It was an interesting conversation I overheard at Red while joining my friends for the usual Saturday afternoon Strikktreff. The differences in attitude, culture, and response are striking between what this woman was saying and what I found in my reactions. I am not completely sure if some of it is not age. But more than age is the issue of generations and what you had when you were growing up.
Let me explain. This woman is married with a couple of kids. I think her age is late 30s. They live in an apartment and would really rather have a small house with garden.
With me so far?
This desire to me is completely understandable. But what came after just blew me away. She explained that her father in law had a big house. What is more he bought a lot of fancy clothes and took at least two fine vacations a year. And, in her opinion, he just didn’t need all of that when they were living in an apartment. She didn’t see a need for him to remain in a big house when he could take that money and help them buy a house.
Whoa. I wasn’t certain that I had heard her correctly. Her father in law, who I am assuming is probably about my age should not have and enjoy what he has earned because she wants more than what she has?
I avoided hearing any more so that I could avoid sticking my nose unwanted into the conversation. But am curious – is it just me?
Most of those who grew up post war in Germany had childhoods of deprivation. Education was a luxury and most families worked hard. Rationing extended into the 1950s. As a result, there are a lot of “self-made” in my generation who probably indulged their children more than would be smart simply because it was a pleasure to give them those things which they did not have when young. This extended to education (in Germany parents have an obligation to help students in advanced studies up to age 27), and many times to starting out.
But at what point do you expect your children to earn their own way? When they are out of school? When they have good jobs? When they are married and have families of their own? And what is the obligation of adult children back to their own parents?
None of these are easy questions and I know that answers are not simple.
This woman was furious because her father in law was treating himself while she did not have a house. Notice, it wasn’t that she didn’t have a roof over her head or food on her children’s table. It was that he was spending money (the inheritance) wastefully in her opinion. Never mind that he most likely had worked his whole life, supported offspring for more than 25 years and was finally reaping the rewards while he was still healthy enough to enjoy it.
That is just my opinion and obviously I am that older generation who doesn’t think that an easy ride leads to ambition, responsibility or self motivation. I don’t have an objection to bounce-backs and reboots. Life is much harder now than it was for me 45 years ago when my limits were only what I could personally accomplish and my windmills were respect and pay on an equal basis irrespective of gender.
My four know that we are able to help them, but all resist asking unless they don’t have another option. Paying for their education gives them a start on the future. Putting a roof over their heads while studying makes sense. Helping the eldest if she decides to relocate is obvious, we have done that for the middle two. These are things I gladly do (and irrespective if it decreases my cruising or not). But thank goodness they all have more sense than to demand; that sense of entitlement just isn’t there. Perhaps they figure that I gave 30 years to the Army so that they would always have food, clothing, shelter, medical care and that it is now my turn to have all the vacations I could never take.
But seriously? I think it is because they know that anything is more valuable when you earn it yourself and that being given too much leaves you with obligations and that small feeling that you aren’t quite a grown up.
I hope that woman and her husband are able to resolve their feelings for the sake of the grandchildren. But I see nothing wrong that father in law spending every last cent.