I am sitting at our kitchen island cutting out several dozen little coupons that read, “J’ai parlé seulement en français aujourd’hui!” at my daughter’s request. Her French teacher has asked her to prepare these reward coupons for her class. It’s not the first time my scissors have deftly cut 12 coupons from one 8 ½ x 11 page, so I ask her, “Why do you always have to bring these home for cutting?” “Oh, because my teacher says I am one of the best students in the class”, she chirps. Really. She is one of the best students or I am one of the best sucks? She is happily doing her homework at the kitchen table so I don’t protest this little chore that is preventing me from folding laundry.
As I am snipping away, I think of an article I’d just read about how adult children are depending more and more on their middle-age parents for everything from a little extra cash now and then to home-cooked meals to clean laundry – even when they no longer live at home. A recent study conducted by Purdue University studied 633 parents aged 40 to 60, and their 1,384 adult children, ages 18 to 33 (that’s 2.2 children per family, by the way). According to the study, most of these kids still rely on their parents for some form of support: ¾ of these kids still get their parents to help out with laundry or other domestic tasks, more that ¾ got some form of financial help and over 90% still checked in with them weekly (phone, email, etc). The authors of this study suggest that parents are helping their kids out more because they’ve inherited such a complicated world. Now the debaters retort that because these adults have depended on their parents for an extra 10 years or so when they should have been flying solo, their self-reliance habits (or lack thereof) have massive implications on society.
I’m not sure I agree with the debaters. Isn’t the North American society just about the only one on Earth that spurns the traditional inter-generational home? Hundreds of cultures exist where not just the middle-age parents chip in but so do the grandparents. So you get a little extra cash from your parents once in a while, so what? That just means less inheritance on which to be taxed. Does it not “take a village to raise a child”? We call them elders not just because they’re older, but because we rely on them for their support. What Italian mother doesn’t expect her brood for Sunday dinner and then send them home with leftovers that would feed a small nation? There are plenty of grandparents look forward to having their grandkids all to themselves for a weekend while mom and dad dash off to a weekend get-away (well, maybe not plenty – and maybe they’re probably naïve enough to do it just once)? How many self-actualization gurus profess that the key to happiness is calling your mother once a week? Had this study been conducted in India instead of Philadelphia, I’m certain the results would have been the same… yet its interpretation entirely different.
As my daughter slams her Math textbook shut, I snap out of my anthropological reverie. “Has Dad made my lunch yet, Mom? ‘Cuz if not, I’d really like some of your homemade muffins, okay?” Perhaps I should tell her to just do it herself, but I do not. It’s really not that complicated; we’re all just trying to help each other out once in a while, right?
Author’s note: Dad did make the lunch but I did not make the muffins…yet.
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