Remember when you were younger (much younger) and you thought your life was crap?
Fast forward 40 years or so and look back. Turns out it was pretty damn awesome and you don’t remember being miserable about all the things you didn’t have.
I recently posted a TBT (Throw Back Thursday) picture on my Facebook page that showed a 22 year old me sitting on a couch with a rug hanging on the wall behind me. The rug was the old standard Dogs Playing Poker rug that we all make fun of now. The post got a lot of play and resulted in over a dozen personal emails sharing their nostalgia.
Truth is, those beginning days were harsh. The one bedroom apartment I barely squeezed into was furnished with rented furniture from Abbey Rents. My shelves were cinder blocks with pieces of wood between them and my lighting was cheap and gaudy iron hanging lamps purchased in Tijuana, Mexico. Not exactly the Taj Mahal.
Yet, it felt like a palace to me. It was my own place with all my own stuff paid for with my own money. I had big plans for myself back then. I don’t ever remember doubt being in the mix. Maybe it’s a sentiment that comes from having no place to go but up.
My car was a used Volkswagen Bug that I purchased for $800. It was clutch drive, had no seat belts and the air conditioning was the wing windows up front. Man, I loved that car. And I was so proud of myself for being able to buy it.
In those days, once you left home, you didn’t return. That door was closed. You either made it, or you ended up on a friend’s couch until you did.
Today, an estimated 65% of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 return home at some point. This was nearly unthinkable back in the day.
It was made very clear to me that I couldn’t expect any financial help from my parents once I left home. Mostly because they didn’t have it to give. Most of my generation found themselves in the same boat. Wealthy families excluded.
Today an estimated 59% of parents provide some kind of financial support for their adult children who are no longer in school. There is such a generational gap in thinking and expectations. I think we, as parents, infused it.
We wanted to give our kids everything we didn’t have. The big house, their own room, a car when they came of age, nice clothes, lavish Christmas presents, and family vacations. You know, a good life. Boomer parents were very willing to make sacrifices for their kids, along with assurances they would be there for them until they got on their feet.
Maybe we gave too much. As a friend of mine recently stated with solid assurance, what we did, we did out of love. He’s right.
But did we do them a dis-service? Are kids today too dependent?
Is it any wonder that so many of our children grew up feeling entitled? These days, expecting to have nice things and not thinking twice about asking for financial help to acquire them, is somewhat norm for Millennials.
Many of the kids born between 1982 and 2000 will never know what it is like to make do with what you have, until they have the money to buy better. Second hand furniture, clothing, cars, and less than beautiful home amenities is simply not on their radar.
I feel bad about that. There’s a lot to be said for scrimping, saving, doing without, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Mac & Cheese for weeks, buying your own stuff with your own money and getting ahead by your wits, imagination, money and resolve. There’s a lot more to be said about coming from less, and making it to more, all on your own.
I don’t doubt that our kids are capable of it. Not for a second. They are just smart enough to know that they don’t have to.
Too bad really. Those rough and tumble days …. those were the glory days. The days that will be treasured, remembered with the greatest of smiles, and toasted with a shot of tequila with good friends many years later.
Those were the days that proved our worth. Something we can always fall back on knowing.
And we are the better for it.
T.O. Weller - Tammy, I love the glasses! I believe I had the same pair.
How right you are! My new husband and I found one another when his daughters and my son were 19 and up. For many couples our age (these days), that might have meant learning how to live with them as much as with each other. Yikes!!
Thankfully, aside from small stays to help them get over bumps in the road, they are truly ‘grown and flown’ … and they’re proud of it. We are the only couple in our social group whose kids are out; our friends look on in amazement and we bite our tongue. They may complain, but they haven’t taught their children to fly.
It’s as the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
mel glenn - Even though we tend to romanticize the past, I do believe that today’s kids suffer “entitlementitis”. We did have to work for the things we got. Your column brought back memories of my first apartment,and our struggles made us stronger.
I do believe economics have changed and it is harder for kids today to make it on their own. Did we have SO much student debt?
Karen D. Austin - Great photo and helpful stats. I volunteer with people in their 80s and 90s, so I try to embrace the joys of my current life stage. And I’m hoping my kids can launch before I get too old to support them in one way or another. I’ll be 57 when my baby graduates from high school — and who knows how old I’ll be when my two kids finish college?
Carol Cassara - It’s funny, I never thought my life was crap…for some reason I just went where the wind blew me and it only got better. I try to impart that to younger people I know who do think they have tough times.
mariilyn tichauer - Thanks Tanny for reminding us what we didn’t get. We tried really hard not to endulge our children, but also enjoyed treating them. Thank goodness they are all financially independent….Whew!!!!!
Tammy - Hi T.O., my grandpa would use the “fish” phrase all the time. Brilliant then and now. It seems we lived in a culture where it never occurred to us to NOT start at the bottom. Our kids culture doesn’t even want to entertain the thought. Because most don’t have to. While it is an easier road to hoe, I can’t help but feel something is lost to them. So happy to see your here!
Donna Highfill - Great blog – my daughter is in a tiny apartment in NYC with old furniture and cheap pictures and I am so glad. I’ve often said we’ve eliminated hope by giving everything up front and making it about us. Giving feels good, but our kids need to feel they’ve earned it. Loved this.
Tammy - Hi Mel, boy, you got that right when you spoke about the student debt! I believe that parents should pay for their kids education (if they at all can). It’s the other stuff. The good stuff. The cars, houses, furniture, lifestyle. That was something we had to start from scratch to get to. Something we hard to work hard for. Not so much the Millennials of today. I still wonder … is that a good thing?
Joan Cooper - Ahhhh the ‘old days’. I would like to share something with you that just happened to me in the now. It may not impress you but it did impress me as a discerning, observant, kind, thoughtful comment from someone you would never expect to speak to you except to ask for a ‘hand out’.
I finished gassing my car (I forgot the word ‘clutch’, Tammy), and was by the driver side door. A street person – you know by the cardboard sign being carried – walked past me on the way to the office. I barely glanced up, but he said “…you dropped something…” I looked at him and he added…”you dropped a smile…”.
Thats’ like the ‘old days’. You don’t know a person by their clothes or possessions.
Tammy - I hear you, Karen. I would tease my daughter all the time that I can’t wait for her to support me in the lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. Thank goodness, she is doing wonderfully on her own in a job she loves that earns her good income. Thank God for small favors! We hope our kids launch and thrive. Fingers crossed!
Tammy - I’m with you, Carol. I always remember being happy and content. I look back and see I had nothing. NOTHING. It’s all about perception. I always perceived that if I wanted something, I’d have to work for it. The tough times never seemed tough back then. Maybe happiness really is in the pursuit. Who knew?!
Tammy - Hi sweet Marilyn, so fun to see you here! Having had an only child, I can’t escape the reality that we most likely over-indulged her as she grew up. No guilt here. I think it’s what comes from have an “only”. Having your kids be financially independent is beyond heaven for us, as parents. But I still wonder…did they miss out on what we had? There were some pretty hard lessons that came our way, but some pretty awesome character building that came with it. We can only hope. xo
Tammy - You said a mouthful, Joan. We DON’T know a person by their possessions or clothes. I remember going to an “estate sale” in Colorado Springs. Turns out the husband was dying of cancer and needed to liquidate everything quickly. He was remarkably at peace as he pointed to his prized Juke Box and antique pool table; “you see this? this is nothing. life is everything”. Stays with me still. It is no lie that you value something more if it was your earning that got it.
Ruth Curran - I am so guilty of making the path smoother for my son. Right or wrong it is done. You are right. I parented as a reaction to my early launching years… right or wrong!
Alyson Rennick Herzig - I blame the advent of HGTV – I love the first time home buyers that have to have stainless steel and granite. This has become the norm, and yes parents swooping in and giving their offspring brand new everything is an issue too.
Tammy - You are in good company, Ruth, I’m right there with you. I wanted so much to give my kidlet everything I never had (which was a lot). I accomplished it, I think, but wonder if I did her a favor there. A comment noted that giving makes it about us. I can’t help but somewhat agree, though I never gave that a thought as a motivator. As my friend said to me…what we did, we did out of love. Could there be a better reason?!
Tammy - I agree, Alyson, parental “swoopers” don’t always benefit their kids. We want our kids to know we are there for them if they fall. But falling is part of it, isn’t it? If the lesson is taken away, the fall was for nothing. Just jabbering out loud here. I remember my husband saying to me on the ride home from seeing our daughters apartment, “we never had anything that nice starting out”. He was right. We never had anyone help us with it either. Still, it was pretty wonderful seeing her all set up in her life. Just saying.
Cathy Sikorski - I am guilty as charged. I struggle with this often. Both my girls live in big cities and pay their own expenses, but they are still young and we have yet to take them off our cell phone family plan. Are we nice or are we denying them something important???? I still don’t know 🙁
Tammy - You are in good company, Cathy. We paid for our daughter’s gas card while she was in college. We were so afraid she would let the tank go to empty because she had no money. Gas, phone, utilities never really fell into the realm of “coddling” for me. I was more than okay to that for her. Go easy on yourself, helping your kid out with an essential is just being a good mom.
Cathy Chester - My parents made my path smoother for me and I do the same for my son. I have no regrets doing that. It’s what parents do. I was proud of my earliest accomplishments as I know my son is of his. BTW, I love that photo of you, Tammy!
Tam Warner Minton - Yes, yes, and yes. My children’s paths have been much smoother. And I often think, and believe, that they have suffered for it. This generation has no patience….they don’t understand the “working until you have it” mindset.
Donna Beckman Tagliaferri - You are so right!! We have been devastated by the recession so we haven’t been able to help our kids, but my friends buy houses, cars everything and I am jealous! Then I remember my parents gave me 20 dollars and called me twice while I was in college. Things are so different
Doreen McGettigan - I raised four kids as a single mom and did my best to teach them the value of education and hard work. I also worked hard to give them what I didn’t have and I loved every minute of it.
There isn’t anything wrong with helping our kids as long as they appreciate what you do for them.
Carolann - I see your point totally. I raised two kids, one needed more help than the other and I gave it and give it openly to them. If we as parents can make their lives a little easier then why not? I love doing things for my kids and always will. Love that pic!
Lois Alter Mark - I totally agree – and I blame our generation. We have coddled kids so much that we have not done them any service at all. We’ve enabled them and caused them to miss out on the joy and satisfaction of earning what they receive. And it’s backfired because now all of those are home on their parents’ dime.
Maureen Musgrave Armentrout - I come down on the side of having done them a disservice…and I am so guilty. Struggle builds character….not to mention a great appreciation for kraft Mac and cheese. That stuff cost 25 cents a box back in my youth and made two meals – Score!
Sue Cove - Flashbacks of cinder block shelves and bean bag chairs. We lived through it!
Your points about helping out our adult kids is right on.
My daughter, Alison will be married in August this year in Denver. She is thoughtful, independent and awesome. Still loves editing/designing at the Post….and she sprung from my loins! My boys are men and talk like grown ups…where does the time go? Ah….I love them to death and will always be just a call away for any of them. My love for them in to the moon and back 1000000 times 10 times and back again. Man,I always wanted to be a mom. How lucky I am.
Tammy - Hi Cathy, I’m with you there. I have no regrets in any help we gave our kidlet. A big discussion was had with friends about how some kids feel and behave entitled. Because their parents showed them that they were. Why should they work and save for that down payment when their parents would be happy to write a check. Something to think about there. I looked at that picture and thought to myself “what a cute girl”. Ironic. I never thought of myself as cute. Maybe youth truly is wasted on the young. Ya think?
Tammy - So many Millennials don’t, Tam. Not a good thing. For them or for us. I’ve heard them called the NOW generation. As in … “we want it now”. I’m thinking that because most of our parents didn’t have much in the way of money, we never expected much help from them. Knowing you have to lean 100% on yourself makes you reach as far in your abilities as you can. Knowing that your parents will buy you what you want…no need to reach. A mixed bag at best, don’t you think?
Tammy - Hi Donna, things WERE so different for our generation. In our daughters high school kids were driving BMW’s and Range Rovers. No lie. If their kid wanted it, they bought it for them. How do you learn to excel to the max if you’re never called on to do it? Something to think about.
Tammy - I agree with you, Doreen, there IS nothing wrong with helping our kids out. I don’t regret one sacrifice I made for our daughter (and there were plenty). But (isn’t there always a but?), buying things they want, not need, because they want them; things they cannot afford on their own, that might be a book of another cover. Don’t you think?
Tammy - Carolann, happy to know you were blessed with two children. I was blessed with one. Over indulgence was probably pre-ordained for me. I’m all about helping our kids out when they need it. But I have known many a parent who gave too much and for all the wrong reasons. In the end, their didn’t help their kids. They prevented them from learning what life is really about; standing on your own two feet.
Tammy - Lois, it’s backfired big time. And no one to blame but the parents themselves. So many have enabled their kids, almost made them dependent on them. I remember a dad said he did what he did for his daughter because he wanted to make sure she would answer the phone when he called her. Sad. The giving wasn’t about love, it was about control. And the child? Unable to fin for himself. Not a great plan.
Tammy - Maureen, YES, it did just cost 25 cents .. double SCORE!! We are all guilty at some point. And I think that is okay. To help and support your kids is a good thing. But to enable their desires for the finer things in life … well, I’m thinking they should earn that stuff themselves. Because you hit the nail on the head; struggle DOES build character…and value, and priorities, and respect and pride and confidence. Bam!
Tammy - Sweet Sue!! How nice to see you here! So happy to hear that Alison and the boys are thriving. Congrats on the upcoming wedding. Exciting! Sounds like all is pretty wonderful in your world. I couldn’t be happier for you! xo
Barbara Hammond - Married at 18 and 20 years old, and instant kid was a struggle, but the memories seem sweet. S&H green stamps, borrowed furniture, scrimping for a dinner out at Friendly’s once in a while. I wouldn’t change a thing. We made it clear to our kids we would help with college, but afterwards they were on their own. It took 3 tries for 1 to learn to fly but he’s all the better for it. I hope they do the same with their kids!
Tammy - Oh, Barbara, I remember those stamps. We bought a carpet sweeper and a TV tray with them. Awesome memories. I was an only child to a very young mom who didn’t have a clue. My dad left when I was very young. It was just the two us finding out way. It was tough, but it was wonderful too. The struggle of it define me in a positive way. Kudos to you and to the one who finally flew after three shots at trying. So happy to have you here. Thanks for that.
Cheryl Nicholl - i certainly wanted to give my children a better start but instead of giving ‘things’ I made sure I gave them a full heart, an open ear, and took care with my marriage to their father. Gifts come in all sorts of packages. Loved this Oh Wise Woman.
Tammy - Love, love your response, Cheryl. You simply can’t do better than that! I remember an interview with Leo Buscaglia years ago in which he said the best thing we can do for our children is love and nurture the relationship we have with our spouse. Amen. I’ll take a full heart, open ear and mindful love over any material thing any damn day of the week. So happy to see you here, my friend.
Melanie Kissell - Baby Boomer parent of four here – guilty as charged! My youngest, especially, want for nothing. However, I’ll give them loads of credit for being the best bargain hunters this side of the moon! (At least they inherited something from their mom) 😉