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Life With a Young Adult or How Many 18-Year-Old Boys Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb - Mo's Journal
March 30th, 2007
12:14 pm

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Life With a Young Adult or How Many 18-Year-Old Boys Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb
So, it’s mostly really great having Doran back. It will be greater once he starts working (which is supposed to be this Sunday, yay!) We had a bit of a hairy time, though, since he wasn’t really doing much of anything since he came back from the ill-fated and short-lived Marine adventure. Things got tense between him and me after a while and we had a serious discussion a couple of weekends ago. He pledged to be more diligent about looking for work and to do more around the house, and asked me to leave him notes of things I'd like him to do. He meant it, I’m sure, but he’s still 18 years old and he’s still Doran, as the following story illustrates (apologies to those seeing it twice):



My apartment has halogen track lights illuminating much of the place. They are tricky to change and the bulbs are special ones that you can only get at hardware stores, so I can’t pick them up at a drug store on lunch hour. It was getting dark in the apartment since the hardware store is typically closed by the time I get home. So it seemed like a good job for Doran.

That Monday I left him a note and money, asking him to go to a hardware store and buy halogen bulbs and replace the burned out ones. It's maybe two hours work altogether, with the shopping and the changing bulbs. On Monday, he didn’t get to the hardware store in time. Tuesday, ditto. Wednesday he actually did buy the bulbs, but left them at 11th Street - our coop apartment, where my ex lives while we figure out what to do with it (which has been going on for 6 years now, but that’s another story) - thinking he'd sleep there. Then he went to visit a friend, came home late (to my place – he hasn’t been at 11th Street much since getting back from the Marines) and didn’t have the bulbs.

On Thursday morning he told me he’d definitely do the job that day – go to 11th Street, get the bulbs, change them. At 4:15 on Thursday he called me at work to apologize. He did go to 11th Street and get the light bulbs he'd bought, but they are the wrong kind. I had given him a burnt out one to take to the hardware store as a sample. What did he do with that? "I threw it out because I was sure I knew what they looked like."

I told him to go back to the hardware store with another burnt out one. He'd already thought of this but couldn't because he couldn't figure out how to get the old ones out of the track lights. Need I mention that I asked him if he knew how to change them (since they are tricky) and he said that of course he does?

Sooo, I told him where I keep the burnt out sample light bulbs (always have another in case of such circumstances) and told him this time he needs to really take it with him to the hardware store. Now. And when I get home I will show him how to change them.

I ended by saying "Are we agreed that it is your responsibility to follow through on this until it is done?" and he said "yes."

He went to the hardware store where he had gotten the wrong ones, and they didn't have any of the right ones, so he called me up to ask where another hardware store was. I showed great restraint and just told him, not pointing out that my note with the instructions on what to do gave names and addresses for two hardware stores. I just told him where the other one was, and said I'd explain how to change them when I got home.

When I got home he was there, the light bulbs were there, the ladder was positioned under a burnt out bulb. He told me that he'd asked a few friends to come over and help him and had planned on surprising me with having it done, but they weren't here yet and he still couldn't figure out how to change them. So, following our family's motto, I stood with him underneath the track lights, pointed out salient features of said lighting fixtures and taught him to fish... burnt out bulbs out of their sockets and replace them with new ones. With only one minor exhortation ("Doran! Turn off the light first!") he did the first one.

He moved the ladder to the next one, got up on it and his cell phone rang. And with me standing there in the same room he says into it, "No man. I don't need you to come over after all. I figured it out."

I said, "What?!!!? Correct that - right now."

He said into the phone, "Umm, actually my mom taught me how. She just called me out on that."

Changing the rest of the light bulbs was the work of a few minutes. He kissed me when he was done and asked, "Are we good now?"


So, how many 18-year-old boys does it take to change a light bulb?

P.S. I mostly find this funny, but when I think back to my 18-year-old self I’m kind of appalled at the comparison and worry that he’ll just never grow up. So it was reassuring when I told this story to a friend of mine – a perfectly functional middle-aged woman with a PhD, a good job, and a family. She said that when she was 18 she would have behaved just like Doran in every particular, except... she would have lied to her mother and said she lost the sample bulb rather than admit having thrown it out.

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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the reassurance and the BTDT. Doran seemed to think that looking at Craig's List and asking his friends who had jobs was sufficient. And it might have been, but it was going too slowly for my tastes or really for his goal of going to college this fall. Anyway, he's starting a job on Sunday and fingers are crossed.

(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:April 16th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC)
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Been there, done that. Sometimes it's BTDTGTTS - been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

He's working hard and gave a good chunk of his first paycheck to me to put in the college account.
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From:blue_braces
Date:March 30th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
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Good to know what I have to look forward to if K and I stay together. Though come to think of it, her twins are 14 and they're not unlike that already. ;->
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
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At 14, I kind of expect this. I sort of thought he'd grow out of it by 18.

But more to the point - who is this K and how long have you been together?
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From:blue_braces
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC)
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We've been together a measly 6 months. *sheepish grin* She's the femme that I mentioned in my post about my favorite things beginning with 'f'. :) If you look back at my posts in the past two or three months, she's featured a fair amount. I think I'm in love, and I'm told the feeling is mutual. *really big grin*
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
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I missed your f-post! I thought you hadn't done it after all. I just went back and read it, which was fun. And I'm so glad things are going so well with F, I mean K. :-)
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From:talktooloose
Date:March 30th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Good to hear he's starting work on Sunday. Looking for a job means potentially getting the message over and over and over again that you are unwanted, unneeded, unqualified.

Eighteen year old boys are very possessive of their illusion of grandeur, masking as it does a lot of unmanly doubting. He reminds me of my 22 year old nephew Max who is in Israel now. I always knew Max would have to move himself far, far away from mommy and daddy to get his shit together which he really seems to be doing. If Doran can do it with you around, it will be really good for your relationship.

I love your combinationn of patience and prodding and bonus points for you for making him admit to your role in the teaching!
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
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Good to hear he's starting work on Sunday. Looking for a job means potentially getting the message over and over and over again that you are unwanted, unneeded, unqualified.

Eighteen year old boys are very possessive of their illusion of grandeur, masking as it does a lot of unmanly doubting.


Good points! And in Doran's case this manifested as applying for one job at a time, absolutely sure he'd get it, then completely baffled when he didn't - until the next possibility that *of course* he will be chosen for presented itself.

I really hope this job works out. And I hope things work out for Max, too!

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From:talktooloose
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
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Max sat around his parents' house for months before flying to Israel even as my sister said, "Why don't you get a job? It wouldn't hurt you to have some more money in pocket when you get there."

But in Tel Aviv, he got himself a bartending gig (acces to "tons of chicks" he told me recently) and had to do things like take care of paperwork when it turned out he had slightly the wrong work permit. That kind of thing would have had him running desperately for mom if he'd been back in the States.

Now he's started an internship every afternoon with a film distribution company and is generally taking charge of his life.
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From:rae_1985
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
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heh. Keep in mind he's a boy. Sometimes boys are a bit slower at growing up than girls. :P
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. Plus everyone's different. And besides, I definitely feel I had too much responsibility in my teens and was too grown up. Of course then I worry that I have reacted too far the other way and not given my kids enough responsibility. ::le sigh:: This whole parenting gig is one opportunity for self-doubt after another...
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
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Oh don't feel uncomfortable. It is soooo good for me to hear that kind of thing. I was an overly responsible, overly adult kid and I *don't* want my kids to have the kind of burdens I did. OTOH, I don't want them never to grow up. I've given them much less responsibility than I had and of course I'm constantly second-guessing myself and worrying that I've over-reacted ad not given them enough. And it's very, very reassuring to hear about competent functional adults who were not completely competent functional adults when still in their teens.

I had a weird upbringing. Like everyone's, it was a mixture of good and bad. And given that I was completely on my own with no back up while still in my teens it's a really good thing I was a self-sufficient type. After all, I didn't have Charles Xavier to come and rescue me :-/. But it gives me a kind of warped idea of what kids are capable of. I try not to use myself as a model, but to some extent we all do.
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From:thinking_lotus
Date:March 31st, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
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I have to admit this doesn't sound so bad to me. But I guess I've learned to live with my poor executive function ...
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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
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And I hesitated to share this with you (in a couple of venues now) since you're someone who has actually *hired* him.
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From:thinking_lotus
Date:March 31st, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
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even the superefficient P has his moments.

anyway, I've found that I have to live with the way my brain works and use compensating strategies. It's not learning those that makes people bad employees and difficult to live with. I found that feeling proud of things I'm good at makes it a lot easier to apply myself to fixing the flaws. Also, sometimes I just need someone to take me by the hand and show me stuff that seems as though it should be "obvious."

Anyway, I know you have some issues about D & your others being too parentified but it's probably a good moment for you to transfer stuff and for him to start taking it on. I have a friend who started that with her eldest (of 4) who is now 22 and living with them (she's also a single mom) and it's really worked beautifully. But 4 years ago she was saying the same stuff you are.

Her situation has some parallels to yours because the other parent is also somewhat lacking in the area of responsibility etc. Not that I think anecdotal stuff is necessarily so helpful, because people are so different, but at the same time it can help to look at what other people are doing in similar situations and try to adapt it to your own.

Anyway, hugs from over here with my own adorable yet difficult boy.
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From:libgirl
Date:April 2nd, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
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Sounds like a frustrating series of events!

I'm glad that you've got light now--hope things smooth over.

~hugs~
Jess
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