20130312 – Parenting, Finances and Circumstances

I’ve been pondering a few things lately as you’ll notice from the title of today’s post. We’ll see where the pondering takes us…
How do you end up in the sandwich? Is parenting a contributing factor, finances, health or just plain circumstances? I’m going to chalk it up to circumstances, keeping in mind that where you are today is the sum of all the decisions you made over the course of your life combined with some coincidences or, as I prefer to think of them, God-incidences, that directed those decisions, and maybe, just maybe, some decisions your parents made on your behalf. OK, parenting has just become the subject.
I must admit that I approached parenting with serious fear and trepidation. I must also admit that I was the softy thus forcing my wife into the role of chief disciplinarian, an unfair position that she never particularly relished, but one that I felt she was much better at than me. It’s always been a regret of mine that I didn’t learn enough and talk with her enough about our parenting style to ensure we were consistent and of one accord during those years; mea culpa and deepest apologies Sweetie.
Anyway, life goes on. And that leads me to the conclusion that parenting can be a factor in later participation in the sandwich generation. There are some really important things about parenting that differentiate between becoming a teacher, mentor, coach, and friend to your children, and becoming an enabler in the negative sense.
What is it the Bible says? From NIV Proverbs 22:6,” Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. And from Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:
“Train up a child in the way he should go – The Hebrew of this clause is curious: חנךלנערעלפידרכו chanoch lannaar al pi darco, “Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.” When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed.”
I think those words apply to everyday teaching as well as religious teaching and include things like responsibility and accountability. Our children are both strong Christians and study the Bible and its context. They have good hearts and pray hard and often. They spend time discerning God’s plan for themselves and their families, and their spouses do the same. They have firm convictions about money, financial responsibility and social responsibility, and hold themselves accountable for their decisions and actions.
So maybe we did OK, maybe we swerved into the right stuff, but we did study a lot of references about infant care and raising strong-willed children, the classic Dr. Benjamin Spock guides to parenting and health and Dr. James Dobson on strong-willed kids. What we could have done better is to be more intentional in these times of our children’s lives, maybe have a better plan for the process rather than just swerving into it. Our daughter has been very studious in her role as a parent and her husband very supportive of her learning and application to their family. She’s been very intentional about parenting and has earned our deepest respect for her approach and mothering style. It really seems to be working. She could teach this stuff!
We wish Dave Ramsey and his books Financial Peace and The Total Money Makeover had found their way into our household a little earlier than just the past few years because we would have used them to talk about the financial side of growing up and growing financially responsible starting at the pre-teen point in our kids’ lives. Their financial lives have been no cake-walk but neither has ours. Hmmm … I think we just shifted to finances in this discussion of factors contributing to life in the sandwich.
Just to be clear, we have a definite position on finances and the sandwich:
Philosophically, we like multi-generational living, but we firmly believe in financially independent family units, whether we live apart or together. We don’t want to encourage inter-generational financial obligations, but we’re prepared to provide a financial assist when a family member needs it. We’ve done it for both of our kids and their families, and our parents have done it for us. We expect all family members to take responsibility and accept accountability for their lives and their choices.  In particular, we never want to be a burden on our children or our parents, financially or otherwise, but as a family we’ll give and accept support whenever the need exists.
Our kids understand the financial realities of life, the need to work, and the responsibility to take care of their families. For one of our kids career decisions, circumstances and personal health issues have interfered in carrying out those responsibilities, the sum of which has resulted in multi-generational living in our household, and left my wife and me in the sandwich.
So, one kid is living apart from us with a family of her own. The other kid and his family are living with us. Some people would consider us to be enablers and suggest we should have just kicked the kids out of the house at age 18 or 22 and told them never come back. I would agree if this living arrangement was permitting our kids to shirk their responsibilities, but I don’t think it is. They’re working hard to become independent, to get their careers on track, and to support themselves. They’re making progress, and they’ve never backed off from that commitment, nor from their commitment to pay back the loans we’ve made, which by the way are documented and incur interest, thank you Mr. Ramsey.
I think that rather than enabling, we’re giving out of abundance and caring for our family the way we should, both biblically and socially. I know; I probably just painted a big target on my back so go ahead, fire away with your comments. After all is said and done, everything I talked about contributed to our arrival here; this Tuesday, in the sandwich …

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