So That’s What She Meant!

Thoughts on growing up…

Do you have children?  If so you know how we, as parents, experience different emotions as they grow up.  I have two children.  My daughter just graduated college with three degrees.  My son graduated college five years ago with an equal number.  The emotional dynamic of them moving on to independence is a continuing “ah ha’ moment for me.

As an only child, I was mainly raised by my Mother, a strong woman who was born in 1915.  A child of the depression era.  My Father died when I was only seven and Mom never remarried.  Now that was a consideration itself in the early 1960’s.  I didn’t realize how unique this family situation was until I was well into my twenties.  Reflecting on how my upbringing molded me in comparison to my children gives me much to ponder!  Some of this reflection makes me bothered – my Mom sort of gave up her life after Dad died and lived vicariously through me.  In retrospect, that was a coping mechanism on her part but I resented it a lot.  She was, however, a terrific money manager and we were never without essentials.  She also made many extra-curricular activities available to me.  I didn’t appreciate those sacrifices at the time.

Some of my Mom’s favorite phrases, “I’m your Mother not your friend” or “A letter would be nice” or “When I’m gone you will regret…..”.  There were lots of others.  Too bad Mom didn’t experience the computer age or the smart phone.  Maybe she would have really embraced texting or email?  I find myself longing for more conversations with my children – but not because I want to pry into their business.  I’m single myself and have been for many years.  I’m fully engaged in life and my career.  I am not lonely.  But, hearing what they are doing including both happy things and challenging things is meaningful to me.  Hearing their voices makes a difference.  I don’t like just texts.  I don’t like calling and leaving messages that aren’t returned in a timely manner or at all; this must be more of a guy thing?

This self-reflection makes me wonder what my Mom thought and felt when, after working in my hometown for a year, I packed up and moved as far away as I could while staying in the continental USA, California.  For me that was terrific.  I was ready to really leave home.  Other than adventure I was running from a relationship my Mom didn’t approve of.  All these years later, I see that it wouldn’t have made a lasting relationship and he and I are still friends.  At the time, she had really crossed the line in my mind.  In California, nobody asked who my family was or where I went to church or what college I attended.  I think these inquiries are really a southern thing.  I never thought about how Mom must have felt having her only immediate family member 3000 miles away.  The house was very empty.  All the upkeep was now hers.  Remember this was before the internet.  Long distance calls were expensive and the main form of communication was letters.  Now I understand, she was lonely and felt somewhat abandoned.  She couldn’t express this very well either.  Why do we have so much trouble saying what we really think?

Common psychology tells us that we usually don’t learn from someone else’s experience.  We must make mistakes and have our own ‘ah ha’ moments.  As a parent, I think most of us try to impart our personal knowledge, gained from experience in many areas, to our children.  Struggling with how to make that relevant in today’s world is constant.  Kids say we grew up in the good ole’ days – true there were no microwaves, computers, or smart phones, GPS didn’t exist, drugs were not an issue for mainstream society, and out of wedlock pregnancies were not accepted.  Again, I remember saying to my Mom, “You just don’t understand”.  In fact, she did understand more than I wanted to admit, I just didn’t want to embrace or acknowledge it.  Analogies can be useful in talking with younger folks, sometimes it gets the point across.

More than anything parents hurt for their children and want to mitigate some of these negatives.  In my practice, I counsel parents and grandparents who feel they just must help their children or grandchildren out financially.  In most cases, I can’t advise it.  Knowing the kids are struggling financially without them having some plan to fix the issue is just a recipe for more of the same problems.  You know the saying, “history repeats itself”?  Adults are not banks!

True, kids struggle financially.  They struggle with relationships or lack thereof.  They don’t like the corporate work environment because many feel they know better than the boss or should be much happier in their employment.  They believe they aren’t paid well enough.  Our trying to shelter our children from the realities of life probably isn’t the best approach.  Baby boomers tend to be known for this behavior pattern.  The millennials got a trophy for just showing up.  At work, you are expected to show up and do your job to the best of your ability, no trophies!  To paraphrase President Kennedy, “Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company.”

If you are like me, you well know life isn’t smooth or easy.  Each of us has a unique path to wander and lessons to learn.  Funny how these lessons keep repeating themselves until we learn what the lesson is.  Then, there’s another lesson.  Life!

I’m continuing my learning on how to transition my relationship with my son and daughter.  Maybe now they are young adults, I can really begin to be a friend as well as a mentor and a parent?

School is always in session.

About Sara Seasholtz

Sara Seasholtz, CFP®, was voted one of "50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte" by The Mecklenburg Times in 2011, and has assisted her clients with their financial planning needs for over 40 years. Have a financial question? ASK SARA!


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