Friday, August 19, 2005

Where do we go from here?

Since I stayed home from work on Wednesday, I took the opportunity to talk to the Eldest Aardvark Child about a few things.

The main one being about the nature of the parent/child relationship and how it changes over time. I told her there were a couple of models (at least) for how parents could treat their grown children. One was the model of how my parents treated me when I moved out. (The long-standing joke is that I didn't move out so much as they moved away and didn't take me with them. Which is even more funny because it's mostly true.) They basically said, "We've done the best job we knew how for the last 18 years and it either took or it didn't. You get to call all the shots now." And they backed off completely. They would offer advice if I specifically asked for it, but they never pushed me or criticized my decisions. They didn't call every week and demand an update. The downside is that I made a lot of mistakes. The upside is that I made a lot of mistakes and learned from them.

The other model is the one Mrs. A's mother used. The "just because you moved out, don't think I can't tell you what to do" model. I think her intentions were good (mostly), but this model carries with it a certain amount of unavoidable tension. Especially if the child involved has ideas that are different from the parent's. I will tell you that on more than one occasion during our courtship, while listening to one side of a phone "conversation", I wondered what exactly I was getting myself into. And over the years, the relationship has improved. Not so much because Mrs. A's mother stopped trying to give orders, but more so because Mrs. A got better at ignoring them.

I explained all of this to the EAC, and then (sweetly) asked which model she thought she would prefer.

And then I explained that the reality is that we would probably fall somewhere in between, though mostly like my parents. We are basically going to assume that she's got everything under control and that if she needs help she'll ask for it. But we're not completely disinterested and we do have some stake in her college years and therefore some right to at least provide input. And then I reminded her that we're new to this too, and we're bound to make some mistakes along the way.

I don't recall her exact response, but it was something along the lines of, "Yeah, Dad. What time does the mall open?"

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