Hey Good Enough Guy!

Our son, Michael, is 26, unemployed and still living at home.

Mike used to work as a cashier at our local Walmart but was let go 12 months ago and since then hasn’t been able to find a job. At this point he’s essentially given up on looking for work and spends his days sleeping in, watching the TV and playing video games.

Both my husband and I are worried for his future but disagree on what to do next.

I think we should be supporting our son and helping him find a job but my husband thinks it’s time for some tough love and that Mike has to move out.

What do you think Will? If our son moves out where will he go?

Yours truly,

Cindy, Ohio

Hey Cindy,

The next time you’re washing your son’s clothes, find his favorite pair of jeans and use a lipstick to draw a nice, big, bull’s eye right between the back pockets. Then, buy your husband a pair of steel-toed boots so he doesn’t hurt his foot. And finally, have your son stand on the front porch with all of his belongings, and ask him to bend over…

I’m joking of course, but only partially. Maybe it’s because, like all of my brothers and sisters, I had moved out long before I turned 26. I can’t even imagine closing in on 30 and still lying around my parent’s house like I was on some endless summer vacation. You say that you and your husband are both worried about Mike’s future but you don’t mention anything about the other grown man that really should be worried about it. Here’s what I think:

WHAT YOU’RE DOING WRONG: By enabling your son, you’re actually cheating him out of a lot more than you’re protecting him from. Our late teens and early twenties are the best times in our lives for making mistakes, picking our paths, discovering who we are, figuring out what we want, screwing things up, re-picking our paths, etc. Experience is the way we learn some of life’s most important lessons:

-Partying away a whole paycheck and then spending a week eating Ramen Noodles teaches us to budget.

-Flicking a light switch and having nothing happen teaches us to pay our bills on time.

-Running our car out of gas teaches us to plan ahead.

-Uttering the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” a few thousand times teaches us that we want more from life.

-And a locked door and a couple of unanswered phone calls teaches us that we can’t go running to mommy every time we make a mess.

How do you expect Mike to learn to be responsible if you feed him, clothe him, shelter him, find him a job, and then wake him up and drive him to work for the rest of his life? Will it be a little scary for him at first? Of course! That’s the part that will make him feel like he’s really doing it on his own; the part that he’ll tell stories about to his kids one day, stories that he’ll take great pride in later on. You owe him those stories.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW: A lot of people rescue cats from trees, but in all of my years, I have never seen a single cat skeleton stuck between two branches. That’s because, once a cat gets hungry and figures out that he has to make it on his own, he finds his way. Now I guess someone could keep putting food up in the tree for the cat, but they’d only be prolonging the inevitable.

-Tell Mike that he has six months to find a job or he’s out on his butt (and mean it!)

-Tell Mike that if he finds a job, you’ll “consider” letting him stay longer to save for an apartment (maybe another six months, if your husband agrees to wait that long before he puts those new boots on.)

-Tell Mike that his life is now his own to make of himself what he will. You can’t live it for him, you can’t protect him from it, and you won’t keep footing the bill for him to live in Never-Never-Land. It’s time he put on his big-boy pants.

-Now tell YOURSELF that you’ve done a good-enough job raising him to trust that he’ll be OK. Whether or not he knows it, he’s a man now. He has to try his wings. He’ll probably bum around for a while, staying with friends or relatives for as long as they’ll have him (usually not very long). It may be a little rough on him at first, and he’ll come home for a free meal now and then, which is fine, but don’t let him stay. Eventually he’ll figure it out, just like the rest of us had to.

Your husband is right on this one but you already know that. You may still feel like Mike’s your baby, but it’s time to let go, mommy; your apron strings are choking him.

Either way, I hope it all works out. Good luck to you, your hubby, and your son!

Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.