Sometimes I write articles with a plan. That happens most of the time. I think of a topic, I mull it over, I think of the questions I have about the related thought provoking ideas or challenge and the answers I think would work. I write it all down, hopefully in a way that’s enjoyable for others to read. In rare instances, like this article I just start typing and I have no idea what is going to come out of my fingers. It’s usually a reflection of what I can’t stop going around in my brain unless I let it flow into the keyboard. Right now what’s going through my brain is that I have an anger problem. I have someone at work who has a background in personality identification and she correctly surmised that I am very even keel until you push me over the edge and then when that happens, I blow up. Things get broken. Over the years I have developed some coping mechanisms. The best thing to do is to remove myself from the environment that’s causing me to be angry. Writing helps. It’s why I’m writing this.
There used to be many things that would get me this angry. When I was younger it was relationship related. As I got a bit older it was politics or work issues, etc. The continuing theme is that it was always stuff that I felt affected my life where I had little or no control and I felt that I should. I dislike not having some measure of control over my destiny. I have since given up thinking there is anything I can do about relationships (If you don’t like it, your only option is to leave), politics (it’s mob rule no matter who is in power), and work (usually when things happen good or bad, it’s just random timing and luck).
There is one thing left I should still have some measure of influence or control and that’s my children. Let me preface that. I know I have no control over them when they are off living their own life. That’s when they get to make their own decisions, good or bad.
As far as I’m concerned it’s a completely different story when they are living under my roof. I figure if i’m subsidizing or enabling your existence, then I have a say in your decisions as your decisions affect me. I’ve actually drilled this point home with my little ones. Every time they ask if they can use ‘their money’ I remind them they don’t have money until they are grown, skilled in a trade, earning an income, and independent. The only reason they have money is because I let them have money. After they earn enough to take care of themselves, then they can do what they want with what’s left. Yes, it’s a bit of a draconian attitude but it’s all built around reinforcing their desire for independence.
That works for the little ones. I have an older one in her early twenties and that situation is a bit more complicated. Without going into the sordid details of her personal drama, she had moved out for a few years and asked to move back in ostensibly so she could get her life back in order enough to go out and be independent with her own place. We allowed this and enjoyed having her around. But we are also parents and we always have our eye towards the goal. We don’t micromanage this child, but we do provide guidance where we can.
Unfortunately this puts her back into the situation where I am subsidizing her existence. It means her decisions directly affect my life. This is where I get to have an opinion if the decisions are good or bad. She recently made a decision that the rest of the world would think is reasonable, but I felt, considering her life situation, was a very bad decision by any measure. I also felt it was insulting and had a huge negative impact on my own personal life. It was so bad it caused me to get in my car and come to Panera Bread and start writing this stream of consciousness article, something I haven’t done for a while. What did she do? When I walked the dog this morning, I saw that she had traded in her paid for clunker for for a vehicle which clearly could not have been acquired without many years of very high payments. This not only goes against my personal code of putting as little as possible into assets that go down in value, it’s mechanically bad for someone on a modest salary and has an inconsistent work history. I’ve seen this many times in my life where younger legal adults get suckered in by shiny wheels and a culture that promotes a car payment as a thing that everybody has at all times. Invariably the payment becomes a large burden for the younger, and lower income individual. It also has a massive negative impact on the flexibility of the individual. Let’s face it, if you’re blowing several hundred dollars a month on a car payment, how are you going to pay rent? I guess I could go on about my kid’s personal situation and decision making over the last few years but that’s a micro look at a macro problem.
Let me get away from the emotion of the moment and share another recent experience. I went to a concert last night. The name of the band is Garza. It’s a side project of one of the members of Thievery Corporation. When I go see bands like this, I have gotten into the habit of just going by myself. It’s easier that way. My tastes are too eclectic to solicit a bunch of people who want to go to shows that I do. At the last minute I got to bring a friend that I didn’t expect. The show was great and we had a fun time. She didn’t eat enough for dinner and was absolutely ravenous by the time the show ended. The only place open was McDonald’s. When we went, she got a Quarter Pounder, Fries and a Dr Pepper. Not a big deal except that she has a background in health and fitness. She wants to lose weight and be more fit. Say what you want about McDonald’s, but they do have healthy things on the menu. Definitely healthier than a quarter pounder, fries, and a sugar soft drink. She chose the short-term emotional decision versus the one that would reinforce the long-term goals. I guess we could say that she had the munchies from drinking a few, but even then the munchies could be satiated with something a bit healthier.
I guess that’s what I’m writing about. It’s the much explored topic of why we choose the short-term emotional decision that has a real negative impact on the long-term goals. I’m not just talking about financial goals, I’m talking about everything. Relationships, personal fitness and pretty much anything else you can prepare for over time. I know I’ve read about this phenomenon many times over the years. Maybe because I’m livid right now or maybe because I wasn’t that interested before, I can’t really recall why we do it, at least not on a psychological level. A quick perusal of the internet brought up the point that bad decisions generally are easier to make then good decisions. It’s true My daughter walked into a car dealership and they made the transaction seamless. Just sign here ma’am and you can have this big beautiful new car. All my friend had to say was give me a number two. The alternative would be for my daughter to have nursed her crappy old car along for a few years more and then paid cash for a small econo box with low miles. My friend could have stayed hungry until she got home and then would had to go through the pantry and put together something healthy.
It’s not like I’m immune to it either. I think I’m better than most when it comes to thinking and making decisions for the long term, but I still make poor short term thinking decisions occasionally. This is especially true on my Friday nights when I want to unwind from the week, in part, by eating and drinking with abandon. My Friday nights are a lot like my friends combo meal. We are pretty much the only ones who suffer from our decisions. In thinking about this, it’s the genesis for much political angst and debate. If you think about it, the argument for things like environmental issues, healthcare, and social security is generally a debate about doing what’s best for today vs. what is the best long term decision. Political issues, much like the decisions of my children have an impact. Also like adult children, they have the illusion of control or influence on the part of those peripherally involved.
I’ve got to figure out what to do about my wayward decision making child. The last time we did this we told her she had to undo the decision or she had to go. She left and put herself into a bad situation that lasted years. I don’t think that’s the right approach but I do think I need to make a very clear statement. If you are considering big decisions you should include the people who will be affected by those decisions. As I said, bringing home a nice new car doesn’t affect me, unless i’m paying for your housing. In that case, yes, it does affect me and I need to be part of that decision making process. Right now, as I type this I have some radical actions in mind that will clearly drive home the point. I’m not sure if i’m going to follow through with them. I guess time will tell. I suspect I’ll update this article after some time has passed and let you know what I eventually did. On the positive side, the story should be entertaining if I follow through on some of my more creative solutions.
CODA: Two months later. I didn’t have the car towed and crushed into a cube like I wanted too. Things escalated when we found out that the new boyfriend of just a couple of weeks cosigned on the car. The situation in the household became so caustic that Little Miss moved out. Right now it looks like she’s repeating the past. I can only wish her luck. Now that some time has passed, what I keep thinking is that, I’ll be interested to see how SHE reacts when her kids go and do something insane after she tries to help them out. Although if the two younger ones do anything like this, I won’t survive to see it.