One of the hardest things to do in our transition from child to adult is to establish an adult relationship with our parents. Life with our parents is an evolution of power: we come into the world completely dependent on them (and our parents know EVERYTHING); we start to make noises of independence and doing things our way (and our parents know NOTHING); and then we start to brave the world by ourselves (and our parents know SOME things after all).

Now that I’m a parent, it’s easier for me to look at things from a parent’s perspective. Like most parents, I worry about what kind of men they are going to be and how best to train them to be the kind of men they ought to be. It will be hard to let go of them, to get to that stage where I stop worrying, to stop thinking of them as my kid and let them be the adults they are one day supposed to be.

I changed their diapers, I wiped their noses, I kissed their boo-boos. I have planned for them, I’ve answered their (endless) questions, I’ve guided them. I’ve sacrificed for them and provided for them. Do I expect anything in return? Heck yeah, I want a payoff of my investment. I want them to become fully functional adults, prepared to go into the world and find their own way.

In other words, at some point you have to move out.

(In fact, now that my kids can tell time, I’m going to stick a counter on my blog as a continual reminder.)

Now, I’m not exactly sinless to cast any stones in this area. If someone wants to keep running after me to give me free stuff, I’m going to let them. However, at some point, certain ties had to be cut (right around the time I had to establish my own family and myself as the head of it, coincidently enough). And it was a painful transition period for me and my parents (read: mom). But it had to be done in order 1) for me to establish the direction for my own family, 2) for me to be seen as an independent adult by myself, 3) for me to be seen as an independent adult by those around me, and 4) to be seen as an independent adult by my parents.

You can’t keep living in your mother’s basement. Or your friend’s mother’s basement. Or otherwise sponging off people in your life because you don’t want to stand on your own two feet. I don’t know what it is about our generation, but a lot of us are taking longer and longer to, well, grow up. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had to. Previous generations have had Depressions and wars to define them, forcing them to grow up sooner. We’ve had MTv. But I’m strictly speculating.

Did I mention that at some point you have to move out?

I haven’t even gotten to the most practical lesson of cutting the apron strings. Control. Nothing is ever truly free. You think you get to live in a basement rent free? You think you get to borrow your parents’ car whenever you want, no charge? You need a temporary influx of cash, gratis? Besides being generally thought of as a loser by your friends, you have also given up control in your life. You are under a certain amount of obligation to live by their rules (their house, their roof, their rules). Each loan is another string attached to you. Call them “guilt lines” or “advance pay day guilt loans” and they will be pulled or cashed in.

Cutting the apron strings is a rite of passage, one that can be relatively painless (despite the occasional bout of empty nest syndrome) or messy (when folks finally have to kick you out). It’s best to take the reins of your own life and carve out your own direction, no matter how many bowls of ramen noodles you have to eat in the process.

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