The Kids Are Alright

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Yeah, I know, it’s not spelled that way. It’s a Who reference, OK?

So my proposal is that we review our acquaintances and see the 20-somethings who are doing all right in life even though maybe they weren’t taking Differential Equations when they were 9. I’ll start.

First, there’s my new DIL, who majored in non-profit management and is doing very well at a large national non-profit with local, autonomous branches. She just got a 30% raise, in fact. Though she did take Calculus, the reason for her success is her good work habits, attractive personality and appearance, and excellent social skills. And of course she’s quite bright.

From church, there’s a young couple with a 6-month-old and 2 1/2 year old. Young Mama has $140K in student loans, but she has an MSW and a license to practice therapy, and she makes around $40K per year. Her hubby majored in engineering for 2 years, hated it, quit, and became a CNC engineer. He makes $45K base salary and usually pulls in $60K because of overtime. They do all the right totebaggy things to get out from under their debt — no cable, no Internet, Grandma watches the kids for free, etc. They never eat out. They’re burning down the debt and should be okay in a few years.

Also from church, we have (yes!) a nurse and a correctional officer. They have reasonable salaries and good bennies. They have one 2.5-year-old and hope to have more. They own a house waaaaay out towards Kansas, so they have long commutes in to Denver. They also have a Grandma watching the kids for free.

Come on, in addition to all the young people who know who are drowning, you must know some who are doing okay, even if they aren’t Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s hear about them.


178 thoughts on “The Kids Are Alright

  1. I sent this in on a day when everyone seemed to be working themselves into a panic about it being the end of the world and our kids are going to be living under bridges eating cat food and bugs. If people are burned out on the topic, though, feel free to hijack. It is Friday, after all.

  2. My little sister is 23 and has a job she loves working for a concert promoter. The pay isn’t the greatest and I don’t know what the future opportunities are, but she’s self-supporting and loving life.

  3. Off topic, but related to the idea of how the younger generation is doing, we had parent teacher conferences this morning. We found out our 7th grade son went to his teacher yesterday and told him he was concerned about a classmate who is being bullied and wanted to know what the could do to help. I’m sure he’ll never mention this to us, of course.

  4. One of my graduating students just accepted a position at one of the “prestige” NYC financial companies, as a software engineer trainee. This particular student is very smart, but is an African-American male, a group that is very underrepresented in software development positions. I suspect he is going to do all right for himself.

  5. All the young people I know are employed and did fine for themselves. Now, all these people are in their early thirties. The one thing that stands out is the number of people I know who are not married and as the years pass the likelihood that they will not seems to grow. Majority of these are women. Their parents did not expect this….

  6. I couldn’t help but notice that in RMS’s examples grandparents play a role in childcare. Obviously this can save a couple tens of thousands of dollars a year, but from the grandparents perspective I wonder if they enjoy this, or are doing it because their kids couldn’t financially survive.

  7. I look forward to hearing good news.

    If the MSW with $140,000 in student loans is working for a nonprofit, she may be eligible for reduced payments and loan forgiveness after ten years.

  8. Oh, and thanks to the world of Facebook I know plenty of kids that I graduated with from HS who floated around in college, moved out west to ski, living off their parents dime. Most eventually found employment and spouses and seem to do pretty well.

  9. Most of the 20-somethings I know are/were students at the local university, and they seem to turn out OK. Of course, I tend to meet the engineering and business students who are driven enough to get involved in professional organizations and show up at networking events, so perhaps they are the most likely to succeed anyway…

  10. Denver Dad – THAT is the moment when you know you are doing something right, not when the report cards come! Such a wonderful thing to do! (not trying to suggest that you judge success by report cards – just that making them into lovely people is way harder than teaching them biology. IMHO)

    Milo has offered to write a post about military academies and college ROTC. If you have any questions on these topics that you’d like him to address, please submit them to me at gntotebag @ I will keep identities anonymous.

  12. Funny story: A NMSF 20-something I know was recently shocked to learn that the “dumb as bricks” classmate he used to tutor in high school is now an associate with a big investment bank. She was struggling with algebra 1 in high school, but went on to get an accounting degree at a local college. She did the right networking from what I can tell. And I don’t think of accountants from no-name schools as getting those jobs, so perhaps some of you more knowledgeable can comment on that.

  13. All the 20 somethings I know are working at my husband’s law firm, so they’re doing fine. My BIL/SIL who are now 34 and 30 respectively were struggling for a while in their 20s (got married when my SIL was only 22) but through a combination of working the system and luck, are now doing well financially. They were getting married, SIL demanded that they buy a house, bought said house but her name couldn’t be on the mortgage because of her terrible credit (she had just graduated from college) so it’s all in my BIL’s name. She happens to get into this niche in nursing that pays very well a year or two into her career (making around $125K). They have a kid and she hates the house they bought and wants to sell but it’s only worth half of what they paid. Well no problem, they just stop paying their mortgage, walk away and buy a house in her name only that is nicer/bigger/better neighborhood etc. They now live in this house, are expecting their third child, my BIL stays home with the kids and my SIL works her $125K job and they seem to be doing great.

  14. This is an awesome topic and I think perfect for a Friday (and after the snow and sick, and with a call this afternoon I am dreading, I could really use a happy topic).

    I think I will be more a reader today, because most of our friends are at similar stages of life. But I do have to say even my severe-ADHD brother gives me hope — despite the many years and multiple schools to graduate, he found a job that keeps him jazzed and going (concert promotion), ended up giving up the punk band when he couldn’t manage the travel anymore as a single dad, has my niece in a great school and with all sorts of enrichment stuff she needs (she really *is* ridiculous smart, at least at this age), and generally seems to be keeping the rent paid and food on the table while living 1000 miles away from my dad and his mom. So, go him!

  15. Most of that age demographic I come across are new co-workers, which means they have landed a full-time, but (for some entry level positions) not very well paying, job. One of them, a girl with a bachelor’s in psychology, had one of the lower pay jobs and was also working part-time retail in the evenings to pay down her student debt. Within 2 years she had changed positions twice. The first change was more money, the second one was lateral but to an area that with some experience she could change employers to make more and have more advancement (no career ladder for this in my small employer). She did that, has gotten married and they bought a house.

    RMS – I think the big thing is that kids who have never been allowed to struggle and/or fail before leaving home, don’t know what to do in those situations except run to the person/s who always overcome the obstacle or fix the problem for them.

  16. Relative 1- learning disabilities, special education, can’t do math above pre-algebra, failed out of remedial community college classes- really wasn’t college material in the first place. Went to cosmetology school and is now making a living wage doing a job he loves and is adored by his customers. Still living at home to save up money and because of poor executive function, but will probably be ok on his own in a few years.

    Relative 2- partied and slacked all through college and then couldn’t get into grad school for a major that was otherwise worthless. Regrouped, got an RN through a post-bacc program. Lived at home a few years to save money, recently moved out and bought her first house.

  17. One of my profs from my Masters program is white, married to a Korean woman, and does his research in Latin America. When I asked him for advice on dealing with people’s reactions to an interracial family, years ago, he smiled & told me about walking through small towns with people calling out “hey; look, it’s a gringo with a chink!” He thought it was funny & clearly didn’t think it had hurt his son (who must now be almost 30 yrs old). His advice was that eventually you stop worrying and hit a point where you realize it’s ok, they’re ok, and they are going to be ok. I agree with him. We hit that point around age 4. Then there were some events that made it very clear the kid was not alright & would not be ok unless something was done. I was foiled in doing what I thought was best for him & would get him, & therefore me, back on track asap, but we have hammered away at it, and I am now happily back in the camp of figuring he is fine. I truly believe that kids want to grow up well, to be good, healthy people who are a benefit to society. It’s our job to clear the humongous boulders from their path, but as my grandmother once wrote in her journal “our job is not to cut a straight smooth path for our children, but to provide them with the tools to cut their own path to a place we do not know”. So get them through the big stuff, sure, but clear every dang pebble, put down springy surface for their steps? Not only is that unnecessary, I don’t think it’s helpful. Barring tragedy, we will predecaease our children; they had best be accustomed to making their own way in the world. We have a neighbor who’s 20 something and moved here because of a new health insurance job. My kid has a friend from last year’s school who has a half sister 10 years older. The mother feels she should’ve done things differently, but now that the young woman has a nearly 2 year old child, she has gotten a steady job and has nearly completed a med tech training program of some kind. There are many people in our country who do without,

    That’s just my way of saying I don’t understand the assignment. Do I know any young adults who are not screwed up nightmares? Why yes, yes i do. I suspect that the woman who just checked me in at the desk probably is, and the person who took my vitals too. I do think we need different policies in this country to help people who grow up in families that don’t prioritize education learn to value school, to get people the healthcare they need, as well as the food that they need. But do I think young adults who are doing ok are so rare that we have to fish around to find examples? I don’t think we are there yet. Maybe I just didn’t understand the question.

    I will mention that I have seen an entire population be extremely concerned and not know the “rules” to get ahead, literally not know if their children would receive needed medical care, if they had anything for retirement, even if their jobs would disappear. It was literally as if their country had vanished and a new, unfamiliar one taken its place. That was the former GDR when I was there in 1991. They honestly did not know if the kids would be alright. There are still many economically depressed areas there, where many of the women have left, alcoholism is high, as is racist violence. But there are also many people who have figured out the new rules and are doing just fine. (Watch out or I’ll tell you about cyber spying on that guy from my sickbed. Who on earth gets better looking as he ages! But he’s also had several high achievements.) I know plenty of other folks in E Germany now who could say the same.

  18. Friend of my brother’s was a C student in high school and not particularly focused on academics. Enlisted in the Marines at 18, served a few years, got out and went to a middle-of-the-road state school majoring in computer science. Held various IT/computer (that’s all I really know) jobs with major government contractors and consultancies, now works for Amazon and must be in the $200-$250k range.

  19. We went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago for a cousin. I was catching up with some of his friends, and I told my husband that many of his friends are “do gooders”. I met a special Ed teacher, a woman that goes to third world countries to help set up classes for new moms, a resident, someone doing cancer research. My own wedding was filled with lawyers and bankers, so it was great to see how many of them were in fields that they are passionate about right now.

  20. The 20-somethings I know are a mixed bag, because some are the in-law strain that doesn’t finish high school. That group is probably not relevant to the high school set. The others all seem to have graduated college into the recession a couple of years ago. One was in architecture, and is now doing some additional training at Harvard, another had some parental support to take some unpaid internships, and has now landed something she is very excited about, and which sounds cool. I have no idea what her actual duties are. A friend’s daughter got a Communications degree from a state flagship with minimal debt, and is now in marketing for a big tech company making decent money. She has a high school football coach husband, they own a home, and seem to be doing well.

  21. My brother is super smart (perfect scores on his SATs). However, he then flunked out of college He was used to getting straight A’s in high school with minimal effort. Having to put in more than minimal effort was a challenge he couldn’t handle at the time. Went to mechanics school for 6 months; lived with my dad for several years doing not much of anything until my dad gently forced him out into his own apartment (which my dad subsidized for a time).

    He then went to work for UPS and after a year decided a lifetime of the kind of jobs you can get without a college degree was not for him and went back to college. Got both his bachelors and masters in mechanical engineering in something like 3 years and was the top student in the program. Found a job in his field after college.

    Had another transitional period when he and his wife moved to a rural area (few engineering jobs to be had – she’s a large animal vet) – but now has found a job that appears to be a good fit. So overall he’s doing well after a slow, rough start.

  22. My friend who told me about the out-of-state tuition waiver at Texas A&M is (with her husband) fixing up a hovel in Berkeley for her son in grad school there. They are semi-retired and also caring for elderly parents. Her sons have turned out GREAT and she is one of the few people I know who managed part-time engineering while raising kids around here.

  23. Good topic for a Friday. A couple of weeks ago I was chaperoning a church ski trip and I rode the lift multiple times with another chaperone who has 4 kids, all in their 20’s. Of course, we started talking about our kids. On his side, 3 went directly to college, 1 entered the military directly out of HS. 2 kids were really prepared for college, 1 kind of stumbled around in HS but has since found his way, is happy in his current college and is doing well. The kid in the military is also doing well, has acquired some specialized skills that will transfer to civilian life if he decides to go that route, loves living on the same island as HM and is working on his college degree. Bottom line, all the kids are very happy and all of them took different paths to get their current situation. I found all of this very reassuring , especially since I have a HS junior who just baffles me with his lack of motivation and HS freshman who kind of gets it , most of the time, and with a lot of prodding. After spending time talking to this guy, I just feel that eventually each kid will figure out what they need to do in life, at their own pace, not at my pace, all you can do is be there and try to encourage them, provide the right environment and support, etc. The rest is up to them.

  24. Looks like my browser thought I was rambling. There was a part of my post that got cut out. There are lots of people in our country who are hurting for lack of food, medicine, housing. I think we absolutely need policy changes there. But I do not think we are at the point yet where it is so rare to find someone who is doing ok that I can point out one person as a shining example of doing ok.

  25. “But I do not think we are at the point yet where it is so rare to find someone who is doing ok that I can point out one person as a shining example of doing ok.”

    You don’t know anyone who is doing OK?

  26. I would say honestly that of my four children, now 32-40, that even though all were self supporting, more or less, at 25, only one of the 4 was doing all right in the sense meant by RMS. By 30 no more worries. DH’s recent graduate (but late 20s) summa cum laude son drives a cab and lives in his mom’s basement. By 32 I expect he will make the grade as well. Maybe we just have to extend the time horizon a bit.

    In what way do I mean not all right?

    The other three spent extended periods in their twenties without health insurance. A lot of the time they were doing contract work. For the MC or UMC taxpayer of any political persuasion, the ability to keep non students on employer provided insurance through the age of 26 is one provision of the ACA that is of benefit primarily to those who have, rather than those who have not.

    They moved from one less than satisfactory living situation to another, sometimes once a year when the lease was up. Having to choose between yet another off the wall roommate or a tiny run down apartment with sketchy neighbors is not all right.

    Auto ownership was on again off again. The one in CA had to have a car to work, so he got one from his girlfriend’s father for a note, and when they broke up Mom had to pay it off pronto.

  27. Does anyone else here watch “The Slap” this week’s episode was relevant at the end when the grandmother essentially says to the grandfather “They are on their own now. They don’t need us. We have to let them go figure it out on their own” I obviously didn’t state it as eloquently as the writers, but it was well done and I wonder if all parents find themselves at such a place. Not relevant – such a fantastic program!

  28. saac – I think the point was that more often we look around and see the glass half empty, seeing those who are dropping out of college, living at home with no clear job prospects, etc. rather than seeing the glass half full, seeing those who made it out of college, have a good job, etc. I think the “assignment” was to take a moment and see if we could see the half full around us. For those of us with kids in this demographic or nearing it, sometimes flipping our focus is a good reality check.

  29. AustinMom — that’s exactly right. It seems sometimes this group goes into a death spiral about how if your kid doesn’t get an engineering degree from MIT, then she’ll be cleaning the toilets in Grand Central Station or working the pole. It really isn’t that way.

  30. There is one young woman at work who is an example of Totebag success. Her degrees were in statistics and she found employment as soon as she graduated. She did well at school and got into the state flagship. Nice to talk to. All of us parents are quite impressed with her….

  31. Milo – to answer your question from yesterday’s post – I have no idea what his APGAR score was. I figured since no one said anything about his APGAR score, it was within normal range. It was such a rush (frenzy, not adrenaline) when he was born the doctor and nurse forgot to look at the plumbing. The NICU team in the other room had to inform us when they were checking DS out.

    Risley – from yesterday’s post – don’t worry about it. I’m slowly seeing the light. We had 2 bad days as a family (little to no sleep, stressful dentist appointment) and I let it all out. DS appears to be back to his normal self, and that’s OK by me.

  32. Our family friends children have turned out terribly. Drugs and possibly undiagnosed mental illnesses are the likely culprits.

  33. My three children are 35, 33 and 28. The 35 year old took the traditional route. Went 4 years at a major state school (out of state for her), got a decent job, went for MBA at night, went with another company and is now getting the promotion she wants. Feels the title is necessary for her to move on to a more lucrative position at another company after putting in a few months to a year at her present company.

    The 33 year old went to NYC to be an actress (read waitress) and after a few years got tired of having nothing to her name. She went to Fordham and then was accepted to Columbia for her MSW. She had a job at a major non-profit and decided to take time off to go to a language school in Mexico and become fluent in Spanish and then she is going to take a few months to hike through Central America. Her former employer was sorry to see her go and told her that they would be opening a new facility about the time she gets back and feel she would be a good fit. She is also weighing going for a PhD at either Harvard or Penn.

    The 28 year old has two years of college but decided to pursue other interest (MMA fighting). After he decided that it was dangerous to take too many shots to the head he started to work and figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He took a 3 day temporary position with a company and was asked to stay on. He travels all over for them installing hardware and software at large warehouses. He has talked about going back to school for a degree in EE. Don’t now if he will but he has been widely successful and has learned from doing but also from reading and taking qualification exams.

    You have no idea how much sleep the 33 and 28 caused me to lose. I would suggest that parents not freak out if their child doesn’t embrace the HS to college route. Some kids need time to try other things.

  34. Generally, the 20 and even 30 somethings that I know are a mixed bag. Some are really not doing OK, and some are doing great. For the most part it has been pretty predictable as to which ones would end up fine and which would not. Of course there are some surprises

  35. Oh, now that I think about it, my cousin who came from a very Totebaggy family meandered for a while and I’m not entirely positive she ever graduated from college (there were a few different ones). And she had a broken engagement at one point while she was in college. Her parents move out west and she goes with them as a 20 something and lives in the paid for apartment that my uncle apparently gets with his job, but doesn’t use because he and my aunt have a house. She meets a guy, they decide instead of office jobs, they are going to develop apps. They are apparently doing very well, have a place out west, a place in Florida and according to my FB feed are on a near constant vacation (and cue my husband saying why did I go into law?)

  36. Lemon, in the cases I mentioned, the grandmas are happy to watch the kids. It is worth noting, however, that the kids sometimes watch videos, and they sometimes have store-bought muffins for breakfast, and are in general being raised Old School. They get lots of love but Grandma doesn’t spend all day playing with them.

  37. OLD MOM, that is the reassurance that parents with younger kids need. I don’t really know any people in this demo. When I ask parents with older kids what advice they have, they almost always say “I wouldn’t worry so much. It usually all sorts out.” Hard advice to take but also the same advice I give to moms with younger kids who are struggling with how much tummy time and finding BPA free sippy cups- so I’m going to assume they are on to something.

  38. This post made me stop… I realized I’ve been “following” most of your families since TOS. And I started reading that site in 2007. That’s 8 years ago… some of your “kids” are now teenagers! Wow… time flies.

    My cousin is a shining example of young success. She graduated college (she’s 22 now) and took the first job that came her way. She hated it, and it was not in her field. She worked long hours, got crappy pay, lived at home (which was a far commute for her), and her boyfriend stayed in their college town (his hometown). We spent a lot of the fall talking and me trying to bolster her confidence. She ended up quitting the job in a spectacular fashion (she almost sent her boss a cake that says “I Quit, B!tch”) just before Xmas. Flash forward to February – she has a job she loves, in her field working for a local congressman, has a short commute (still living at home to save money), and feels better about life. Boyfriend is still gone, and I’m not sure she’s dating. But she feels better about her life and more in control, so I’m sure the boys will come.

    A lot of the people I know are just launching. They’ve finished their graduate degrees are in the job hunt. Some have jobs they hate, but are good for their long-term goals, jobs they love, or no jobs at all. Some also choose their own misery.

  39. The story at 11:03 is incredibly unusual unless she also got an elite MBA or the girl had a great family connection or something like that. Or the Zoe Barnes method, if you catch my drift.

  40. Rocky, the end of your 12:06 makes sense to me. It seems so common sense that the first part of that post didn’t occur to me.

    There is a CPK waiter I want to keep my eye on. When he & his mother were homeless, he started a law mowing business, which he sold for several thousand $$$ at age 13, then turned around and did it again. They have a home. His extracurriculars are way beyond the walls of his HS. He is accepted at Georgetown for the fall. I gave him the name of a friend on faculty there. I’d like to see what comes of him, but I think he’ll be alright.

    My friends’ younger brother, who went back home to fight in the Libyan revolution, is nearly finished with his PhD at a well-respected US program. Their father was a revolutionary who had to flee the country (hence their US childhoods). The son is now getting attention within circles trying to figure out how to get the country back on track. I think he’ll be alright.

    Narrowing your sites to MIT or the stripper pole ignores so many ways for people to be “alright”!
    A friend has a former student, education major, who has tons of energy but has bounced around at various positions for the last 2 years. They both went on a lobbying trip to DC recently, and ended up spending 2 hrs with Sen. Leahy. My friend, who has been doing this for 6 years, deadpanned “that’s never happened before”. I think she’ll be alright.

    Will the 20-ish employee in our rental office ever get beyond the bad boyfriend and that job? Maybe not, but the single mother at the next desk over, whose son started college on football scholarship last fall, thinks she’s doing alright.

  41. My ex DH and I both course corrected after undergrad and each of us has a brother who also did – actually, 2 of his 5 brothers did this, both to stratospheric success.

    It all makes it close to impossible for me to worry about our kids’ futures. Mess up? Fix it and move on.

  42. A parent, that’s what I predict I’ll be saying about Popcorn boy in a decade. It’s sad, but shows that the $$$ you put into a kid aren’t what counts. Aamof, I’d say the only times I haven’t landed on my feet are the 2 times (counting this one) that my parents got involved.

  43. Zoe Baird was President Clinton’s original choice for Attorney General, but her nomination fell apart following revelations that she had employed an illegal nanny off the books. I believe her comment was that “she was thinking more like a mother than a lawyer at the time,” or something to that effect.

    Zoe BARNES, however, a character on Netflix hit series “House of Cards,” is a newspaper reporter who rockets to early fame after establishing a symbiotic relationship with Kevin Spacey’s character, Congressman Frank Underwood. In part, she gets access to the information from Underwood by engaging in a sexual relationship with him and performing sexual acts on him.

  44. *House of Cards spoiler below*

    Zoe is a beautiful young journalist who has a meteoric rise to prominence because she has an affair with a powerful congressman. I’m not saying that CoC’s example did this, but I do know of several real-life cases where seemingly unqualified people landed elite investment banking jobs this way.

  45. “In what way do I mean not all right?” — Yes, it’s the uncertainty, the lack of a safety net. So when you see kids come through to a better situation with some stability and cushion, it’s sort of a “whew” feeling for having navigated that tightrope.

    We’ve been back in the “worry” phase about my stepbro. He has a long, complicated history of ADHD/anxiety/depression/alcohol abuse, which results in repeatedly pulling himself together for a while and then things falling apart again — at one point, after he finally graduated college and had a steady girlfriend for a few years, she dumped him, and his response was to go completely dark for a year and literally almost drink himself to death. But for the last almost 10 years, he has been in consistent therapy and on meds and had pulled himself up onto a healthier road — still living at home, but with a full-time job for almost a decade, and an awesome girlfriend for probably 5 years. And then in a 3-month period, he got laid off (totally not his fault, company going down the tubes) and his girlfriend left, and it’s just a gut-punch worry that it will send him back down the spiral for good.

    I think the worry comes from knowing how easy it is to get knocked off track, and not knowing whether they will have the resilience and resources to pull themselves back up, and knowing you are powerless to fix it for them. And the best birthday present I ever got was when he emailed me a few weeks ago saying that he was handling it better, seeing his therapist, going to the gym, taking his meds, and had actually submitted his application to culinary school (he has always loved cooking and is *awesome* at it).

  46. The 20 something I know best seems to be finally getting it. Making progress toward his bachelors…it’ll take him at least 10 semesters + some summer work + a couple of classes over winter breaks to make that timeline…but he does have a paid summer internship directly related to his major that he probably got because he did a similar unpaid gig for a different organization last summer in addition to working full time. So I have to give him credit for that. And it kind of shows the system works.
    What I have learned from the experience of the one described above is that while college is probably good for everyone, it may not be right for everyone directly out of high school. But our society and post-secondary education system generally looks askance at those who don’t follow all the steps in order.

  47. I have a topic tweak to suggest. If the point is to reassure ourselves that our kids are going to be alright, why not talk about them? I’m sure everyone here can think of at least one sign that their kid won’t end up at Thee Backdoor Gentlemens Club. It would be braggy if you stood up in the middle of a PTA meeting and announced how well your kid is doing, but we all “know”‘ each other & I think we’d be glad to hear good news from each other.
    I’ve had a really nasty stomach bug all week. Beyond a strong suggestion that he go to bed one night, I have not been involved in getting my son ready for bed. He has also gotten himself up & dressed every morning, made his bed, and either eaten a granola bar at home or gotten to school in time to have breakfast there. He woke me up yesterday morning to show me that he had completed his English essay a day early, because they got extra points for that.
    So what little things have given you satisfaction & peace about your kids recently?

  48. The 20 something closest to be is of course my dd. She definitely followed the typical path and is doing well in her second year at a big four firm. Most of her hs friends are in grad school or underemployed (all college grads from totebag families). Some of them have given her a little grief about working for the man, but they get quiet when they realize she lives in her own place and not with her parents.

    One of her friends dropped out of college to be in a band, and while I’m sure it was tough for his parents, they were supportive. He left the band and is now back in school, so I think he just needed to try out a different path for a while.

  49. “If the point is to reassure ourselves that our kids are going to be all right” That is the thing Saac. The thing I see with so many parents is that we are all scrambling around trying to find the magic recipe for a good adult and a great life for our children. Its as if we can keep all the scary things at bay if we just have them take enough AP classes or we get the balance of sports and academics right or if they get into the “right” school. Then, it will all be ok and we can sleep easy. In reality, it is so much more complicated and tenuous than that!

  50. Well, I will brag a little. My DD is doing great. She was a struggling reader but now loves to read. She is generally not as academicly-geek-oriented as her brothers, but she has a real game brain. She loves to play chess and Go. Yesterday, she played her first ever game of Dominion with me and her brothers – a game that I always lose at because I cannot seem to comprehend the rules long enough to develop a strategy. Anyway, she won her first game. She saw the point immediately and quickly figured out what to do to win. Her older brother was impressed that she got the game so fast. I figure she is going to go far in life. She is far more socially adept than I am, and has the game brain that I totally lack.

  51. rio, 11:03 could be a family connection. We had a “kid” that would fall asleep on the trading desk. I asked the team that got stuck with him – why is he still here? typical answer, he plays hockey with the son of so and so. The most successful trader I met in my last bank got his first job because he delivered pizza to head of the desk. It just takes one chance to get your foot in the door.

  52. Working on the meaning of time management with one kid. Kid goes into freak out mode thinking he can’t complete all his homework. But then wastes time trying to do his least favorite subject first or doing something that is not required and getting more frustrated in the process. I give pointers on what to tackle first, what can wait but let kid do the rest. This has resulted in some uneven grades but so be it.
    The other kid continues to chug along on her path, no parental input required.

  53. I just feel that eventually each kid will figure out what they need to do in life, at their own pace, not at my pace, all you can do is be there and try to encourage them, provide the right environment and support, etc. The rest is up to them.


  54. The most successful trader I met in my last bank got his first job because he delivered pizza to head of the desk. It just takes one chance to get your foot in the door.

    Jimmy Cain ended up the CEO of Bear Stearns because he plaid competitive bridge in college and ended up meeting Ace Greenberg who offered him a job.

    The moral of the story? 99% of life is just showing up.

  55. he thing I see with so many parents is that we are all scrambling around trying to find the magic recipe for a good adult and a great life for our children. Its as if we can keep all the scary things at bay if we just have them take enough AP classes or we get the balance of sports and academics right or if they get into the “right” school. Then, it will all be ok and we can sleep easy. In reality, it is so much more complicated and tenuous than that!

    Moxie, I’d say it’s much less complicated and tenuous than that. As these examples are showing, there are so many different paths to success than the totebag “get on the calculus track, become a NMSF, and get into an elite college” path. The reality is if they don’t get into the AP classes or play the right sports or do everything else “wrong”, things will probably still turn out just fine for them.

  56. Btw, Milo, thanks for the correction & info. The correction made me laugh bc it’s such a good example of how our brains work differently.

  57. Rhett, as I keep saying, being able to schmooze is the most important thing for career success.

  58. “The correction made me laugh bc it’s such a good example of how our brains work differently.”

    What do you mean? It’s easy to see a name like Zoe Barnes and jump to Zoe Baird if that’s somewhere in the back of your mind.

  59. I always agree with DD on this. But my social circle is mostly made up of people who were better than average (but not genius) students in decent districts who went to mid-tier schools (whether public or private), and now in their late 30’s/early 40’s have very nice UMC lives (let’s say in the to 10%), but NOT big shot careers (let’s say the 1%).

    In my family, which is more diverse, there are plenty of people who are doing fine in more blue collar jobs as well. One family member went to WCE’s alma mater and has a degree in EE, but after a year working in that field, decided he hated it. He decided that really wanted to be a chef, went to work a grunt job in a kitchen (much to the horror of his father), got them to pay for his culinary degree, and is now relatively successful in that field (and changed his father’s mind about it). Now, he was not a NMSF, nor was he doing calculus in diapers, but he still managed to get a degree in EE with an above-average-but-not-exceptional HS resume and an ACT score around the 80th percentile, and he managed to find a job in his field right out of school even if it ultimately wasn’t right for him. So I would even say that there are math-centered paths that are achievable for the non-geniuses among us. :)

  60. DH worked on a trading desk for almost 20 years, but he didn’t start there. He started out as an IT guy, got to know the guys on the desk, was offered a job as an assistant and eventually got his own list. He definitely has the gift of gab. At the time he first started working there, some of older, seasoned traders didn’t even had college degrees.

  61. Come on Moxie, there must be something your kids have done lately that made you smile and say “yes!”

    Yes Saac, don’t mean to be such a pessimist. They do lots of great stuff and Denver Dad’s anecdote struck me because moments such as those are the moments when I am most proud as a parent!

    Denver Dad, I think it is less complicated but I think the reality is that everything can go wrong very easily, even with a kid who has always done good things and makes good choices. It only takes one bad choice to ruin it. That’s the scary part and the part against which we cannot really protect them. But yeah, most of the time it all works out.

  62. Random hijack for saac and Mooshi and other college prof types: At a private uni, let’s use American University as an example, if a prof were to retire, could the dean of the department bring in a new prof of his/her choosing, or is there a requirement that they post the opening and go through the process of interviews, etc? I think at a public school, they’d have to post it for so many days, etc. Wondering if the same is true for a private place. Or could the dean call up a former prof and simply say, “Prof X retired. Come back – the job is yours.” ?

  63. I do think it is good to keep in mind that a decent, fulfilling life is not made by hitting all the totebag benchmarks. I think it can be easy to get wrapped up in certain totebag goals and see them as ends in themselves, or as though people who achieve them are somehow morally or qualitatively better than others. I definitely have noticed this subconscious tendency in myself at times when I feel like I have to do this or that, and actively work to remind myself that’s not true.

  64. I miss Zoe on House of cards. I still can’t forget how she left the show. Did anyone finish season 3 of House of Cards? I watch this show with DH, and he doesn’t like to binge, so I’ve watched two episodes. I really enjoy this show. I am watching the Affair when I am at the gym. I haven’t been able to run outside in months due to the ice, but I started to watch the Affair on the treadmill. I’m half way through the first season of the Affair, and I still don’t know if I like it.

  65. Denver Dad, I think it is less complicated but I think the reality is that everything can go wrong very easily, even with a kid who has always done good things and makes good choices. It only takes one bad choice to ruin it. That’s the scary part and the part against which we cannot really protect them. But yeah, most of the time it all works out.

    Sure it can. At the same time, how many kids from the totebag demographic does that actually happen to? Not that many. As you said, we can’t protect them from everything. We just need to do our best as parents and trust they will figure things out just like we figured things out.

  66. Lauren – I am gearing up to watch season 3 of House of Cards – I have to get in the mood to watch all of the smarminess (sp?) of Frank and Clare. I’m very excited to watch season 2 of Broadchurch, which has just started on BBC America.

    A really great show that I recently watched on Amazon is Bosch. It is based on some of the novels about the LA police detective, and for any fans of The Wire you will see some familiar faces! I highly recommend it.

  67. Interesting DD — it seems that there are varying opinions about how much totebaggers should worry about these kinds of things.

    I had a conversation with a much older colleague the other day. I had just seen a patient who was lamenting about how both grown children were terrible – addicted to drugs and homeless, divorced and unwilling to work, etc. The patient (and two kids) were definitely not totebag demographic — they had not had the best in afterschool enrichment and SAT tutors. My colleague stated that, “It’s crazy, how these terrible things can happen to anyone.” I said (something along the lines of), I may be arrogant, but I don’t think it is going to happen to me.

    Of course I worry about terrible things taking my children permanently off-tract (addiction, uncontrolled mental illness, bad partner choices), but in the big picture I think I have the means to make it fairly unlikely. Maybe a lot of the anxiety is about how much power I have to control that situation.

  68. The biggest risk to Totebag children ending up “not alright” IMO is mental illness. That’s what happened with all the members of my extended family who fell out of the middle class, like a cousin who failed out of college and lives on the wrong side of the tracks and works at a big box store due to severe depression.

  69. In my family, the biggest risk is poor choice of partner- even if you divorce her, she will still be the mother of your children. ***sigh***

  70. Fwiw, I have seen children of very totebaggy parents make all sorts of wrong choices including wrong relationships, drugs and finally ending up in jail. I worry mostly about drugs as it seems to be the gateway behavioral problem for all sorts of issues in life. I read an article about extent of drug problems in teenagers in affluent suburbia and was very disturbed.

  71. That’s interesting (and sad) Dell. One thing I’ve noticed is that fairly permissive attitudes about drugs seem common in a lot of the UMC. Not just marijuana; the elite LAC Wesleyan for instance had something like a dozen students hospitalized for MDMA overdoses the other week.

    I know I grew up in a more conservative part of the country, but even very liberal parents of my friends would have flipped out if they thought their kids were experimenting with anything more than pot (and even that would have been trouble). But I hear a lot of “college is a time to experiment” now.

  72. I suppose I don’t know how I feel about this issue. Much of my family is blue collar. Those in their twenties are currently employed (nursing aide, pharmacy tech, etc.) and doing well, but one lost job or paycheck away from disaster. One relative is now 5 years out of high school, still hasn’t completed any college or job training, and is struggling to stay in what continue to amount to entry level jobs. In 10 years or so I suppose we’ll get to see how it all turns out, but I worry and don’t know that it’s clear that all will be ok. Mental illness and drugs cause lots of upheaval, and how someone recovers from that can depend on everything from attitude to resources, etc.

    My dad is one of 5 kids, and one uncle was the family “black sheep.” I have always had the impression that in larger families there was often at least one who struggled for some reason, despite sharing similar upbringing. I wonder if it still happens but seems much smaller because of smaller family size, etc. I don’t think it’s especially likely that my kids will have these problems, but neither am I so confident that it couldn’t happen.

  73. Certainly bad things happen to totebag kids.I’m just saying percentage-wise, most totebag kids turn out just fine.

  74. I worry most about my kid’s hormones and his choice of partners. Love, I think makes us all crazy. Passion is so fleeting and, I think, and so many teens, twenty somethings and above lose all their common sense to its rush. All of us do once, it seems, some of us serially.

  75. I don’t think one mistake is likely to knock you off the cliff to the it omits valley of no return, and I think young people are resilient.

    WCE, you’ve just named my main weakness. I’m not going to expose my son to the chaos that is his mother going through a relationship. He needs and deserves more stability than that. I do think he understands, in a pretty real way, the screw-ups I’ve made along those lines (even though he only knows of a couple) and is likely to make better choices himself. We talk about this. As I was growing up, it was s clear that I was going to be a career woman and not a wifey that I never considered how choosing one very appropriate partner could bring benefits for the rest of my life.

    Milo, it just seems to me that you tend to use info bits like that to sort. For me they are handles but the real thing is elsewhere. I suck at names, numbers, spelling, all those things that involve recalling many small units of info perfectly. Doesn’t mean I’m dumb. I’m great at finding relationships between things and analyzing them. Different minds, less boring world.

  76. DD– I agree with you. But then we don’t really stay up at night worried about what might happen to “most” kids. We lose sleep wondering about what’ll happen with the kids we know and care about.

    PTM– Love makes us all crazy, indeed! I look back at our wedding pictures, and we were babies. No one uttered a peep of concern our way, though. From this far down the road, I wonder how hard some of them had to bite their tongues.

  77. Well, well, well, if it isn’t the group’s other single parent saying the same dang thing. At least you got it right eventually, and when you lost her it was due to “natural causes” rather than having made a f—ing stupid decision (or a stupid f—ing decision) in the first place.

  78. I’ve only worked at public universities, where prof-type jobs must be filled through a national-level search (though PT jobs can be advertised through the grapevine or locally only). My impression is that private universities vary in how much power the individuals in leadership positions can exercise.

  79. Saac, I made a lot of crazy decisions in the name of love along the way, though.

    Were I not so damn old. and did I not whole-heartedly agree with you about not bringing uncertainty into my son’s life do to a current passion, I am sure I would be bitten again.

  80. Moxie, I don’t mean to pick on you today, but I don’t see how a single wrong decision will condemn one to a failed life. I know many individuals my age and older who have a few hair-raising stories, but have turned out just fine. I think refusing to take any risks can be just as poor a choice as taking too many, or the out of control kind.

  81. I will talk to my kids a lot about picking a spouse. My parents were strangely silent about the people I dated despite being helicopter parents before it was in vogue. I had a few near misses along the way that would have led to disastrous marriages. Who knows if I would have heeded their advice, but I will at least try with my kids.

  82. The parents of ethnic families many of them Totebaggy have kids who get married to seemingly compatible partners but many marriages are ending in divorce. These “kids” are not young, have good jobs but divorce often means they are back in the parental orbit. This is increasingly happenning. Remarriage does happen but that takes time or may not happen at all.

  83. The 20-somethings that I know of are children of cousins. They run the gamut from getting a great job out of college to couch surfing/living in his car in Colorado while being a ski instructor in the winter and a white-water rafting guide in the summer. And the latter example will probably end up alright too. He’s at a place in his life where he can live adventures.

    Middle school has be a revelation for DS, he is discovering that his desired results require good effort. We need to help him with his organization skills so that he can better determine when that effort is needed.

    Lauren, Thank you very much for your comment It flipped our approach.

  84. Saac, I had parenting/financial partner as prime criteria along with partner/companion. When your son is grown and you can focus on partner/companion, I’m optimistic for you

  85. Broken record here. A single bad decision or spectacular bit of bad luck will not ordinarily “doom” a child. Yes, an accident or act of violence or disease or disability might alter or even end a life, but a parent cannot protect or deflect forever, and it is an illusion that 99% of all real or imagined danger can be avoided by living life according to some hygienic, moral or educational checklist. Most bad events can be overcome, especially with enough family support (financial or otherwise) for a few second chances. I do agree that mental illness, often exacerbated by street drug use, is often the basis for a permanent failure to launch or at least to live a fully independent life.

  86. I second everything Meme wrote, and I value the stories she, Old Mom, and others relate as valuable examples about how real life works.

    It can be argued that things are objectively worse for millennials.

    Baby Boomers’ kids are doing worse than their parents

    The Typical Millennial Is $2,000 Poorer Than His Parents at This Age

    More young people are living in poverty and fewer have jobs compared their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, in 1980.

    Even though a higher percentage of today’s young people have college degrees, more live in poverty.

    I see quite a few 20-somethings who have not launched, and I feel uneasy about this delayed adolescence thing.  Maybe it’s because I want them to start saving for their retirement now.

  87. Calling your parents’ basement “poverty” is reaching. Many have less than their parents did at the same age because they have less need and/or desire to grow up as quickly.

  88. My BiL’s younger brother was verrrry slow to launch. I can’t remember details, but don’t think he finished college & know that he worked at a couple churches as some kind of youth minister for a while. That was ironic to me, because I think he was working through the car accident he had in HS in which several of his friends died. He now works as an employment counselor for the county, & he lives with his photographer wife & their 4 kids somewhere down by the river, for real. Launched? He seems content enough with it.
    My nephew seems to be taking a similar slow-launch approach. No alcohol is involved here, just various learning disabilities and parents who would not let him take half a step on his own. He graduated over a year ago, but I haven’t given him the clothes steamer I meant for his graduation present, because he’s always lived at home & it’s not meant for my BiL. He’s currently on a mission in Wales. it sounds like his next steps will also incolve raising support.

  89. To me, those kind of stories are the exception, not the norm. It’s strange to me that this group would see it the other way. It seems to me in both these cases that overly protective parents have something to do with it. In his early 20s, my nephew was still accustomed to my sister answering auestions for him, even things about classes or roommates or the like. When my BiL’s younger brother was picked on in the neighborhood, their mother sent my future BiL outside, locked the door, & said he couldn’t come in til he had beaten the kids up. So much for little bro learning to deal with the crap life throws at you (or anyone learning conflict resolution). I don’t think people in this group have those type of tendencies.

  90. “To me, those kind of stories are the exception, not the norm. It’s strange to me that this group would see it the other way. It seems to me in both these cases that overly protective parents have something to do with it.”


  91. Kids who fail to launch have always been around. My DH used to play in rock bands in his 20’s, and knew tons of these fail-to-launch types. They were rampant in the rock band world of the 80’s. I can remember several guys who lived in their parents’ basements through their 20’s, working sporadically or not at all, so they could play in bands. And there was the guy who lived in a basement room (not his parents), filled with snakes. He worked in a McDonalds to support all the snakes.

    I used to teach in a regional public U, and there we specialized in older returning students. They were all fail-to-launch types who had realized in their 30’s or even 40’s that they needed to get it together. Most had flunked out of college the first time around, or never went to start with. Many had interesting, colorful stories from their failure-to-launch 20’s. So some of these kids will get it together, eventually.

  92. Millenials are actually doing better

    of course, the ones who finished college are doing better, which is why we all want our kids to go to college
    “Those with bachelor’s degrees are experiencing the largest gains, with wage growth averaging 4 percent in 2014 for 21 to 25 year-olds, according to Levanon’s calculations using figures from the current population survey, produced using Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It was 2 percent for same-age workers without a college degree and compares with 1.6 percent for the entire working population, regardless of education.”

  93. From Humans of New York, yet another example of the breadth of circumstance which can be considered “alright”:
    Humans of New York
    “I’ve got a wife, a six month old daughter, and a five acre farm outside a tiny town in Vermont with three thousand of the best people in the world. My life is absolutely fucking perfect.”

    In my less than f’ing perfect life, I seem to be on an elimination diet. Keeping Moes chips & queso down, no prob. Corn Chex are fine. But plain white rice comes on back. It’s very strange.

  94. I have one sibling who was slow to launch – went through grad school and then decided didn’t want to practice in the grad school area, kind of fumbled around for a few years, and is still underemployed (but loves what work there is) in a related field. Interesting that of me, DH, and all of our siblings and spouses, only 2 of us work for ‘the man’ (including me). Everyone else is self-employed.

  95. This topic causes me the most anxiety of anything in my life. I have two sons, the older one is on the well-paved path at flagship state u, and while he could work harder, he will apparently graduate on time (though not with the stellar grades that are very possible given his test scores). The younger one however, has ADHD and dysgraphia. School has always been a struggle and always will be. Getting him through high school takes a village – math tutor, regularly checking the websites for assignments, etc. In his public high school, literally 98-99% go on to college (a minority track to a junior college). It’s a rough place to not be on the traditional path.

    It is always reassuring to hear stories like OLDMOM’s, that everything will turn out and everyone follows their own path. Like other totebaggy parents, we have the resources to provide some cushion that many in his situation do not. But, I do not want him living in my basement for years!

    He is going to do a half-day every-day technical training program next year (welding, the horrors!). On a trip this week, I had a work colleague compliment me on supporting him choosing an alternate route. He’s watching a close friend struggle with their son because “all they know” is college, and he flunked out of a private regional college after one semester and even junior college is proving challenging.

  96. Sunshine – you’re not alone in your anxiety. And I’m one that cannot think of a path other than college.

  97. Sunshine, how long have you been reading this blog? We have had several posts about the potential benefits of a vocational track. Those discussions may have been more common in the beginning, because WFI (who started the blog) is married to an intelligent man who chose to go into HVAC. She was happy with his choice. Living in Houston, it is unlikely that demand will ever vanish. She passed along admin of the blog because she was starting new business ventures of her own. My guess is that the steady profits of his business may be part of what makes it possible for her to take the risk of a new venture. If you write to the email address on the blog’s homepage, she may be able to help you find some of those posts. There is also a regular poster who says flat out that his son is not college material. Idk if our suggestions of careers for that boy have been helpful or not, but perhaps he’ll comment here. As others and I said above, there are many ways to be successful, and falling off the well-known path is unlikely to lead to a life of unhappiness. Support your boy, love him, and enjoy the exploration of his interests and responsibilities. I agree with your colleague–it is great that you are supporting him in the welding course!

  98. Help! It is spring break, I still have stomach issues, and my son thinks the best way to keep busy is by solving math problems, generally of the type 2(3x+2)-4(2x-2)=0. I can’t do anymore. I’m tired and want to go to sleep but I have to go to the bathroom again. In past years, he has used various websites, usually through school, that took him through one step after the next to learn and practice math concepts. I can’t remember the names of any of them right now. Can you please tell me some good websites where the boy can solve simple algebra problems to his heart’s content?

  99. I’ve been a longtime lurker….followed from TOS, actually. I’ve watched many of the conversations and hope that the vocational path is the right one for him.

  100. Khan math academy? And SM, I loved your comment about how Saac has done such a good job getting himself ready in morning, finishing a paper early, etc. while you’ve been sick. A tribute to your good parenting.

  101. Sunshine, so glad you posted and hope you’ll keep joining the conversation. I, for one, think it’s terrific that your son’s going to do a welding program, and I agree w/ your colleague that it’s a wonderful thing you’re supporting that.

  102. “Calling your parents’ basement “poverty” is reaching.”

    A millennial living in his parents’ basement would only be considered poor if household income is below a certain threshold. If you think that using that threshold is “reaching”, well I guess that applies to all poor people, not just millennials.

    But it’s definitely true that attitudes have changed over time, among all generations. Almost everyone, including baby boomers, don’t see a need for young people to grow up quickly.

  103. “To me, those kind of stories are the exception, not the norm. It’s strange to me that this group would see it the other way. ”

    I haven’t seen that this group sees it as the norm, but maybe I’m mistaken.

  104. @ Sunshine – just as you would do with a kid on a college track, find out the path for welding or any other vocation. Does he need certification, which places will take him on as an apprentice, can he take the self employment route etc. I had submitted a post on vocational paths, based on a WSJ article,if you want to refer back. I thought the WSJ article on vocational careers was quite interesting.

  105. “But it’s definitely true that attitudes have changed over time, among all generations. Almost everyone, including baby boomers, don’t see a need for young people to grow up quickly.”

    I disagree. Until the 50’s or so, it was the norm for kids to live at home until marriage, and even after marriage, to not go far. That was particularly true for the huge wave of immigrant families from Russia and Southern Europe. Even today, Hispanic and Asian families tend to stay together well into adulthood. In Western Europe, even though kids are more indepedent than American kids in certain ways, they tend not to stray far from home for college and later. The idea that kids have to be totally independent and GONE is really an American Waspy attitude from the 50’s.

  106. Almost everyone, including baby boomers, don’t see a need for young people to grow up quickly.

    Is that true if we include women? It seems like we’re defining “grown up” as being an independent and economically self supporting entity. Certainly during the 1950 it was common, especially among upper middle class women, for them to have no time in their life when they were independent and self supporting.

  107. I don’t have information about long-term trends right now, but I think 20-somethings living at home back then probably contributed more, financially and in other ways.

  108. When it comes to “delayed gratification” today’s kids tend to think in terms of hours and days, not years.

    Like how they insist on cutting through your yard vs. going the long way!

    Seriously though, are you comparing kids now to the “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” kids of the 60s and 70s, the punks of Mooshi’s 1980s heyday, the slacker grunge of the 90s?

  109. “Almost everyone, including baby boomers, don’t see a need for young people to grow up quickly.”

    Tee, hee, CofC. I call bullshit. I cannot wait for Junior to grow up! I want to be liberated. I want no more parental guilt. I am tired of homework– especially the kind I don’t get paid for. I am tired of only cussing on this board. I am tired of laundry. I am even more tired of mothers. I don’t eat lunch. Why would I want to make it each day?

    I want to smoke a cigarette without feeling guilty. I want to sit at the bar instead of a table. I want the kid to start driving me!

    And eventually, I want to die without feeling guilty. Apparently, because of Daylight Saving Time, tomorrow morning I am supposed to have a heart attack. I plan to eat brunch in the cafeteria at Baptist Hospital (it’s in network). I don’t want to feel that that’s the prudent thing to do.

    I want to go to Vegas and marry a floozy, or at least not to care about the implications.

    Oh, yeah. I’m counting the days.

  110. PTM – I love the mental picture of you sitting at a bar with a good drink (sorry you can’t have that cigarette with it!).

    I love my children immensely, yet I am happy most of the time that they are grown (one on her own and one in college). I love to spend time with them, but my role in their lives has changed so much over the last few years. I guess I miss the old days when they were little and adorable – and I could tell them what to do!

  111. SSK, I’m with you! We have hit a spot where I’m not only interested in DS making progress for his own sake, but also so that I can get on with my life. Maybe I don’t go to bars as grungy as some would like, but we certainly don’t always sit at a table. I laughed when I heard what I said to a grumpy boy who was spoiling everyone’s appetite when my parents went out to eat with us: look, the game’s on at the bar. Take your drink & go sit there & watch it. We’ll get you when we’re done. Is that what’s referred to as permissive parenting?

    SSM, thanks for your kind words. I think everyone here could praise their kids for something and note that it isn’t all going badly, if they’d just think about it for a while. I found exactly the skill he wanted to practice on Kahn Academy, and then I remembered Cool Math & found it there too. And then he told me “Mom, it’s spring break. I don’t want to do math all the time”. Win-win!

    CoC, I don’t understand. Isn’t the point of this post to reassure people that since other people’s children have managed to launch despite being raised by fallible human beings? Why would that be necessary if people weren’t afraid their kids were not going to be alright?

  112. Saac, it may be only in Miami-Dade, but I’ve been told that kids under 18 can’t sit at bars that serve alcohol under Florida law. Either way, I call it “Junior’s Law” because he has certainly spent considerable time at bars keeping me company until the last couple of years. Among other things, service is considerably better at the bar.

  113. Once ‘saac starts developing, we may well have to switch our habits as well. Besides better, quicker service at the bar, there are sometimes only seats there, or happy hour prices on food good only at the bar. The only place I’ve heard of the law you refer to is Vegas. He was 6 when we were there, and absolutely not permitted at bars that served alcohol. Btw, I was very happy to see you say that Jr’s hormones are your biggest worry in regards to him, because I assume that means that you are no longer so worried about his employability. Is that right?

  114. Saac, what I meant to say is that I worry about wrong decisions taking my son off track. His hormones give me no particular concern. However, fathering a child at 15, 17, 19, you name the age, would almost certainly cause a major derailment, as would a seriously wrong choice in a partner. So could drugs, so could an illness. Many things and all parents have worries.

    Junior will have a job or do something to earn money. Most people do. I hope it pays the way for him and his dependents to live above the poverty line. Not all people achieve this– even hard working and well meaning people.

  115. Our first nice warm day in a long time. It is 70 degrees and spring fever has taken hold. The first blooms are on their way.

  116. Louise, that sounds lovely. It is 80 here & my kid is whining about having to go outside with a friend. It’s going to be a long summer!

  117. I think the age for and what “launching” has meant changes over time. I started college in the early 80s. I think the “where” you live is less the point than “how” you live. Living at home, unless your job took you out of the city or state, until you married was more common (especially for women), but it wasn’t because you did not have a job or were underemployed. You were likely contributing financially at some level to the household or by providing services that the family might have otherwise had to pay for.

    A friend of mine’s dad died while she was in college. Her mom was a RN, and could make more money on the night or weekend shifts, but didn’t want to leave her younger sister at home alone overnight or most of the weekend. My friend lived in the same city, so she moved back home to be there as “overnight” care. She did not pay rent, but did help out with transporting her sister to school and allowing her mom to significantly increase her income.

    The other element I think has changed is the standard of living. I think previous generations were more aware that your standard of living fresh out of HS or college will be much lower than the one you were raised in as your parents had years to reach that level. My observation is that young adults now expect it to be the same or higher.

  118. I graduated college in the late 80s, and remember having conversations with friends about how we wanted our parents’ standard of living to be our stepping off point. We were aware that it wasn’t going to be, hence the wishful conversations. But I think that desire isn’t new.

  119. Austinmom – I had a different experience. My first job was in a different state from where my parents lived, and I was offered the job just a few weeks before graduation. I would have had to move back home and look for a job locally, but I would have moved out as soon as I had a job and could afford to do so.

    My siblings worked in the same city as my parents and they lived at home only when they had to (moving there or short stint while switching apartments).

    I think my parents would have been happy to have any of us living at home, but with that came their rules, which none of us wanted to deal with!

  120. I realize my thoughts jumped around too much in my prior post. During my college years my parents moved out of the country, so I was on my own. I did not have a full-time job upon graduation, but had a part-time job that continued after graduation. Since I was living in an apartment, I just kept plugging along with my part-time job and job hunting.

    It was a few months after graduation that I found a full-time job in my field. This job was not in my college town, but one where I had a relative. I lived with her for two months because (1) I didn’t get paid until the end of the first month and couldn’t affort all the new deposits and moving cost and (2) at that time most leases followed the calendar quarter and I was in the middle of the cycle.

    I am only suggesting that the idea that you can afford everything on a starting salary of a fresh college grad that your parents could afford being mid-career isn’t realistic. However, I see the children of friends expecting their parents to pay for that standard while they are college and to continue this as they enter the work world; expecting parental support to bridge that gap and expect it will continue indefinitely.

  121. Austimmom, I do agree with you. When my daughter and her friend were apartment hunting, she was describing the granite counters, etc. we had to help her understand that we didn’t really care if she had to endure the hardship that is Formica counters for a couple years of her life. And I agree on how expensive it is to launch, with deposits, work clothes, furniture, the need in Car states for a reliable vehicle, etc. We would encourage our kids to live at home for a couple of months to save up those funds rather than start out in debt. I wouldn’t care if they wanted to live here longer if they are employed and saving for a house or grad school.

  122. And I agree on how expensive it is to launch, with deposits, work clothes, furniture, the need in Car states for a reliable vehicle, etc.

    That why you need a job senior year. You also might need to keep that part time job when you start your first “real” job.

  123. Austinmom and MBT – Oh yes, I totally agree with you. They need to expect to be “poor” when starting out, and I consider it my job to help them understand that. I don’t know if others have experienced this with recent college grads: disentangling them from family cell phone plans, insurance, premium TV services, etc. – these things all add up, and their totals were a bit of a surprise. We did keep paying for those things for the first year or so that dd was out of college; she has gradually assumed the costs.

    DH likes to tell our kids that when he got his first job and moved into an apartment he had two pieces of furniture: a bed and a stereo (that one is funny to think about now!!).

  124. I think my kid has an understanding of simple furnishings based on our move to Germany. We each had a mattress on the floor and we used an upside-down box as a dinner table until we happened into a cable spool, which was a big improvement. It was only a month or so until we had furnishings (I never did build my bed, even though I had the wood for several months) but in his mind it may have stretched out to be much longer.

  125. I think if you graduate with a major that has a high enough starting salary you can afford to live in relative comfort. Not perhaps in the exact same style as you were used to in your parents house but good enough. Also, if you happened to meet your partner at a young age combined income of a young Totebaggy type couple would allow them to live quite nicely. I realize that this is the other side of failure to launch but that was my experience and quite a few of our friends had the same experience.

  126. They need to expect to be “poor” when starting out, and I consider it my job to help them understand that.

    No, they really don’t. If they are poor when they start out it’s the result of some combination of a “preference for leisure” and poor choice of major.

  127. Rhett – my “poor” was referring to them feeling that way because they can’t afford a luxury apartment, fancy car or going out to dinner the way they did when they lived with their parents.

  128. “Prioritization of values other than monetary in choosing a major”

    That’s fine. But, it’s a choice with trade-offs as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I was struck by something one of our regulars once said. They graduated from a very good school and had a job in NYC. Unfortunately, they at times found themselves short of funds. However, the idea of picking up a few weekend $50/hr SAT tutoring shifts had never occurred to them. This very same person was fine with their kid having 4+ hours of homework a night.

    So, high school 7:30am to +11:30pm plus weekends is fine, in pursuit of an “A”. But, anything above and beyond in terms of money and lifestyle as a 20 something was an anathema.

    If one’s grades came in below expectations, the obvious solution is to work harder.

    If one’s income came in below expectations, the obviously solution is to just accept it.

  129. Where did you get the idea that anyone was saying “if income comes in below expectation, just accept it”? I don’t see why income would come in below expectation anyway. Below a level you might want, sure, but wanting and expecting are different things. Did you see Lauren’s post the other day about the wedding she went to? I thought it was interesting that she would write it, because she recently defended a career in advertising because it’s what companies need people to do. But then at the wedding, she met people in a bunch of fields that I don’t remember specifically, but people who had clearly chosen values other than $ as their career targets. It sounded from her post as if she was able to feel and begin to understand the satisfaction of working for something bigger, beyond yourself. That is something I absolutely miss about my work.

  130. Just an observation – As a mid 20 something – the monetary implications of career choices start becoming clearer. This happened with a relative of mine, though she was doing well enough in her career, her friends in school who she considered not as bright as her were doing better than her in money terms. Her career was well respected but it didn’t pay as much as her friends.
    ssk mentioned the same thing with her DD and someone else mentioned the woman who got a job as an associate much to the surprise of her friends. This does pass for most people as they settle into their paths in life but doesn’t for others.

  131. “No, they really don’t. If they are poor when they start out it’s the result of some combination of a “preference for leisure” and poor choice of major.”

    I’m chuckling at the conversation. I signed a lease on my first apartment a week or so before graduation (there’s a short vacation period between your last final exam and the week of graduation festivities). I had no pay stub, so I just had to convince the ladies in the rental office/clubhouse that I would have a steady income to cover the rent, and it worked.

    Since there was no Mr. Money Mustache, and Jim Bob Duggar wasn’t on TV, it simply didn’t occur to me that I could go to a thrift store or Goodwill and get some basic furniture. I just drove from the apartment complex to Rooms to Go and spent about 20 minutes picking out a living room set and a bedroom set (the same bedroom set we’re still using, although we’ve added an extra dresser and have a new mattress). I applied for the one-year no-interest financing, and they approved me for a portion of it. The salesman was very apologetic that that was all he could get for me, but I said “oh, that’s OK,” and I put the rest on a credit card, which I quickly transferred to a new card with 0% on balance transfers. I scheduled delivery for the day that my lease started.

    It’s kind of funny to think about now, but I did pay it all off before accruing any interest charges.

  132. “No, they really don’t. If they are poor when they start out it’s the result of some combination of a “preference for leisure” and poor choice of major.”

    You are saying that there’s always a sure-fire choice of major that a hard-working kid can choose to guarantee that he will not be poor when he starts out. Having lived a few years, I don’t see that it’s that simple.

    BTW, I was reminded this weekend about the potentially serious consequences that possessing a fake id can create for a young person. It’s a serious felony in many cases, and can require abundant resources from parents to help a kid recover, with no guarantees — even if the kid chose the right major and is a hard worker.

  133. You are saying that there’s always a sure-fire choice of major that a hard-working kid can choose to guarantee that he will not be poor when he starts out.

    Most of the time there is and most of the time there is also another part time job you can pick up to make extra money.

  134. @Milo – we are still using the furniture DH purchased for his first apartment. It was from a store like Rooms to Go and has held out quite nicely all these years.

  135. 1) I don’t know if we are the best group to have a “failure to launch” discussion about ~22yos.
    2) In my own case, I got my BA at 22, moved all my worldly possessions back into my folks’ home then bummed around Europe/Australia for several months (ref Rhett @ 613pm…) funded by savings from my in-college job. Returned, got an office job which I kept for ~1.5yrs until I went to grad school. I lived in my room in my folks’ basement while I was working. Probably early-onset Totebag; I knew I was going to go to grad school, this move allowed me to save a big chunk of my earnings so I had enough cash + student loans + part time employment to cover my grad degree and be ok financially. So I was in my folks’ home till I left for grad school at 24.5. Is that late-launching?
    3) Oldest lives with 6 other guys in a house where he goes to college. I know he does not feel poor, but I imagine his living conditions were similar to what I had at that stage of life. Good enough to keep the certificate of occupancy, but probably not a lot better (except for the gaming systems, computers, big-screens, smartphones). Current indications, clearly subject to change, are he will get a job related to his major when/if he graduates. I suspect the starting pay for entry-level jobs in that line of work will be in the $40k/yr range, so with a roommate pooled living expenses will be manageable.
    4) “disentangling them from family cell phone plans, insurance, premium TV services”. Given competition and some motivation on his part to keep his cash, I figure he’ll be able to find a cell phone plan for $50/mo. Car insurance in the big city will be a shock to him. Unless hulu goes significantly above the $8/mo he’s now paying himself, he should be ok there.
    5) as long as he keeps it in his pants, or deploys appropriate available technology at all times

  136. None of my sibs or I moved home w/ our parents after undergrad, but what Fred did sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I’d be willing to consider letting our kids do something like that.

  137. Rhett – I see poor as relative – if you come from a family earning $150,000 a year and transition to your personal income of $40,000 a year as a fresh college grad, you will find that you cannot affort the same level of lifestyle. Is that “poor” given the government definition? No, but does it mean you have to make choices? Yes. Those choices are: (1) tailor your expenses live within your means, (2) increase your income, or (3) go into debt. Depending on your job, you may or may not be able to take on a part-time job, due to employer policies or your work schedule or both.

    My first job right out of college had a small group of new hires. I saw all three of those choices come into play. I chose #1, because my mentor told me about the unwritten rules of the employer and how to use those to get a raise and promotion quickly. As outside employment had to be disclosed, one of the unwritten rule was if you had a second job you were seen as less dedicated. The advice panned out and I got a raise before my peers who took option #2.

  138. “As outside employment had to be disclosed, one of the unwritten rule was if you had a second job you were seen as less dedicated.”

    IMHO, there are outside jobs and there are outside jobs…
    – a couple evenings a week + a day on the weekend cashiering or something similar seems to send the message of “I’m not making enough money.”
    – refereeing e.g 2-4 ice hockey or basketball games / week, yes these are paid…men’s league ice hockey at ~$45+ each around here, as a way to “stay in the game” and get some exercise at the same time.

    The latter just doesn’t sound as much like you’ve got a second job vs working at Target, at least to me.

  139. I seem to be at the stage at life where friends have married and had kids. Now it is divorce making the rounds…

  140. Outside employment of any sort may be prohibited for good reasons. It took an exec commitee waiver to permit on of the young admins at my former big 4 firm to be a celtics cheerdancer.

  141. As Totebaggers, we all had a certain experience of college – go away to school, then move out totally. But in my day at least, hordes of kids lived at home while in college. One of my sibs did it, in fact. So did two of my DH’s sibs. All of DH’s sibs, as well as him, lived at home post college to save expenses. Among middle and lower middle class kids of my era, there just wasn’t this expectation that one should go away to college to have some kind of transformative experience in a different locale. I think we are all getting upset over “failure to launch” when our kids do something that once was just normal. Who knows, maybe it is still just normal in non-Totebag circles?

  142. In my 20 something workplace, there were rumblings in Year 1 from recent grads that they were not making enough money. Some were in part time jobs, they had for a while and till they were reluctant to give these up till their incomes reached an acceptable level, which it did for most people by Year 2. Year 1 for me was brutal, a trial by fire – in a job with a lot of stress, two of my peers abandoned their jobs (went home, never came back), others decided that this was not the right thing for them and a bunch continued on – just hanging in there to pay the bills. It did get better in Year 2, where with 1 year’s experience on your resume you could move on to better things.

  143. Fred – I agree, but that second type of part-time job has a different flavor, but may not be available to everyone. Also, work schedule for those whose jobs require a lot of travel or who rotate days working or shifts worked can make it hard to get either category of part-time job.

    Meme +1 – One of my employers was very strick due to the regulatory nature of the organization.

  144. This conversation is bringing back memories of my first apartment, with 3 roommates and a lot of cheap hand me down furniture. My parents taught me how to live frugally, and hopefully, I’ve taught my kids a similar way of life.

    I would be thrilled if my kids moved back in after college, as long as they were employed. Happy to help them save money to fund grad school, deposit for house, funds to start new business, emergency savings account, etc.

  145. I had a different 20 something experience in that I had to keep my job, since my employer had signed off on my visa. No job, no visa meant the next plane home…..I didn’t want to go home.

  146. Our changing table was DH’s first dining table out of college, from Ikea. It is 18 years old!

    I moved from home to dorm (college and law school) to apt with DH, so my only crazy roommate stories are from college/law school.

  147. I can’t think of any IKEA pieces that are still with me from my 20-something apartments. I am not sad about that.

    I agree with AustinMom. But don’t most of those kids live in crappy college apartments and then a typical 20-something apartment with formica counters and window A/C units is an upgrade from that? That was my experience. It was great having fewer roommates and a nicer place as my budget upgraded from the college apartments that were much like Fred described – habitable but not much else. And crowded. Going from sharing a really crappy bathroom with 3 other girls to having my own, more modern bathroom in a 2BR, 2BA apartment with ONE roommate definitely felt like an upgrade.

    I think commuter colleges are still popular, just not so much with the Totebag demographic. But U of Illinois – Chicago, UNC – Charlotte, Queens College, etc are still full of traditional-aged students who live with their parents for financial reasons.

  148. There is huge competition in the non-crappy college apartment world. Everyplace my daughter and her friends looked had individual bathrooms for each bedroom and then a common living area and kitchen. Many had beach entry pools, Sand volleyball, outdoor grills, nice fitness centers, printers on site that supply the paper so you never had to go buy that stuff etc. The really nice ones were like individual family homes with bathrooms for each bedroom, game room possibly with pool table, with elaborate stocked granite kitchen, fireplaces, located in a gated community made up only of college students, or the brand-new open concept loft apartments right across the street from campus. I don’t know if the crappy apartments even still exist or if they’ve all been torn down and replaced with this stuff

  149. Saac, I was offended by your post for two reasons. I’ve always appreciated why someone would want to work in a certain field even if it doesn’t pay a lot of money. I’m not sure why you think I just started to appreciate this at a wedding two weeks ago.

    Also, it was a career in marketing. That’s very different from advertising. To clarify, I said that some corporations need some employees that will do heavy quant work or research to effectively market their products.

    I know very little about careers in advertising.

  150. MBT – Really? I wonder if that is a lot of schools/areas or just some. My most recent experience was SIL going to Flagship State U where she lived in the same crappy apartment complex that DH & some of his other siblings/friends lived in during the 90’s and 00’s. I do know that they have built a lot of new, much nicer dorms at my alma mater, but the off-campus housing hasn’t changed much at all from what I can tell.

    Is this part of the reason that college is so expensive – because I will be expected to pay to keep DS in a high-end apartment? No thanks. He can live in squalor like we did back in my day. :)

  151. I said this before, but what MBT describes is exactly what I saw at JMU.

    I think it’s a regional thing. The upper midwest and the northeast have a lot more existing infrastructure, so developers have to work with that and students have to make do.

  152. Many had beach entry pools, Sand volleyball, outdoor grills, nice fitness centers, printers on site that supply the paper so you never had to go buy that stuff etc.

    What’s the rent per person in Houston for one of those places? $750? It looks like the starting salary at PwC in Houston $55,487, so you’re living pretty well on that. If you get the new college grad deal from Honda on a Civic EX-L, you’re living the life of Riley.

  153. Is there something wrong with a career in advertising that I’m not understanding? (And Lauren, I don’t think you’re being critical of it, just disclaiming any knowledge of it) I don’t really view any professions as morally superior to others – just a personal preference and a tolerance for lower financial security. Obviously, good people can choose financially remunerative careers. For people without a family-provided safety net, prioritizing financial security in paid employment and making a contribution to valued causes in other ways makes a lot of sense.

  154. Lauren, thanks for your comment. I did not mean to offend you. Your description of the wedding was pretty much what I always want to say to Rhett when his needle gets stuck on the “the purpose of a college degree is money” groove. That was the main point I was trying to say–look, someone who you (Rhett) respect because she’s been in big-money business even sees it can be more than that!! Apparently part of how I offended you is not being aware of the difference between advertising and marketing. I don’t see why you would take that personally, but I’m sorry to have offended you, and I really do appreciate you saying something.

  155. I think all the angst over how a first job that pays $40k could work is really funny, because plenty of families live on that much and would say they’re alright.

  156. Lauren, I mean not just people Rhett thinks are making excuses because they didn’t do it the way he thinks is right, but people who are towards the top of who he respects. Even there, it is possible to recognize the value of looking for more than the size of a paycheck.

  157. Saac…I get it..Thanks.

    Money is very important to me, and I actually share some of the same beliefs with Rhett about certain majors/jobs etc. I’m just fortunate that my “passion” for math, and money did lead to a career that pays more than many other industries. The trade offs to work in that industry can be huge, and I paid with my health and stress levels.

    The cousin that got married has a Phd in English. He couldn’t get a teaching position, so he found something he was interested in with a start up. He really likes it, and I think my aunt/uncle like the fact that he is paying his own bills now.

  158. Thanks Lauren! I don’t want to be mad at each other. I think you know I find your work history fascinating. “Knowing” you here gives me a way to connect “Wall Street financiers” to my real life that I would not otherwise have.

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