The Kid Stays in the Picture

12 Jan

Letterbalm Kid's Bedroom DoorDear LetterBalm: Our eldest of three is paying for his own college education. To save money, he moved home last summer to continue with his part-time job and finish his last year instead of living in the dorm. He’ll graduate in June with his class. All is O.K. except that he’s a slob – his room and bathroom and the kitchen are a disaster, he leaves dirty clothes and towels everywhere and he doesn’t help with cleanup after meals. He’s got his friends who hang out in our finished basement, making a mess and playing video games and music every night. My husband and I are arguing about this. He says our son shouldn’t have to keep the house clean or pay board or pay for his car because he has college expenses. I’m exhausted doing the cooking, cleaning and laundry. Our other kids resent it because he doesn’t help, and they still have their chores. How can I resolve this?

–Maid Service

Well, it certainly is admirable that your son is willing and able to pay for his college education. So, Ms. L.B. will cut him some slack. But he has no right to sow chaos at home. In no particular order, let’s offer a litany here: 1) You and your husband ask your son for a one-third contribution for a cleaning/laundry person twice a week; 2) If you don’t think your husband will take umbrage, you show your spouse the bills for increased food and your increased hourly time spent cleaning and doing laundry; 3) Citing the need to teach your son to be self-reliant (and move out after graduation), sit down with your husband and work out a plan that the two of you can take together to your son without siblings or friends present:

Darling, I don’t like it that we’re fighting so much about Harry. It can’t go on – we’ve got to solve the problem. Essie and Stew are complaining that they have to do chores and Harry doesn’t. The house is in chaos, and it’s not fair. It’s not good to treat children differently and not good to excuse them from being responsible for their actions. I do respect that Harry’s financing college himself – that’s a big deal, and I applaud his efforts. But we wouldn’t be good parents if we didn’t teach Harry the importance of self-reliance, especially since he should be leaving the house to be out on his own after he graduates, and that’s coming up soon. We can require him to pay a small stipend in rent or go in with him for someone to clean and do laundry twice a week, sure. But at the very least we should insist that he pick up after himself and straighten out his messes. I’m sure you don’t want to have an entitled, spoiled-brat son on your hands. You and I have to be on the same page about this. What do you think? Please, talk to me.

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