An Exercise in European Diplomacy

When my daughters became teenagers I realized Iíd had too many children. They had been manageable when they were small enough for me to imprison in a crib, but once I could no longer pick them up, I saw that I had, in business parlance, ďexpanded too rapidly.Ē I needed to ďdownsize.Ē

So I began outplacing my children to college. This is an ongoing process that apparently will last as long as there is an educational system. At college, my children are learning important skills that will help them in the New Economy, such as how to take on debt. As their primary lender, Iím proud of the way theyíve learned to ask for money.

In some ways our relationship has deteriorated in that I can no longer effectively punish them. Before, we might have a dialogue like this:

Me: Youíre grounded. Go to your room!

Daughter: No!

Now, though, my daughters are legally adults.

Me: May I remind you that the law no longer requires me to support you, and that technically that isnít really your room?

Daughter: No!

My children actually hate this new relationship, because instead of issuing punishments they ignore, I now employ what are known as ďreal-world consequences.Ē

Daughter: I want to go to Europe with my friends.

Me: Iíd rather you didnít. Europe is full of dangerous men Iím worried youíll find attractive. Why donít you and your friends pick a safer, more fun activity, like cleaning my garage?

Daughter: Because I am an adult. Besides, it will be educational. I can see and experience things there that I could never do in America, like Euro Disney.

Me: When do you expect to leave?

Daughter: Just as soon as we can get the tickets to Cancun.

Me: Cancun! Honey, I know things have changed a lot since I was in college, but I donít think they made Cancun part of Europe. I take it this is sort of a pre-vacation vacation?

Daughter: No, Dad, itís not like a vacation. Weíre going to Cancun first because obviously we canít go to Europe without a tan.

Me: I donít know why that didnít occur to me.

Daughter: And then, like I said, weíre going to be doing all kinds of educational stuff, like climb the Eiffel Tower and visit that pub in England where Churchill thought up his speeches. So calling it a ďvacationĒ is really a misdeed.

Me: You mean a ďmisnomer,Ē and no, actually, it isnít. Well, okay. But Iím not giving you money for it.

Daughter: Right, I donít need you to give me money. I just need you to loan me money.

(Here comes the part that they hate. If you have teenagers you may not want them to read this, because (a) they may find it emotionally traumatizing, and (b) if you wait until you actually need it and then shock them with this technique without any warning, itís more fun.)

Me: No.

Daughter: What? Why not? Brittanyís parents are letting her go!

Me: Oh, Iím not preventing you from going, Iím just not paying for it. If you want to go, youíll need to get a job and save your money.

Daughter: Well you should have told me this before now! Itís too late to save money!

Me: What about what youíve earned so far this summer?

Daughter: That was for my expenses!

Me: Yes, I saw the new clothes.

Daughter: New clothes for the trip to Europe! Dad, you have to let me go, Iíll never have an opportunity like this again in my whole life!

Me: Actually, I think youíre okay. Europeís been there for a long time. You can look it up.

Daughter: This is the worst thing thatís ever happened to me. Iím going to my room!

Me: May I remind you that technically that isnít your room?

Daughter: No!

With a loud slam of the door that technically isnít hers, she retreats. I expect that soon sheíll shift tactics, requesting money for unobjectionable things (like books) that will wind up in her Euro-Disney budget.

Itís what sheís learning to do in college.

~ Bruce Cameron ~
Copyright © 2010
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[ by W. Bruce Cameron Copyright © 2010 (bruce@wbrucecameron.com) -- {used with permission} ]

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