Humor by Diane Farr

There is a term for all those twenty- and even thirty-somethings who just can't leave home: "failure to launch."

It's the catchphrase- perhaps inspired by a movie - given to those of this generation who can't or won't get their life started. It's definitely nicer than "parasite single," which is what they're called in Japan.

This "condition" or even "epidemic" in young people who can't get off their mother's couch long after their educational years are over is worrisome to me as a parent.

And I'm not just worried that it might happen to my offspring, but that I could actually be encouraging it.

I keep my kids on a tight schedule: preschool, followed by playdate, sports or music, followed by dinner, bed and bath - and repeat. I drive, feed and direct them from one controlled activity to another until we all collapse at the end of the day. I fear that I'm overscheduling my offspring - even though I'm doing considerably less than most of their peers' parents whom I see driving to multiple activities after a full day of preschool. Could this lack of downtime for kids be a bigger part of what's causing the perpetual downtime for them as young adults?

How on earth would I know? I was raised in the '70s. At age 6, I was told to "go outside and play" despite having no supervision at all out there. Not only were there no activities scheduled for me, no money spent or given to me, no guidelines, rules or places to report even a hint of bullying prearranged - I wasn't even ALLOWED back inside the house until the streetlights came on, even during a blizzard.

So clearly, I have no personal overparenting barometer, but my gut says I and all my overly educated mommy buddies are overhandling our little ones for two reasons.

First, I'm exhausted. The pervasive trend in parenting is that I'm supposed to take my own needs and physical well-being out of the equation when it comes to my children's best interests. The pressure is on from the moment your wee one is born, as we are raced out of the hospital, then told to breastfeed for as many years as possible despite any challenge to doing so, and then quickly left all alone with a helpless nonverbal person for the next several years - or else told to get back to work in six weeks after pushing a human out of our body.

My second bit of evidence came to me at preschool the other day. A teacher and I both saw one of my 3-year-olds lie on the floor and cry because her sister was running to get her favorite stuffed animal - to give it to her - and we both jumped in to help.

I asked my weepy one why she was crying. She said she had wanted to get the toy herself. "Well then get up and go get it. Don't just lie down and cry, go!" I said.

To which the early education professional actually gasped, looked at me and declared, "Aww, c'mon Mom..." and headed off toward both of my kids, presumably to save them from each other - and from me.

Totally perplexed by the teacher's reaction - as this was not a good "aww" but rather one filled with sadness and disappointment - I started questioning myself.

Did I just pit one child against the other by telling her to go get the thing she wanted? I figured I was teaching her an actual life skill - one that's at least a necessity in our house where my multiple kids are always running for every coveted toy.

I found myself involuntarily heading over to my kids to head off the teacher because I next began to wonder whether an inability to compete is causing all of these failures to launch. Is the reason I know so many remarkably educated man-children and woman-children who stay home after their parents shelled out hundreds of thousands on private school and college because their academic lives let them slow everything down so much that they can't make a move in real time or appropriately compete for what they want?

Of course, there is more to this debate, but sometimes less is more! Like right now, when I'm feeling OK with my parenting decisions. Maybe I'll even skip violin, karate, dance or gymnastics this week and make my kids play "old school" outside - in my fully gated backyard, with a nanny and me, and their 400 toys.

Either way, I'm hoping my influence, as gruff as it may seem to some - like when I stepped around the teacher and made sure my formerly crying daughter was allowed to use her words to get her stuffed animal back, just before I patted her on the back and raced all my youngins to the car, feeling strangely victorious.

Perhaps empowering them to go after what they want will keep my children from failing to launch. Even if they only start their own life to get away from me.

Humor & Satire

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