Friday, October 14, 2005

#202 - Entitlement Amok

Surfing through Joanne Jacobs' wonderful blog this morning yielded this little piece of incredulity. An 18 year old woman in New York moves out of her mother's house because her rules are too restrictive, then turns around and sues her parents for child support.

Why? Because she can.

Apparently, in New York (q'eul surprise!) a young adult is considered old enough to be on their own, yet young enough to still be entitled to support from their parents. I'm guessing the ACLU-happy legal beagles in New York had several field days dreaming this one up.

The daughter had problems with, among other things, a restrictive curfew and a no-tolerance policy of budget for such things as restaurants and a fashionable wardrobe. "Fashionable" isn't defined in the article, but in my mind it would be equated with "expensive." Her mother does not work, according to the article, so I'm guessing that any money she felt was due to her would have come from her father. For his part, he was probably looking forward to her 18th birthday (I know this feeling) so he could put that money to other uses. Finally the girl becomes an "adult," moves out, and is on her own. She lands a part-time job and (my guess here) realizes that living on one's own is expensive fashionable. How to get Mom and Dad to pay for her heart's desires?

Sue 'em.

Ostensibly she wants to use this money to go to college. She's attending a community college, so expenses would be minimal, but her job won't pay for tuition and living expenses. Most kids would deal with that particular pressure by living at home while attending college. But she "didn't feel right" living there, and now feels that her parents should simply shoulder the extra burden of paying both for college and her living expenses while she figures out what being an adult is all about. This, she says, is "only fair."

Assuming the facts in evidence to be essentially correct, this is a powerful demonstration of the entitlement mentality under which so many of our kids are growing. The basic premise of the entitlement mentality is, "you owe me everything I want, or I won't be happy and it will be your fault." All that's lacking in this case is for the girl to stick her head in the oven, a la "Bye-Bye, Birdie!" and claim that her parents never loved her.

If I were her mother I'd offer to turn on the oven for her.

My Dad was a tough old bird, but he loved his kids. His toughness was born of a post-Depression existence being raised by a very strict and thrifty mother and having to make his own way in the world, including two stints in the military. He made no bones that personal integrity was the human value he most treasured both in himself and in others. When I was a newly licensed driver I had an accident. I was so scared of facing Dad's wrath that I hid the fact for several days, until the other guy started calling the house looking for insurance information. Once my cover was blown, Dad went through the anticipated steam-blowing exercise, then sat me down and taught me an important lesson about accountability. The bottom line was covered by this statement: "If you land in jail, kid, you can expect to be there for a few days." The implication being that I would be allowed to suffer the consequences of my stupidity before eventually being bailed out. That thought sobered me up pretty quickly, and I was little more circumspect in my activities from that day on. Oh, I was still a squirrely teenager, to be sure. But I understood Dad and took his meaning.

This new generation I'm not so sure of. They don't seem to get "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit (not the "entitlement") of Happiness."


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