Recently both of our daughters came home for the holiday break. Their return brought us a new set of parenting concerns. When kids go off to college, they suddenly consider themselves adults. They feel the old kids’ rules from their high school years no longer apply. So it can be stressful to know how to parent your almost-adult child now that they’ve concluded they no longer need to listen to a word you say. That’s why, in the most loving way possible, you should periodically remind them – roughly every two hours – about who is paying for their college and how you’d be delighted to spend that money on a Mediterranean cruise for yourself if they don’t clean up their act during their brief time home.
I would like to share my best parenting advice for how to get your kids to cooperate when they come home from college. I really would. But I can no more decipher the code for how to parent college-age kids than I can explain why some people pay $200 more for a cell phone custom-colorized to match their purse. But I will try to impart some wisdom just the same.
Challenge #1: The pit stop. Many parents experience the short-lived joy of welcoming their kids home for winter break only to become annoyed as their child vanishes seconds after their arrival, shouting, “Hi, Dad. Gotta go. Meeting Bridget to go shopping.” It’s easy to feel like your kids are only using your house as a place to crash at night, but that’s not true. They are also using your house for the free food, free laundry service, and free use of your Lexus. Oh, and just in case you were wondering whether your child might be heading off to shop for a Christmas present for you – they’re not. They’re going shopping to swap out the color pattern on their swaggy new cell phone so that it can perfectly match their – well, you get the picture.
Personally, I can’t stand it when other people brag about their kids. You’ll never catch me puffing up my chest, bragging about the fact my daughter won the National Chess Tournament for kids seven and under at the age of five. Nor will you ever hear me boast about her eighth grade science experiment, inventing an internal combustion engine that ran on tap water. You’ll never hear me talk your ear off about my daughter scoring four goals to lead her team to victory in the state soccer championships in ninth grade either. That’s because I hate to brag about my kids’ incredible achievements (particularly when it involves making things up).
But the one thing I have to admit to taking pride in is the fact that I am – much to my surprise – the parent of the world’s smartest person. I’m talking about my teenage daughter Rachel. I base this conclusion on more than a decade of longitudinal field studies observing her interaction with my wife and me. At first, I was not fully aware of just how superior her intellect was – in part because at the age of four, she still believed in unicorns and was convinced we should trade in her younger sister for an Easy Bake oven.
Over time, however, it became clear just how amazingly bright she was compared to her stupid parents – because she made a point of reminding us of that fact on a daily basis. For years, I lived under the misconception that earth revolved around the sun. But by the time Rachel hit her teens, it had become obvious to me – the entire universe revolved around her.
This weekend I have the whole house to myself. Our elder daughter Rachel is a college freshman and our younger daughter Emily (who apparently really admires her dad – who knew?) is with my wife this weekend, visiting the college she’ll be enrolling in next fall. For the past few days, it’s been eerily quiet in the house – and eerily tidy. It’s weird to walk into my bathroom and not see my daughter’s curling iron, dirty towels and jars of makeup, eye liner, and moisturizing creams piled up in my sink. I barely recognize the kitchen now because there are no stacks of dirty dishes covering every square inch of the counter.
This got me to thinking about next fall, when for the first time in 19 years, there will be no kids in our house. We’ll be joining the ranks of a rapidly growing demographic: Happy People (otherwise known as “Empty Nesters”). Many couples look forward to this phase of life. But for me, it’s going to be a difficult adjustment. So I took time this weekend to look at old photo albums and watch old family videos. It brought back wonderful memories of many happy times with our daughters.
Like the 1,284 times I changed our daughters’ diapers when they were young (which, according to my rough estimate, is approximately 1,284 more times than my father changed his own kids’ diapers when we were young).
[Note from Tim Jones: This week, I’ve invited my high school daughter Emily to take the reins of this column for the first time. I told her to write about whatever struck her fancy. Then I explained to her that "whatever strikes your fancy" means "whatever, dude." I am confident that whatever she writes about will be in good taste and handled with maturity. See you next week.]
Hi, I’m Emily. My dad, Tim Jones, writes some stupid humor blog called View from the … Something or Other. I really have no idea what it’s called. I never read it. Because it’s like totally lame. He thinks he’s really funny, like the time he wrote that the dishwasher almost destroyed his marriage to my mom. Yeah, like my mom is ever going to cheat on my dad with the dishwasher.
Not that I would blame her. My dad is so boring. He’s always telling me stuff like “Kevin needs to leave by 9pm. It’s a school night.” That’s so unfair! All my friends’ parents let their boyfriends sleep over on school nights. And he’s constantly getting on my case if I get less than a B on a test. Gimme a break. He always likes to remind me that he was valedictorian at his high school and got straight A’s. And I tell him, “Wow. That’s impressive. And now you write a humor blog that five people read. I see what you mean about the importance of good grades, Dad.”
When it comes to parenting, I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation.
Like the time our elder daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her drive the car to the mall. It was a sunny day. Traffic was light. And she had behaved extremely well all week long. So against my better judgment, I said okay. Two minutes later, she smashed the car into a stop sign barely 100 yards from our driveway. A part of me can’t help but wonder whether in retrospect I should have given in to the whining and pleading of an eight-year-old girl.
Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely ever listens to any of my opinions anymore unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing I said – which got me to thinking. Maybe the way for me to make better parenting decisions is to poll the opinions of total strangers.
In the 2012 presidential election, the polls were incredibly accurate forecasters of people’s voting preferences. Nate Silver’s 538 blog accurately predicted the Electoral College winner in all fifty states. Politicians use polls all the time to help them decide how to vote. Should we legalize gay marriage? Poll your constituents. Should we cut defense spending? Do a poll. Should we ban hurricanes during the last week of a presidential campaign? (89% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.)
Every year about this time, thousands of families endure an emotionally trying ritual: Sending their young high school graduate off to college – or in the case of my neighbor Bert Zablinski’s under-achieving boy Freddie, a four-week correspondence course for road construction flag operators. For many distraught parents it means driving hundreds of miles in a tightly cramped car filled with college gear, then coming to a startling realization – they forgot to bring one essential item: Their child. Don’t let this happen to you.
The experience of sending your offspring to college is different for every family. But there is one feeling almost every parent shares: a desperate hope they’ll have the winning Powerball lottery tickets so they can pay for college. That’s their Plan A. Most parents don’t have a Plan B, now that by latest estimates the average cost of four years of college recently has surpassed the GNP of Uruguay.
[This week’s column is written by veteran sitcom writer/producer Miriam Trogdon. I am privileged to turn over the reins to Miriam this week. – TEJ]
I hear so many of my baby boomer friends complain that they never hear from their children.
- As soon as my son turned eighteen, he was out the door. I thought he might return for his belongings, but instead he got two jobs and bought everything new.
- My daughter graduated from college and stayed out east. She started working, got a loan for a car and asked to be taken off our phone plan.
And the most common sad tale:
- I thought for sure my kid would at least need us for health insurance, but no. He made sure his new employer had a great plan and then he moved out for good.
Sound familiar? Then you’re certainly not alone. Most boomers would give their eye teeth to have their semi-grown children living back in their homes, but alas, no matter how hard they try, they are unsuccessful. But not I. My husband and I are proud to reveal that our 24-year-old daughter moved back into our home after college and remains there four years later! And I want to share some of the ways we make sure this ideal situation doesn’t change.
If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that in the end, your kids will crush your dreams, ignore all your well-intentioned advice, join a biker gang, and never write to thank you for teaching them how to ride a bike in 4th grade.
But if there is a second thing I learned, it’s that you need to be positive. As most of you know, outside of my immediate family, I am considered a highly regarded parenting expert. My latest parenting book, A Positive Parent’s Guide to Loving Your Child, even if They’re an Evil, Twisted, Unmotivated, Narcissistic Demon Seed Hellion Who Will Never Amount to Anything in this World is helping millions of frustrated parents everywhere deal with their challenging child. The key? Remain positive at all times.
This week, I dip into Dr. Tim’s Mailbag, to share examples of how you can successfully apply my powerful patent-pending positive parenting process to help your own challenging child blossom to one quarter of their God-given potential.
Over the past 50 years, throughout North America there has been an explosion of reported cases of Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (better known by its acronym, K.I.D.S.). No socio-demographic group has been spared by this invasive and intractable outbreak. In fact, I myself have been waging my own personal battle with KIDS for the past 18 years.
According to humanitarian relief agencies’ longitudinal studies dating back to the 19th century, the number of known cases of KIDS is at its highest level in human history. Alarmingly, it shows no signs of reversing its upward trend. For millions of couples facing the long-term ordeal of KIDS, there is no relief in sight.
Scientists have been unable to unlock the mysterious inner workings of KIDS. But they do know that contracting the condition has been conclusively linked to unprotected sexual contact, often during bouts of excessive alcohol consumption. Warning signs that you may have contracted KIDS include an inability to maintain an orderly household, often accompanied by a disregard for clutter and chaos. Another warning sign is a sudden indifference to the presence of vomit, nasal mucous, fecal or urinary discharge on one’s clothes or person.
If you’re like me, then you’re a 57-year-old male living in Seattle, with a slight overbite and a two-inch scar on your left hand from a kitchen accident in 2004. But that’s beside the point. My point is, if you’re like me, then you may also be about to enter one of the most terrifying stages of life: The age when your teenage son or daughter starts learning how to drive.
Having somehow endured this traumatic experience with two daughters, I’m happy to say there is a reasonable chance you and your teenager will get through this period unscathed, and by reasonable chance I mean less than 15%. Let’s face it, being a parent is hard enough without having to experience the harrowing adventure of teaching your precious offspring how to drive. But there comes a day when your teenager might utter the phrase every parent dreads: Hey, Dad. I got into Stanford. But even before that day, there is another phrase that terrifies every loving parent: I want to get my driver’s license.
There is no way to avoid it. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. The sooner you can con, I mean convince, your spouse to sign up for the thankless task of teaching them, the better. In our family, I was the sucker, er, volunteer. As a result of my anguishing experience teaching our daughters how to drive, I’ve learned several valuable tips to pass on to you.