Let Your Kids Bounce
It is profoundly difficult as parents to watch our kids struggle, and in the short term it feels better to jump in and help at every opportunity. I believe this was a failing of my parents when it came to my oldest brother.
My brother, my son and I just finished a FaceTime call to my mother who picked up my other brother at the train station where he got off the train. He traveled from the airport near the federal prison where he was incarcerated for the past year. He was eating a bagel and drinking coffee in the car. His daughter was driving them all to the halfway house where he will stay for a few weeks, then he will move in with my parents to serve out the rest of his sentence under house arrest wearing a GPS ankle bracelet.
You can read some backstory here:
I attribute much of my brother’s trouble to the fact that my mother never let him bounce when he fell as he grew up. She was always there to bail him out of whatever trouble he may have gotten into. This was not a parental pattern with all 4 of us. It was only so for Richard. I recall when he began getting involved in questionable business ventures our mother pressuring my husband and I to invest because he “had finally found a business where he was going to succeed”. The business dealings ultimately resulted in a 90 month prison sentence.
My mother was naturally devastated to see her oldest son sent to prison. But her continued exaggerated concern for his constant well being bordered on being neurotic.
I don’t know why my mother seemed to favor my oldest brother so much. Maybe there is a “first born” child syndrome of sorts at work here. I know he was not as bright growing up as my other 2 siblings and myself so maybe mom thought he needed extra care and allowances.
Whatever the case, she stepped in any time he faced difficulty with whatever help he asked for whether it was money or just her time. This became a vicious cycle that in the long run disabled him in a sense. In my opinion, it stunted his growth by not exposing him to the natural consequences of his actions. When he was a kid, there were minor issues that lead to small repercussions such as sneaking a Playboy magazine into class in 8th grade. Our parents didn’t dole out consequences much for any of us, but very much looked the other way in Richard’s case.
When he was 16, before he had a valid driver’s license, he took our father’s 1967 Jaguar XKE convertible out for a joy ride without permission. Our parents were away on vacation, and I think my father anticipated this so he hid the key and marked the garage floor where the tires sat. Richard hot wired the car and got away with it.
He went on to high school and struggled to pass his classes and stay out of trouble. I believe he failed to graduate with his class.
He worked in respectable jobs after high school. He tried some trade school, but didn’t go on to complete the course and work in the field. This was funded by my parents.
He married and divorced 3 times, as well as had several long term relationships. He was unfaithful to every woman he was involved with. The weddings and the fallout from the divorces were funded by my parents.
My brother became involved in “get rich quick schemes” that always sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, after so much struggle and failure, my mother wanted to believe he was finally going to succeed because with things like Ponzi schemes, there is actual success in the early stages until it collapses.
I suppose he broke enough laws that allowed the FBI to build a good enough case against him that resulted in his 90 month sentence.
My mother was understandably devastated to see her son go to prison. Still, she continued to coddle him by going out of her way in her retirement years to see to it that he had whatever he wanted in prison as far as money for the commissary, phone calls, and supplies.
While all of this unfolded over many years, my other brother, my sister and I were agog at our mother’s inability to say “no” to Richard whenever he had a request for assistance. He may have crashed hard into the ground when he jumped out of the nest if he couldn’t fly on his own, but that is the way it works in nature when birds can’t fly. We can’t say for sure that he would have avoided going to prison had he learned more lessons the hard way as he grew up, but we suspect it may have been a possibility.
Thank you for reading :)