College Boys | Borrowing Trouble | Banshee in the Park


College Boys

Dear Micah,

My eldest son Will is away at college.  He lives in his own apartment there with a roommate.  The hardest thing I ever did in my life was letting my firstborn go.  He’s a good kid, or I should say young man.  Pretty responsible and keeps his grades up.  He’s not the issue I don’t think.  My younger son Graham is what’s bothering me. Graham will be a senior next year.  Before school ended he had started driving up to spend weekends with his brother on occasion.  With school out for the summer, he has spent practically the last two weeks up there and plans to spend most of the summer there.  Will works full time in the summer and part time in school sessions so he isn’t one of those college kids that comes home for summer break.  This means it’s like I’ve lost both sons now.  These two brothers weren’t ever enemies but they weren’t really all that close before Will moved so I don’t get it.  Plus I want Graham home.  Do you think he’s up there into something he shouldn’t be?  I think Will would keep an eye on him, but it makes me question.  Why is Graham there all the time?  Why not here with his friends?  Should I tell him he can’t go back?

Katie

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Dear Katie,

There is a lot going on here when it comes to feelings and exploration and bonding, and everyone involved is feeling something different from the experience, so hang on while I give you my take on this.  First of all, I think Graham is growing up.  He is transitioning from boy to man, and men enjoy a much different kind of life than boys do.  At home with you and many of his friends, he is probably still a boy.  However, in a college town with older guys and no parents around, Graham feels more in charge of himself, and that is feeding his inner need to feel like a man.  Also, he is probably hanging out with Will’s friends and doing some of the things older kids do, and that is going to set him up as more of an experienced and worldly Alpha male when he has to return to his own school and his own friends for senior year.

He can spend all Fall regaling his buddies with the tales of his summer hanging out with his brother and his college friends.  The parties, the drinking, the girls… Graham will become the defacto leader of the pack at school just because he will be the guy with all the adult experiences.  That’s what’s in it for Graham.

For Will, it is simpler.  Will was probably just as eager as his brother is now to get out on his own and be a man, but that man realized how much he missed his family.  That man even missed the little brother that he was never all that close to.  So, he cashed in on that little brother’s similar need to feel like a man and he opened his apartment to him.  Now Will has all the independence he needs with a little taste of home and family always around as well.  After probably a lifetime of sibling rivalry, these two brothers are forming a bond.  That’s a good thing.  However, at some point in time, probably sooner than later, Will is going to want his total independence back and reclaim his apartment and privacy.  Not to mention what his roommate may say because two college guys do not necessarily want a high school kid in their home all the time.  This problem may resolve itself when Will sends Graham the message that he’s beginning to overstay his welcome.  Maybe that won’t happen.  I’d have to know Will and his roommate better to answer that one.

As for you, I do think that you should be concerned.  Even if Will is an upstanding young man, he is still a young man living on his own with friends his same age all around and no parental supervision to pop in occasionally.  They are more than likely consuming alcohol (as any young guy on his own does with his buddies).  There might be drug experimentation or sexual conduct you may not approve of.  There is certainly the risk of Graham being exposed to these things in ways that he wouldn’t be at your house.

Even though Graham will be going off to college in a year anyway, that is still a year away, and he has a lot of emotional growing to do in that year.  It’s one thing for Will to have a few drinks in his living room or to bring a girl home for the night—that’s what college years are for—but I don’t think it’s good for Graham to be surrounded with that much freedom on a regular basis.  I would just order Graham home and tell both sons that you are well aware that you will lose Graham to college in a year, but until that year, he is still yours and you want to wake up with him in your house as long as possible; therefore, he may only visit Will one weekend a month.  In all likelihood, that will also please Will, because he’s probably getting ready to take his life back, too.

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Borrowing Trouble

Dear Ask Micah,

I have a friend who has my hammer, my wet saw, several DVDs and some books that he never returned.  I have mentioned needing these back, and he says he’ll get them to me but he never has.  How do I go about getting these things back?

G

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Dear G,

You go to the store and buy a hammer, a wet saw, some DVD’s and some books and you don’t ever loan stuff out to people anymore.  I have learned this the hard way, too.  No one returns crap.  Way more people borrow and keep than borrow and return so just don’t loan anything.  Make an excuse and put them off unless you absolutely trust them to return something.  And even still I wouldn’t expect it.

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Banshee in the Park

Dear Readers,

The other day my little family decided it was a great day for a walk to the park.  It was rather late in the day, and the sun was not as high or bright in the sky, and the warm—but not hot—air felt peaceful and calming.  Our little boy was climbing on various equipment that in my day we’d have called a “jungle gym,” but I have no idea what they call it now.  Anyway, every so often I’d pull out my camera to record some great feat of climbing or balancing skill that my son hadn’t possessed the last time when we were there.  And just as I hit record, there it went again, an awful screeching that rang out over my video footage.

It was a sound we’ve heard before, but on this afternoon it was particularly loud and irritating.  The screeching was coming from a mother who would not, or could not, allow her children to play without her input and criticism on everything.  She would yell at them to stop running.  She would yell at them not to climb on something.  She’d yell at them to speed up their act of sliding down the slide.  Her voice rang out loud and grated over the whole play area.  Every inch of the playground seemed to be stained with her domineering voice.   She wasn’t saying anything offensive, or even wrong, she just wouldn’t let up from saying anything and everything that came to mind.

She had about four kids with her that were either her own or her grandchildren (she was older so it could have been either).  She commanded each kid like a master drill sergeant.   “Speed it up!”, “Slow it down!”, “Don’t climb on that cause your brother will want to follow you and he’s too young”, “What did I tell you about climbing on that!”, “Do you want to go sit in the car?”, “Watch out for that baby!  Don’t you know there are other children here trying to play?” Sentences like this just kept rolling out along with many barrages of harshly shrieked first names.  I knew the name of every one of her kids within three minutes.

I wanted at one point to turn to her and say, “Just let them play.  This is where they are supposed to get all the energy out.”  But I didn’t.  I kept my tongue and didn’t cause a scene.  I could tell from the faces of the other parents around that they were exhibiting similar restraint.  We were all just parents trying to watch and hear and interact with our kids on a beautiful summer’s day, but we couldn’t because someone had unleashed a shrieking banshee in our midst.  My point with this story is that all of the serenity of the park was disturbed by this one person who probably thought she was doing the right thing by keeping her children under control.

In her mind, she was a being a good parent by keeping them in line.  I think it can be argued that if she must constantly scream at them and micro-manage their every move, then her way of keeping them in line isn’t working all that well and she might want to try a new approach.  However, I could tell she had good intentions.  She didn’t want any of the other children to be run over or pushed out of the way, and she wanted her kids to be careful and respectful.  The problem is that you can’t teach respect by yelling, and her very act of yelling was disrespectful to all the other parents who had been hoping for a peaceful park experience and to perhaps share some memories with their kids.  All we got was crazy helicopter mom and her grating voice.

So, if you have small kids, keep this woman in mind as you begin summer.  We’ll all be enjoying parks, zoos, movie theaters, amusement parks, beaches, and pools this summer.  As we guide and correct our kids, let’s also be observant of our surroundings and act accordingly.  If people are lying around a pool with eyes closed enjoying a tranquil moment, don’t scream across the water to your children.  If you see a dad in the park with a video recorder trying to document his kid’s first big solo crossing on the monkey bars, don’t let your voice be ringing out in the background.

Good parenting is usually something that takes place without anyone ever noticing.  Sometimes people want others to see or hear them parenting their kids so that they can somehow get credit for being a good parent that is on top of things.  But, good parenting doesn’t have to be witnessed by everyone around and it rarely has to be screamed.

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