Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Grown-Up Kid Conundrum

JW, on Need to be Debtfree (scroll down to the beginning of the July posts), has been dealing with financial issues caused by his desire to help out his adult daughter and her family. Ultimately, I think, (with a strong shove from his wife!) he reached the right decision as to where to draw the line on how much help he was willing to give.

But a lot of the comments focused on the issue of "enabling," and were fairly harsh in terms of suggesting that JW not give any help while his immediate family is still struggling with financial issues. Those kinds of comments are why I started this blog, by a middle-aged person facing middle aged issues. However kindly meant, I don't think childless posters, or posters with young children quite get the issues facing those of us with adult children, especially adult children in need.

And I think memories are short!

The truth is, my parents, when they were alive (my father died 18 years ago, my mother 16 years ago) helped me out financially. This was true even when I was making more money than they were. From the money they sent me while I was in college to the family meals at a local restaurant to the occasional $20 bill slipped into my purse to the down payment on my car when it was totaled but I was upside down on the financing, my parents gave me money with no strings attached. It is a testament to their ability to manage their money (not a trait that is apparently inherited) that they could do so without damage to their own financial stability.

My children are 39, 31, 25, 22 and 17. The 25 year old is living with me temporarily in order to save money to get her own apartment. She's been here four months and will (please, God!) be moving out in September. The financial impact is minimal--I provide some food and the bedroom, but that's it. She pays "rent" by cleaning my house once a week--actually a terrific service that I will miss when she leaves.

In the past, I have paid for Montessori pre-school for certain grandchildren; I have paid to have the lights turned back on when one of my kids got behind in her utility payments; I have covered auto insurance when it appeared to me that one of my daughters didn't understand just how important it was to be insured.

Right now, the big issue is my oldest grandchild. She is enrolling in college this fall. This granddaughter is the child of my oldest adopted daughter. That daughter is a wonder--she came to me at age 11, diagnosed with attachment issues and Fetal Alcohol Effects. From an angry, disturbed teenager, she evolved into a hardworking, conscientious adult and a good mother. But her limited intellect means that her earning capacity has reached the ceiling at about $30,000 a year. She is in no position to provide college funds for her child.

Enter grandma.

Enabling? Maybe. Can I afford it? Maybe not--but I don't think I can afford not to assist. I know my parents would have done it for me, and for my children.

More, later, on exactly how I intend to do this.


Louise said...

I don't think what you are doing is enabling at all. There is a big difference to helping out a family member who is doing thier best and not shirking thier responsibilities.
Enabling is when we make it possible for someone to continue to act irresponsibly by helping them avoid the consequences of thier actions. I think jw's situation is no comparison.

I would certainly help out my children in this situation, but not in jw's. It is so hard being a parent and trying to make these decisions, I agree with you that it's difficult to understand unless you have adult kids (I have 2) but you are doing a good and loving thing for your daughter.

JW said...

We are praying that when our children reach the ages of yours they won't have as many issues as they do now.

I really appreciate your blog. It is so inspirational and motivational to read about someone who can understand the position that we are in.

By no means do we wish to enable any of our children. But, as you so eloquently said, "...I don't think childless posters, or posters with young children quite get the issues facing those of us with adult children, especially adult children in need."

One of our grandchildren was born with autism and my wife and I just could stand to see him or any of them for that matter living under those circumstances any longer.

Bob (our son-in-law) came from a very broken home and has struggled with some issues of his own but, for the most part is doing a lot better now with his responsibilities as a father and husband to our daughter.

I'm really enjoying reading your blog and have added it to our blog roll list as well as my reader.

Thanks again and God Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, folks.

I just wish the line between helping and enabling was a little more bright and shiny!

JW--hang in there--yours is a "real world, real time" blog and as such, invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Your blog and the comments have been helpful to meet in thinking about my own adult children, ages 22 and 19. Well, sort of adult. For various reasons, they need financial help, at the same time, I am 60 and need to draw the line so that I can afford to retire when the time comes. Like you, I have parents who have always been generous with their little "gifts." I want to be able to do the same for my children. As long as I do not "enable," I should make it.