You heard about Rachel Canning, the New Jersey 18-year-old (read, legal “adult”) who is suing her parents to continue to pay child support to her so that she can maintain her adolescent lifestyle in college, at her parents’ expense? She’s moved back home to live in closer codependency with the dad and mom she has publicly maligned in her lawsuit, which she is still prosecuting. Rachel has demonstrated, however, that she is qualified for one gig, posing as the poster child for birth control. The news stories call her an “Honor Student,” but that manifestly does not include “Honor your father and mother” (Bible, Exodus 20.12). Parenting fail.
Rachel’s story reminded me of a recent report I heard on National Public Radio (if I recall correctly) of another young woman, whose parents agreed to pay for her college tuition, room and board if she would major in some field that would qualify her for a good-paying job after graduation, like computer programming. The story was that she decided that she did not want to study computer programming and so told her parents that she would borrow the money for college so that she could study something else. Maybe it wasn’t as vacuous and nonremunerative as art history, but something like that. The slant of the story was to praise her for doing what she believed to be right for her, despite her parents’ direction, and to report approvingly that her parents, seeing her courage and commitment, agreed to pay for her college anyway, with the major of her choice. My take was different. Her parents were not persuaded that she had developed insight and a positive sense of personal direction for her life. No, they realized with painful regret that they had failed to instill in her an understanding of the necessity to prepare for real life with real earning skills for a successful career, and they caved. They agreed to pay for her college education despite the fact that they knew that they would be paying for her for the rest of their lives, but if they refused to pay for college for her they would fracture their relationship with her (and their potential grandchildren) forever. Parenting fail.