Confessions of a Parent’s Major Adulting Fail

How what we thought was an A+, award-worthy strategy for preparing our kids to launch was really only a B- at best

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Our daughter, Sara, is leaving our nest next week to spend her gap year in Boston. 

Yes, her decision to take a gap year was ‘imposed’ by Covid 19 but, believe it or not, this article has nothing whatsoever to do with the Pandemic. 

Instead, I am writing to share a major preparing-your-kid-to-launch (aka, adulting) oversight on my husband’s and my part in the hopes that you don’t.

A bit of backstory first:

My husband and I have always felt strongly that to best prepare our 2 daughters for a healthy, happy launch when they left the nest for college, or whatever path they chose, we needed to start early and continue to give them a hearty, while also safe and responsible, level of independence and opportunity to advocate on their own behalf throughout their teen years.

Some of the ways we have done this:

  • We let Lucy fly to Thailand by herself when she was 16 (just to be clear, she met the staff and other students in her community service program at the airport when she arrived in Thailand).
  • We started letting Sara take the train to NYC (from Philly) on her own when she was 14 (to go for acting auditions that were within a 45-min walk from the station).
  • We let each kid drive to the beach (1.5hrs away from our home) just a week after they passed their driver’s test (letting them do this was my husband’s choice, not mine!)
  • When it came to setting a time to be home on nights out with their friends, we always started by asking the girls what time they thought was reasonable, and then we’d talk it through with them until we all agreed on a time that felt ok.

We taught them proper table manners. We had them start doing their own laundry as part of their rite of passage into high school (even though it kills me to this day that they still live out of a laundry basket of unfolded clothes :-(). We left it to them to remember what day the recycling gets picked up andto remember to take it out the night before without us prompting them (to be clear, that only worked about 40% of the time, if that :)). We had them do the dishes 3 nights a week, and cook a meal or two every once in a while.

BUT…and here’s where what we thought was an A+, award-worthy strategy for giving them all of the ‘adult-level’ responsibilities and experiences they would need became more of a B- strategy, at best…

We totally left out some of THE MOST IMPORTANTresponsibilities, ones that will be part and parcel of their daily lives the minute they leave home!

Perhaps you are far more on the ball and have already included the following things in your pre-launch adulting efforts, but if not, you may want to throw them into the mix ASAP:

  1. Have your teenager start making their own dentist and doctors’ appointments 

The next time you get that reminder call from the dentist that it’s time for your teenager to get their teeth cleaned, try giving your kid the dentist office’s number and have them make the appointment…and also remember to go 🙂

Confession: I still put their appointment date/time in my calendar too, just in case 😉

2. Have them start getting their prescriptions filled on their own (if applicable)

It used to be that whenever our girls needed a prescription refilled, they would let us know and we’d jump on calling it in, going to the pharmacy, making sure the pharmacy correctly put it through our insurance and found the lowest price possible, etc.

Now, when the girls need their prescription refilled, we no longer say, ‘Ok, sure, sweetie. We’ll take care of it.’

INSTEAD, we say…

“Ok, cool. All you need to do is call the number on the pill container and follow the automated directions for refilling the prescription. It will also give you the option to choose when you want to have it ready. Choose a time that works for you and then when you go to pick it up, use your GoodRx App to make sure the pharmacy found the cheapest price for your medication.”

3. Don’t just have them cook a meal on occasion, or even regularly. Give them the experience of doing ALL of the tasks associated with it.

For so long, the way this worked in our household was that each of our girls would choose a night to cook dinner and then choose a fun recipe and send us the link to it. We would then take charge of translating the very wordy and random list of ingredients from the web-page into a well-organized grocery list and go get the groceries for them. 

We would also take charge of the cleanup after dinner. While this is certainly the polite thing to do given that they cooked the meal, it doesn’t give them the full, real-life experience of doing all of it. When they live with friends and/or alone, there will be times when they will have to do all or at least most of these things.

Following our ‘rude awakening’, we switched to leaving it to them to:

  1. Choose the recipe – and make sure it includes a protein, a starch and a veggie
  2. Organize the ingredients into a grocery list that will ensure they don’t forget anything 🙂
  3. Get the groceries
  4. Make the meal
  5. Do the much-dreaded cleanup

4.   Have them do the grocery shopping for the whole family once or twice a month (instead of just running to the store for their own special food craving, like Lucy does on a regular basis for her Ramen and Tobasco :)) 

Hopefully, like us, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the number of things they forget/don’t see on the list will decline the more they get used to doing it.

5.   Make sure your kids take responsibility for returning their online purchases

This remains a major pet peeve of mine! The girls love to order their clothes online, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But, when what they ordered didn’t fit or they didn’t like it, the package would just sit on the kitchen counter…forever! 

Apparently, they just assumed that the magic return-fairy (aka, their Dad or me) would take care of it. Even worse, they didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they were wasting their own money.

Things changed when their Dad said he was going to charge them 2% interest on the money they wasted by not returning their package. (No, he would never have followed through with this, but just saying it was enough to get them to return things, even when it required actually going to a FedEx drop off place in person :-))

On a final (and emotional) note…

I found the final weeks of adulting to be the hardest. I’m curious if you feel/felt the same way. It’s just such a double whammy – As our sweet Sara’s ‘launch-date’ gets closer and closer (we now have only 5 days left – sigh…), it’s more important than ever that we hand over as many tasks and decision making responsibilities as possible. YET, my heart wants to do exactly the opposite! I want to do everything for her because it makes me feel more connected and assures me she still needs me.

want to go to the pharmacy for her. I want to schedule the dentist and doctor’s appointments she should have before she leaves. I want to do her laundry, even though she’s been doing it for years now. I want to return the shorts she bought that didn’t fit, so she doesn’t have to. You get the point…

But, it’s her time to fly, and it’s my job to make her first flight go as smoothly as possible…

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