It has taken me this long to understand where my mom was coming from.
Back when I was still living at home and antsy to get out into the big, wide world, my mom laid it out for me: once I decided to move out of the house, I was ALL out. There would be no financial support, and I wasn’t going to be moving in and out again at my convenience if things got tough. I had to be sure I could make it on my own.
To be fair, she did issue a caveat. She knew that I’d most likely be moving in with my boyfriend and, the ever-suspicious mom, she did say that they would take me back if he ever hurt me. And, not ‘hurt’ as in a broken heart. If we broke up and he kicked me out, I was still on my own. But ‘hurt’ as in a broken arm – that was a different story. So there was that, at least. But only that. At the time, I thought it was pretty harsh.
Nevertheless, I moved out. I didn’t jump without a parachute, of course. I had a car, a job and an apartment to share with my boyfriend. But that’s not to say I didn’t have to learn some things along the way.
I learned never to shop when you’re hungry unless you want to blow through two weeks worth of your grocery budget.
I learned about the credit card trap and, subsequently, I learned about consolidation loans.
I learned that having good credit is no joke.
I learned that sometimes you have to work at a crappy-ass job - or two - or four, whether you like it or not.
I learned that the weekly ten-cent wing night at the bar next door can help stretch your food budget. And provide some great free entertainment, to boot.
I learned about consignment shops and flea markets.
I learned that paying rent to live in not-so-ideal conditions always sucks, but that it’s a powerful motivator.
The point is, I learned. More to the point, I might not have learned these things half so well if I’d thought there’d be a comfy cushion to fall back on. And I wouldn’t have learned them at all if I’d had things handed to me. I might not have tried so hard or been so resilient or learned to rely on myself to get me out of trouble.
So, now I understand what my mom was setting me up for. And it turns out, her intuition about how to create a responsible adult was right. So right, in fact, that I hope I have the fortitude to do the same with my kids. Even if, down the road, we can give them the things they need to have a comfortable life, my hope is that we don’t, and that they learn to earn a comfortable life on their own, struggles, lessons and all.
P.S. Yeah, yeah, Mom knows best – usually. Her suspicions weren’t always spot-on, though. The boyfriend I moved in with? He never hurt me, not even once. In fact, he treated me so well that it was a no-brainer to accept his proposal when he finally asked me to marry him 17 years ago :)