives in another state and doesn’t have dad living 10 minutes away to save her when she’s stranded on the side of the road or something.

    Parents who pay for their childrens’ stuff once they’re out of the house are not doing their children any favors in the long run. If their parents’ money dries up, as it is now with the economic downturn, they’re in much, much worse shape than if their parents would have given them a nudge (or a kick!) out of the nest when they were 23. It’s crazy how much it happens, though – my brother-in-law works in a call center at an electric company, and he has people call him to set up electricity for their adult children, and the parent is usually paying for it, too! Sigh.

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  36. beb said on April 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I’m another who like’s Nancy broken china analogy.

    My wife and daughter have become addicted to “Hoarders” so I end up see more of the show than I’d care for. It’s about people who are being forced to clean up their houses, either because they’re in danger od losing child custody or condemnation of their home. It’s sad to see their people crying, literally crying, as someone starts throwing crap out of their houses. (Occasionally literally crap). It does seem that in many cases it might be just as easy for them to walk away from their old houses as trying to sort through all their hoarded stuff and decide what to keep.

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  37. coozledad said on April 5, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    for part of my college career I lived in a band house. We rented it from another student whose folks bought it for him. His rental income was supplemented by his drug dealing. He was among the first people to stop dealing Mexican weed and sell exclusively the blue tinged, shrink wrapped buds. I tried a hit of some of that once, and I think I spent at least a portion of that day hiding in some tall vegetation near the house.

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  38. Connie said on April 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for lovely compliment Brian.

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  39. Rana said on April 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    This discussion about parents footing the bill for their adult children not just for emergencies or special events like weddings reminds me of some of the discussions I’ve seen on the Free Range Kids website. The premise of the free range kids movement, for those of you who haven’t encountered it, is that both parents and children are better served in the long run by letting kids do things on their own (to the extent that they are capable of it) rather than having parents “protect” them by driving them three blocks to school, not letting them leave their yards when they play, etc.

    In one of the threads this last week or so, there was much bogglement over one parent who, aghast that a mother might leave her child alone for two minutes (literally, 86 seconds – she timed it) in the library, expressed her own terror when she left her 6’2″ 19-year-old son alone in the car when she ran in to pay for gas.

    The universal reaction at the free-range site – and I expect here too – was WTF. And, no, this was not a developmentally disabled 19-year-old, although one might argue that his parents’ paranoid coddling may well have stunted him permanently.

    Anyway, I suspect that it’s parents and “children” like these who get caught up in these dynamics. My own parents have told me, after I hit my 30s, that they very deliberately set out to raise independent children, because they knew that they weren’t going to be around forever, and they wanted us as capable as they could make us. When I remember some of my grad school roommates, including one who lived on nothing but take-out and microwave meals because she literally didn’t know how to even boil an egg, I am deeply grateful for their common sense.

    (Of course, their “reward” is two children who live far away and only rarely get to visit, but that’s the trade-off, I guess.)

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  40. LAMary said on April 5, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    My kids can cook basic things like rice and beans and eggs and pasta. They know how to get around the city on buses and trains and how to change a flat tire. I have not given them adequate laundry training. We’re working on that.
    Every time one of the does something without prompting, like taking out a full garbage can or feeding a squeaking cat, I feel like things are going in the right direction. When I come in the door after a very long day at work, and I’m carrying groceries in both hands, one kid grabs the bags and the other goes to the car for the rest of the bags. This is good.

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  41. Deborah said on April 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    My daughter, Little Bird, who also comments here from time to time has given me permission to tell this story.

    She has a neurological condition called Neurofibromatosis, NF for short (go to ctf.org if you want to know more about it). It can be extremely debilitating or it can have hardly any manifestations, and everything in between, there are variations in each case. She was diagnosed when she was 5. Life has not been easy for her to some degree. Her case is relatively mild, at least to the untrained eye. She has fewer physical manifestations (tumors) but she has brain issues. She can do some things very, very well, she’s very bright and highly verbal. She read at a very early age. But when it comes to planning and organization (executive functions) she’s pretty horrible and she knows this is a weakness that she works to compensate for. She has had many jobs in her adult life but because of her issues she has a hard time hanging on to them. Stress exacerbates her condition too. As a result she lives in an apartment we provide for her. In exchange for that she does many odd jobs for us. She’s a fabulous cook, so she does a lot of that for us. It has been great having her around. We never thought it would be like this when we looked into the crystal ball of the future, but here we are. One of the things that is hard for her is the invisibility of her condition. She does have some physical manifestations but they’re mainly hidden by clothes. A lot of her “friends” don’t get it and even her own father doesn’t (one of the reason’s he’s my ex). My husband is very understanding, in many ways a saint, and one of the few people who really understands how difficult it can be for her.

    I guess I’m telling you this because you never know what goes on in people’s lives and there can be good reasons for doing things that don’t seem right to some people.

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  42. brian stouder said on April 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Mary – that is indeed extra, extra good when kiddos do things without being asked. The other day, the young folks and I stopped at the gas station, and while I was fueling, the two older ones grabbed squeegees and washed the windshield and the the back window – without being asked – and (here’s the kicker) they even washed the headlights*! I smiled about that the rest of the day!

    Somewhat unrelated thing, which Nance’s bunny picture brings to mind. We’ve had our bunny for two years now, and in ALL that time, I have never picked him (Twilight – although I call him Mr T) up; just never did it.

    To be honest, I’ve always been a little scared of the ol’ bunny; he is, afterall, a large rodent with the ability to gnaw, and he has not-inconsiderable claws (longer or shorter, depending on when they were last trimmed). Reaching my bare hands into his cage, when he might (rightly) feel cornered, has never seemed to be a good idea.

    Over the months and years, I’ve given the bunny a fair amout of GOOD lettuce** (not frompy), and carrots and other bunny treats, and I noticed that when I go into the garage he seemed to beckon me over, and he’d sit still for me to touch and/or pet him.

    So right now, the young folks are out of town for Spring Break, and ol’ dad is home alone (somebody’s gotta work!) and this evening when I went into the garage, Mr T all but called me over. So, I put my book on the porch, prepared a drink (icy cold Diet Coke), set up his pen in the front yard….and then thought “Nope – I’m still not putting my hands into that cage”. Therefore, I hauled the whole cage out to the pen, and opened the door, and he hopped right out and enjoyed the setting sun as I cleaned everything out, and then settled down to read. From time to time, he hopped to the edge of the pen closest to me, and allowed me to pet him.

    ‘Course, eventually, it became time to put things away again, and I got some roamine lettuce and out that in his cage, and put the cage in the pen, whereupon the bunny looked at me as if to say “uhhh, no”.

    And then I did it. I slowly reached down to him with both hands, and he held still, and I picked him up. I could feel his little heart beating, and his rapid respiration, as I placed him into the cage (he immediately went for that romaine) and gently closed the door.

    I stood up straight and noticed that I could feel MY heart beating, and I could feel a cool sweat on my forehead…I was terrified! – BUT, I did it!

    Of course I had to call Pam – but Shelby (the 11 year old who owns the bunny) wasn’t there to hear me brag, which is almost certainly lucky for me, in coming years.

    Still, I gotta say – Woo Hoo!!

    *headlights are always at least as dirty as your windshield, and should be washed when the windshield is

    **I have simce learned that this has an unfortunate effect on the bunny’s leavings – but if I clean the cagem then I can feed him lettuce!

    edit- Deborah, a touching story. All of us parents would stop at nothing when it comes to something our young folks need, to get along in life. You point out the other side of the coin – when interdpendence maximizes independence, rather than undermines it.

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  43. crinoidgirl said on April 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    McCain never considered himself a maverick (link inside the post to original Newsweek story):


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  44. Rana said on April 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Deborah, Little Bird, thank you for sharing your experiences.

    That’s the unfortunate flip side of the “Bank of Mom and Dad” story – it’s not just about parents supporting immature and frivolous young adults, but also touches on the difficult sort of situation you describe, where parents support adult offspring because full independence is not a feasible option, and there isn’t much of a support network in place outside the family. The trust-funders can, and should, be able to cope with the downturn, and probably will end up better people for it. But the families who are doing this out of necessity, rather than privilege and choice, like you are… I worry.

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  45. del said on April 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    My wife’s had friends on both sides of the tracks, in high school, college, and beyond, rough edged Detroiters and trust fund kids from the burbs and the Atlantic coast. It struck her as odd that they all describe themselves as “middle class” or a variant thereof.

    Rana’s comment about Free-Range kids reminds me of a discussion in our house about how to treat our kids. They’re both in elementary school and we walk them to school nearly every day. A friend criticized that and advised that we really ought to let them walk to and from school alone as it would give them a sense of accomplishment, and confidence. Free-range stuff, I think. It made sense to me. Nobody’d ever walked me to school. My wife had a different take. She suggested that we stop walking them to and from school as soon as they ask us to. That made sense too and so we waited, and waited, but they haven’t asked us not to walk them yet. I’m sure that by next year (6th grade for the boy) we’ll have to stop walking him to school at least as he’s already on the edge of being ashamed of me. But it’s been a great run, and a joy to listen to the kids talk about their day. I would not have missed it.

    We usually walk the neighbor kids too and one of them wrote a school essay in which she said that one of the things that she loved about her dad was that he walked her to school every day — of course, because of my work schedule, I’m the one who is able to walk her to school most days. It obviously means a lot to the kids as well.

    P.S. Deborah, I’ve an aunt and friend with NF. Glad you mentioned it as it’s hard to “get.”

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  46. Dexter said on April 6, 2010 at 12:35 am

    David and Goliath stories ain’t no fun when Goliath wins. Just by one inch, but they won. I would feel better if Duke would have won with a long shot, not a miss on an impossible shot by Butler that was just one inch off from banking into the basket. I envisioned a shot like this for Butler, but no-go…Due won.

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  47. Jolene said on April 6, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Del, thanks for your story re walking your kids to school. I’m confident that, in years to come, these small moments of intimacy will provide great memories for both you and them.

    My father was both generous and reliable, but, like many men of his generation, not very involved in our day-to-day activities. One of my friends once mentioned that he routinely packed his kids’ lunches every night. While that can be done w/o talking to them, it’s still shows attention to daily needs and daily pleasures. If kids get that, they will know, I think, how much they mean to their parents even if they are sent off into throat world w/o trust funds or sports cars.

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  48. Dexter said on April 6, 2010 at 2:43 am

    The death toll is up to 25 now in the explosion at the mine in West Virginia.

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  49. Connie said on April 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Well it was a heck of a game and could have gone either way right up to the last second. Go Dawgs!

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  50. LAMary said on April 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Deborah, I had a brother with NF. His neuro issues were bad. He had grand mal epilepsy. He was born in the thirties and treatment for seizures might have been what caused brain damage resulting in developmental issues. Or it could have been the seizures or the NF. He functioned at about the 6 year old level.

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  51. Rana said on April 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    This seems appropriate:

    Those Winter Sundays

    Sundays too my father got up early
    And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
    from labor in the weekday weather made
    banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

    I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
    When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
    and slowly I would rise and dress,
    fearing the chronic angers of that house,

    Speaking indifferently to him,
    who had driven out the cold
    and polished my good shoes as well.
    What did I know, what did I know
    of love’s austere and lonely offices?

    Robert Hayden

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  52. del said on April 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Rana, I love that poem. About 2 weeks ago I stumbled on this youtube reading of it.
    Beautiful reading. Robert Hayden, like my father and grandfather is from Detroit and, like me, went to Wayne State (I think).

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  53. Little Bird said on April 6, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I’ve been trying to think of how to respond to Deborah’s (mom’s) comment. It literally brought tears to my eyes. It’s hard to live with an invisible disability, and I’m sure it’s even harder for her to live with me having it. BUT, strides have been made, and things that I couldn’t do ten years ago are now possible. I owe so much to Deborah and her husband, for not kicking me out, however tempting it must have been at times. And for supporting me in other ways too. I’m incredibly lucky to have her continued presence in my life.

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