Monday, February 09, 2009

*UPDATED Being a bitch or encouraging self sufficiency?

I can’t decide which I am doing right now. Oldest son called from college in a panic this morning. He lives off campus and his car is “broken”. I don’t know diddley about cars so for me to describe it would be as effective as me trying to explain how tons of jetliner can stay up the air without falling. So…I won’t go into that part of the story but here is my question…well, I will get to the question in a minute, first I need to lay some foundation. Oldest son has a bit of a worst case scenario personality. If something is wrong, in his interpretation it is REALLY wrong. If he is sick, he goo*gles till he is sure he has malaria. This is not a good trait unless he applies it towards his classes and then it makes him a fabulous student. He wants to succeed so he does. I have mentioned before..he is freakishly bright and that is not just a proud momma talking. Anyway, he calls telling me in a somewhat frantic voice that his car is his “life line” and how can he possibly “survive” without it. (I casually mention that the university shuttle does travel down his road but that was met with “it doesn’t go by all the time, only about once an hour”…to which I think…..yeah, so sit your butt down and wait for it like a regular person….but he isn’t a regular person. He is a man with a plan and doesn’t like diversion. He lives for structure and routine. So, he calls the local Ford dealership (mistake #1 son, don’t ever call a dealership…they are very expensive) and makes an appointment for today and wants me to come to university town to follow him there with his “broken” car then take him over to university and wait till he finishes classes at 5, return him to the dealership to pick up the car, ohhhhh AND pay for it too. I almost fell for it without even thinking. He is my child that I would walk on the hottest coals for (I would walk hot coals for the other two as well, but they don’t have the same exacting personality as oldest does and they go with the flow whereas oldest has a very low threshold for stress and needs more structure in his day/life. I decided as I was showering to leave that I would call the dealership myself and see what they had to say. They informed me that running the diagnostics would be $114. THAT IS BEFORE ANY ACTUAL REPAIR/LABOR WOULD EVEN COMMENCE. I about crapped. I took it upon myself to call a local car repair place in university town and he told me they charge $65 and if they can tell what is wrong by popping the hood, they wouldn’t charge the diagnostic fee. Sounds good to me. I called oldest back and told him what I had done and that he needed to call local repair man and make an appointment there. I intervened but still made him do some legwork. He called me back and told me they couldn’t fix it till Wednesday and good lord, today was only Monday…he may just shrivel up and die by then. How would he get groceries? How would he eat dinner? How would he take out this new girl he has been seeing? The intelligent person in me wants to tell him to suck it up and deal with it. Shit happens. That is exactly what I would do if this same event happened with the other two boys. So I am straddling the fence here. How much do I help? How much do I let him figure it out without stressing him out to the point where he can’t study? Since I am working from home, BigD and I could share one car for a few days so I am thinking about letting oldest use one of our cars. This would be a lot easier if he were at a school too far away to even consider this, but he is about 45 minutes from here. What do I do? Be honest, I need some real people thoughts here. At age 20 should I still be intervening or telling him to figure it out? * Well the world hasn't collapsed around him. I already knew what I had to do, it is just hard to let go and let him handle things. Ironically he is very mature for his age in most areas but some, the ones that change his routine or cause him inconvenience, set him off. He worked part-time for 2 years in high school to buy his car (it had 140,000 miles on it when he got it two years ago) so it means quite a bit to him having his own wheels, plus living off campus means a little extra hoofing to get around. He ended up taking the car to the second place, leaving it there and catching a bus to class. He is annoyed but dealing with it. Hopefully he will have it back by midweek and it will be one more thing in his 'I took care of it myself' column. Thank you all for the smack upside my head reminding me that my job really is to let him learn and keep an arms distance. As for helping him pay for the repair, it is something I really need to do. He is taking an accelerated program at school and really doesn't have time to work with his class load. He is trying to graduate in 2 1/2 years instead of mom will type a little faster for a couple weeks to help him out.


Plant Girl said...

Kudos to you for helping! My parents would have laughed and asked me if my bike was broken. LOL!

My thoughts -- if you're going to help pay for the repairs (and he's lucky if that's the case), you have the right to intervene. If he's paying for them himself let him have the task of getting it figured out.

He's 20 and at college. I understand that he's your child and you want to help, but he's an adult and if he wants to live like an adult he needs to take on the responsibilities that go with it.

A few days without a car isn't going to kill him. I went a year at a major University without one. You deal.

Sorry, I know this probably seems harsh.

Athena said...

My youngest has me reacting much the same way, where I'd be halfway to the college to drive her to classes and wait until she was done before I ever realized what I was doing (and how ridiculous it was). It took friends looking at us from the outside to make me realize that I was giving in to her demands far too much.

Maybe the question you should be asking is, "What's the worst that would happen if I left him to deal with it?" Is his whole universe going to collapse? Will he flunk out of school? Curl up in a fetal position and check out? Heck, isn't he lucky to even have a car at all?

My guess is that he'd learn to deal with it. He may need structure, but you can't provide that structure for forever. Let him deal, watch from the sidelines, and heaps of praise when he gets through it!

Good luck!

Steph said...

I'm with the SUCK IT UP mentality. If he's into looking into stuff neurotically, such as diseases when he sneezes, he'll figure this out much the same way when cornered to do so. At least he already knows the transit runs every hour.... so he's not completely naive. And on that, given his 'every situation is 50% more dire when he describes it, it likely runs every 30 minutes (0:

It's ok for mom to front the bill for college bound son, but I think you let him figure out the rest. And then tell us how it went!

preppyplayer said...

Oh OHN, the tightrope we walk!
I agree with Plant girl, Athena, AND Steph! All good points. I think it is nice that you give him a car at school! I know how hard you have been working and it sounds like hubby does too. Is is neccessary to add more stress to YOUR lives to make sure #1 son is not inconvenienced? Plus, by allowing son to problem solve you are empowering him for the future... when REAL problems might arise. I think he should be grateful that you are willing to pay for the repair and accept it might not be done as soon as he would like.
That said, my son would be moaning and groaning too :)

*mary* said...

Only commenting to say that the previous comments already expressed how I feel.

It may seem like a huge deal to him now, but waiting a couple of days isn't going to be that big of an inconvience for him. Hopefully he'll see that he CAN manage just fine when a problem like this comes up and that it is not the end of the world afterall.

You sound like a very compassionate parent to me. He's lucky to have such a mother.

Michele said...

I know EXACTLY what you are going through. My oldest daughter is much like S1, and everything is a crisis!
When her car broke down, I offered to LOAN her the money to get it fixed, but she had to figure out everything else. I did have a very LONG phone conversation about how this may seem like the end of the world, but it is actually only an inconvenience.
One word, though... this was last spring,and I still haven't seen the $300 yet! I'm not worried about it, and she does keep saying she will pay me back someday.
I felt good because I could help her out, she felt good (afterwards) because it was SHE who delt with the problem. She realized her friends would help out in a pinch with a ride to the store, taxis and busses really aren't THAT bad, and she ened up saving money because she stayed home more during that week.

SO.. my advice? Keep the offer to pay for the repairs, but make S1 "be a man" and "suck it up". It will make him more independent during the next crisis.

blairspage said...

That's awesome that you helped him a little. And, it's good that he figured out the public transportation piece of it too!

My parents made me pay for everything. This included school lunches when I was in High School. I guess they thought just because I had a job that wasn't their responsibility anymore! WTH? :)

Hugs - Tiff

Wait Another Year said...

I'm glad things worked out for the both of you. Hope his car will get fixed soon and life will go back to normal! Your boys are lucky to have such a caring, compassionate mother. :D

Dr. Deb said...

My daughter has the awfulizing personality too.

Dodi said...

You did good, mom. You remembered that once you teach them how to do it you have to let go and let them try it on for themselves. Paying for it is an entirely different issue. I think helping them out now and then financially is just a nice thing to do. It falls in to a different catagory than "rescue squad."

Pat yourself on the back! You are EXCELLENT at this motherhood thing.

Hi, I'm Amy! said...

I say... a mother's instinct is never fails. Do what you FEEL is right. And if you feel that he'll be ok and that it might be a good life lesson to "do without" for a short while, then do that. And in the same sense, if you feel that he's doing so well with school and that's where you want all of his attention now and you don't want him to have to worry of the car problems, then by all means help out as much as you want :) Point being: I don't think anyone can tell you what's wrong or right to do. Listen to your heart!

And about baby Cora... YES, seeing their Christmas pictures and how happy they were, not knowing what would shortly happen BREAKS my heart into pieces. So, so, so very sad.

Coming2Terms said...

I'm late to the conversation here, but I'm in favor of the "life doesn't always go the way you want it to so start building your coping skills sooner rather than later" -- it makes it easier to deal when the next thing doesn't go your way...