I met Chris (not his real name) during a recent social function. He is a tall young man, very sociable and engaging. Our minds clicked. He was looking for a part-time job to support himself while working his way through school and planning for his future. Although his parents help him out with tuition, he has not been consistent with his schooling. We started talking, from petty stuff to weightier matters. Evidently, he is a smart kid, fun to interact with.
Chris requested for my office contact address, and I gave it to him. “Are you from this city,” I asked.
“Yes, but I don’t live in this city. My parents live here in a big home, completely paid off, with enough rooms for all their kids, and two rooms for visitors but I don’t live with my parents. I live in a rented apartment in a neighboring city because my parents are unnecessarily too strict.”
Too much information than I had asked for. He may have carried a burden for too long, and it is heavy in his heart. He had to vent. It’s healthy to do so. People have different ways of venting; some to strangers, others to friends. It wouldn’t be improper to follow his lead and allow the discussion to go the direction he wanted. Maybe healing will take place.
For a while I thought, “I hope I am not talking to a minor.” Chris is very tall, about 6.3ft, muscular and seemed to be in his mid twenties. But I wouldn’t like to presume. “If I may ask, how old are you?”
“I am twenty one.”
“Um!,” I squeaked. “You are really young.” At least he is more than eighteen. I wondered why it was a big deal for a USA-born kid of the fifth generation who is above eighteen to believe he is doing something extraordinary by living in his rented apartment and not with his parents. In Africa and some other continents like Asia and South America, it is a different story, I know but here….
“You may correct me if I am wrong,” I suggested. “Isn’t it the norm here in the States for many kids to find their homes once they are eighteen or so? Isn’t it ordinarily the expectation, sort of unwritten code?”
“It is,” he agreed. [I heaved a sigh of relief]. “But in my family,” he continued, “it isn’t because my siblings live with our parents, though one is twenty three and the other twenty five.”
This seemed unfair to me and I suppose the boy may be right in feeling he is treated differently. Straightaway I understand why he is venting his frustrations. Favoritism from parents over one child against another is not a good example, not good for the family. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t jump to a rash conclusion. Better to hear the reason he thinks his parents are being unfair.
“Why is your case different?” I wanted to know.
“Eh, eh, you know… they have these rules that don’t make sense to me.”
“What rules? Would you like to give me concrete examples so I will understand where you are coming from? I come from a family too; sometimes my parents give us instructions that seem not to go down well with us. I have been there before but would you mind sharing your story,” I pleaded.
“For instance, in my parents’ house, you have to be back home before 10.00pm everyday otherwise they will lock you out until the next morning. There are other disciplinary rules like this one which I find unreasonable and unnecessary. Are they the only parents in town? Why don’t other parents do the same….” He went on and on.
I pondered what would be wrong with this his family decision. “Do your siblings keep to those rules?” I inquired.
“They do. But they have different preferences. People are different. Think about it: I can’t even go to the bar or the club. Most good bars around this place don’t open until 10:00pm and they run mostly into midnight. Does it mean I can’t go to night club or to the bar because I live with my parents?”
As this young man was talking, I was wondering why he is thinking the way he does. When I met him during the start of the event, he seemed to be a gentleman, or at least a man with fair sense of responsibility but the more he talked, I couldn’t reconcile my first impression of him with the fixation about nightclubs and bars. I kept imagining why going to club and bars are his priorities at this stage of his life. Maybe I should find ways to lead him to think of his parents’ decision differently. Opinion from a neutral person, someone not related to his dad or his mom may do it, I supposed.
“I remember when I was about your age,” I began; “Some of the choices I made were wrong and I thought I understood modern life better than my parents. Unfortunately, over the years I have come to realize I didn’t. I could have done certain things differently. Some of my actions were wrong – thank God I am making up for them now. But there are others I can’t undo. [I paused] … Remind me again how old you are?” I asked.
“I suppose your parents are above fifty.”
“Mid fifties,” he interjected.
“Great! Consider how many years of experience they may have had. They worked hard so as to have the beautiful home you have described, completely paid off. Don’t you think they may have some advantage of experience and may have good reasons to make rules concerning domestic issues? Or do you suppose they are happy to see you sleep outside because you like to go to nightclubs? Do you think, if they were out and about at clubs and bars when they were in their twenties, they would have been successful as they are today? ”
Chris didn’t say a word. I may have voiced what he didn’t want to hear. I knew the discussion would soon come to an end. A prolonged silence followed… Finally, he muffled, “I hear you,” and walked away. In my mind, I prayed for him, asking the Good Lord to make him be the best He has created him to be, and to give him grace to make the right choices in life.