Practical help for our adult children
If you're a member of the Peak Prosperity Elders discussion group, you might have adult children. I do, these adult children run the gamut of responses to the current state of the Three E's: the Economy, Energy and the Environment. I never stop being a parent but it's hard when my children are either physically distant or do not see where our society is headed. I have one son who "gets it," a step-daughter who thinks she gets it, a son who gives lip service to the idea that, as Chris Martenson says "the next 20 years will be unlike the last 20 years," and one mostly clueless son who's wife is as consumerist as they come.
How can we try to be helpful to our adult children when we see what the world is headed for? It depends on how much they are willing to listen. Since they are at different places on a scale running from "clued in" to "mostly clueless," let me use my adult children as examples.
Mostly Clueless to the 3 E's: Starting with my furthest adult child, both physically and values-wise, we have my son in NY. He and his family (2 kids) are not in NY City, but in a very densely populated suburb nearby that is a good 12 hours away from me via car. In the event of a disaster, they would be too far away to reach or help. You have to go through NYC to get to them. They might as well be on Mars.
For him, we have offered a place to come during a disaster, if they can get here. Mainly, we watch them struggle with a new mortgage, student loan debt (nearly paid), and the usual struggles of a young family. These are made worse by where they live, because the high cost of living and high taxes. The wife is at least frugal, goal oriented, and has a pantry (full of name-brand, couponed items), but her wish list is all status markers and consumer goods. He commutes to a job at a cable company–via auto–30 miles a day, each way -in heavy traffic. Their electricity comes from oil-fired plants. Not sustainable at all.
All I can do is send the two grandkids the things they want, and hope someone hits this son with the clue brick. l am quite literally heartsick to think of how they will fare in a pandemic, currency crash, or other serious emergency. But I am powerless. If your adult child is mired in the outdated world view that there will be "growth" for consumerism and "things will get better," all you can do is lead by example.
Gives Lip Service to the 3 E's: The son in FL in on the Space Coast (Melbourne) and his significant other are about an eight hour drive south of me. In the event of a serious disaster, they might as well be on the moon. I give him partial credit for understanding what may be coming down the line.
He has a paid-off small house with a small yard, and almost no debt. He's going to college while working, mostly on a pay-as-you-go model. He has a traditional job and an interest in a small business; however, both are in industries that will be severely impacted by either a long emergency or a crash. He has other skills, though, and would manage well after a crash if he makes it through the initial disaster. He's cleared the yard of his fixer-upper, but has not planted anything yet. His girlfriend is long-term unemployed but is working on three sources of income. They are big on community, in the sense that Charles Hugh Smith means it. Not quite mobile creatives, but leaning that way. I'd feel better if they built a pantry bigger than the rancid cylinder of oatmeal I saw on my last visit.
If your adult child at least understands there is a problem, you can have rational discussions with him or her on how take the next step to sustainability. It really helps if their spouse or significant other is clued in, too. Unlike my son's wife in NY, my FL son's girlfriend sees the permanent shift in the economy that's happening.
Thinks they "get" the three E's: My step-daughter lives in our semi-rural agricultural area: 20 minutes away by car, and even in the event of an EMP is theoretically reachable by bike or on foot. You've have to cross a river to get there, though. She has a pretty good-sized piece of property–1.5 acres–and it is the sort of agricultural bottom land that will support crops without irrigation but much of it needs trees cleared, and she has a fireplace. She bought the house as a bank foreclosure a year ago; it has a tiny mortgage but still needs a lot of work. She has plans for garden and seems to "get" where we are headed with the 3 E's. But she lives and acts like such disasters are a distant problem.
For her, we provide gardening support, chide her about taking on debt to fix up her place, and help her with repairs. She discovered how bad the insulation was in her first winter, and how high an electric heat bill could get. We bought her a kerosene heater to help this year. We have plans to help her insulate the house and get an airtight woodburning stove.
Our biggest worry is not that she is taking care of her disabled mother and that the disability money might stop – her mother is not getting any federal or state transfer monies at all (she gets alimony. but that's another story). Our concern is that my step-daughter SAYS she "gets it" but allows herself to be distracted into what can only be called an entertainment addiction, since she really does not want to emotionally and practically deal with what coming down the road.
Adult children that think they get it, but act as if they do not get it, are in danger but you're powerless there, too. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Our fear is that there is not enough time for her to learn the tough lessons of adulthood the hard way. But if they will not listen (we offered the kero heater last year and she turned us down, for example) you can only watch and wait.
"Gets" the 3 E's: My eldest son lives 15 minutes away by car, easily reachable by bike on on foot and–like us–close to agricultural land. He's networked into the community in a variety of ways, such as his large church and relatives in law enforcement. He has an essential job, lots of post-crash skills (carpentry, plumbing, tile, small engine and computer repairs), and has worked hard to make their small home energy efficient. He's clearing the ornamental garden in the yard and planning a serious garden and edible landscaping. The wife also works, and has numerous post-crash skills such as bread-making, canning, and cooking from scratch. They really get where we are headed, and are paying off their mortgage and any other debt as quickly as possible, living below their means to accomplish financial freedom.
Like us, they are trying to start a sustainable business while working to get resources in the current economy. Like us, they are living with a foot in the old paradigm and a foot in the new one.
Adult children who "get it" can be partners in getting ready for the New Normal. My son did a lot of the grunt work in getting our suburban homestead built; we advise him on his own things based on generational wisdom and help with resources and expertise, as needed. Until their garden gets going we share the harvest with them and their new daughter.
In conclusion, our adult children are adults. They range from 28 to 32 years of age, and range from married with children to single by choice. They range from a crushing mortgage to a paid-off house, from debt-free to burdened with credit card debt or student loans. They range from very skilled for the coming reset to very unskilled in things that may soon become significant.
And we, as their older parents, are either consulted – or not consulted. We have no control over their lives. So we worry, advise when ears are open, and live a life they can hopefully emulate.
All you can do with anyone who does not get the 3 E's–spouse, child, even parent–is live sustainably, and hope they come around – in time.
Note: If you're reading this and are not yet a member of Peak Prosperity's Elders Group, please consider joining it now. It's where our active community of "seniors" (or those approaching that age group) share information, support, insights and knowledgable daily discussion on the opportunities and challenges of building resilience later in life. Simply go here and click the "Join Today" button.
During Hurricane Katrina my youngest son and I were at a friend’s cabin in the New Hampshire Mountains. We were riveted to the television, watching the City of New Orleans collapse in real time. (We were also constantly watching the stream which bordered the property as it rose fifteen feet in a few hours when the remnants of the storm dropped heavy rain on New England.) One day, a few years later, after I had begun my “prepping” Evan asked me why I had so much water stored in the basement. I thought for a moment said, “Remember hurricane Katrina and the people dying of thirst on their roofs and in the Super Dome?” He nodded yes. I went on “Do you think that our state and city government are better prepared than the state of Louisiana was?” He thought for a moment and then asked, “Are you sure we have enough.” At fifteen he got it. He is now twenty-two. He works, has no debt. He went to community college for several years but took this year off to work full time. He has taught himself to shoot, to fish and to work with wood. He understands the cars and our truck and keeps track of oil changes, tune ups, tire repair and rotation to keep the fleet going.
My younger daughter, second child, lives with us with her two daughters. She gets it. She has gone from being the least domestic of all our children, to learning to cook and bake from scratch, pursues home remedies on the net, helps me shop and is conscious of rotating the stored food, worked with me on the soil in our town yard, getting ready to put in a garden, she is trying to absorb the art of planting and cultivating. She studies wild plants. She understands the lives of her little girls may depend on her being ready for any disaster.
My other three children. Not so much. One is a career woman, married to a career man. They have good jobs and two wonderful children but mortgage and student loans use up most of their income and their work uses up much of their time. My other two sons listen to my concerns about the three E’s but live their lives without giving much thought to what I have been trying to tell them.
Our primary home is in a suburb of a small New England city. We are fortunate to have been able to purchase a property two hundred miles further into the New England woods. I have spent the last three years making it as livable and sustainable as money and time allowed. The “camp” has a water supply not needing electricity. Cooking and heating have redundant systems and can be maintained off grid. There is plenty of room to garden and lots of wooded land for future fuel. There is game and there is good fishing in the area.
My greatest concern is timing. The five children still live close to our town home. We all work or go to school within a small radius. It would have to be some sudden, absolutely immense, disaster to prevent us from coming together. The issue for me is getting from home out to the camp. In good times we are looking at a three hour trip. The roads we would use can become impossibly congested from a simple car accident. In order to “get away” we would have to decide to leave well before chaos overtook our area. My wife and I have talked about this. I am self employed and can leave anytime. My wife has said her job is not worth dying for. My daughter with the girls will probably be in the woods days before we are. One of my greatest fears is that I will not be able to convince the others to risk jobs and property to leave until it is too late.
It does no good to hassle them about this. I speak about it when asked. I joke about new additions to the camp and about how we all could live there with some effort. They are all encouraged to spend as much time as they want there so that they will become comfortable and see it as a second home. I can only hope that some of this is sinking in and will be at the back of their minds when the time comes.
In addition to children and grand children I have very elderly parents who live near us. My parents live in their home of fifty years and are still self sufficient. They will not leave that house for any reason. I have had to accept the reality that they would not come with us in any evacuation. I can see my mother now, waving from the top of the drive and saying, “Go, go, the children need you. We’ll get along.” It is not a happy picture but it is reality.
Sorry this was so long. As with Wendy, this is a subject near to my heart and never far from my mind. I would love to hear from other folks dealing with the issues of adult children, grandkids and parents as I often feel I have run out of good ideas for moving forward in this area.
In 2008 we had a family meeting and I asked my kids to spend two weeks studying about peak oil. Math geeks the three of them, one is now an astrophysicist, one went through the Navy nuclear program and one writes for a living. At the two week mark they agreed to a family back up plan. Within three months I had sold 5 rentals and my home and bought an old ranch with water in the mountains of New Mexico. A big change from a desert city with 3 million people, and a new Wife in this land of the Bible belt, one must follow the custom of the land.
They have been involved off and on in building an off grid home and rebuilding this old ranch, they were involved in the decision to relocate. One is 8 hours away by car another is 20. The third floats between Europe and the US. We decided that they should live there lives as they chose until it looked like it might go down. And I worry if they can find their way here when it does.
They do have skills, they were raised in the out of doors and can hunt and fish and dig deep for courage when necessary. They are resourceful, they have been wet and cold and hungry and miserable. They will do better than most if they don’t make it here.
The best of plans do not survive intact, we will all probably need to improvise. My dreams of having my kids around in my failing years may need to be replaced by dreams of a neighbor’s kid instead. And so we work to build our new community and hope for time and a little luck.
Sometimes I miss my kids so that my heart hurts.
This is an excellent topic. We have a lot of kids — second marriage, so his, hers, ours, both biological and adopted. With so many (16) and all but 2 grown and either in college or grown with kids of their own, you'd think we'd have more family contact. We live in a remote part of the exurbs of Chicago, so our daughter and son-in-law living downtown come out here maybe once every 6 weeks or so for a few hours. If there were a catastrophe they might make it. We rarely see the others in Illinois — weddings, maybe a couple times a year if we go out of our way. But we aren't involved in their everyday life.The others live in Colorado, Arizona, Maryland, and North Carolina. We get together maybe couple times of year, again, if we go out of our way or there's a mandatory family event.
It's heartbreaking, but not as bad as it could be due to Skype and texting and so forth. However, when the SHTF all that could break down.
What to do? I'm with the camp that thinks that the voluntary bonds of community with the random people you happen to live closest to are what will matter, for better or worse. Take the time to forge those wherever you are; I guess that's the only thing and may be a good habit to get into, as the bonds of family and clan can be exclusionary and increase the 'them vs. us' thinking that can be so destructive.
Thanks, Wendy. Good topic.
This is a wonderful topic, and it struck my heart, even though I am childless by choice. Several years ago, one of my sisters, reflecting on my "carefree" childless status, asked "well, what do you worry about?" Without hesitation, I replied, "your kids."
Wishing my adult nieces and nephews as fulfilling lives as possible, I have been sharing the Peak Prosperity message with them for years. I sent them The Crash Course DVD many years ago, and have been sending them articles from the site on a regular basis. It is always on a "you might find this interesting" basis. I am just an aunt, after all. On the occasions when I have sent a deluge of articles, I've apologized. Their responses have dismissed the apologies and have urged me to keep sending.
My sister has remarked that the seeds of information I have been sowing have been germinating. One nephew, still single, became determined to purchase a house in the suburbs, but, thankfully, was outbid every time he presented an offer. (I think I need to send him some of Jim Kunstler's rants about suburban housing). I had the opportunity to suggest to him that housing in his area was still in a bubble due to investor buying and other factors, and urged him to delay purchasing. About the same time, Peak Prosperity was emphasizing "productive" assets, like farmable land. Naturally, I forwarded these articles to him. One of the articles discussed how a small property could produce a significant amount of food. (I wish I could remember the title). This apparently made a real impact on him, and now he is exploring the purchase of property where he could develop, if not a small farm, at least a sizeable garden and orchard plot.
Another nephew could be a Chris Martenson clone. He has been gardening (organically) and raising chickens for years, and recently collaborated with a neighbor to join their gardens into a larger one with the neighbor providing drip irrigation. In addition to his development of his property, he is very much into developing a supportive community. He enjoys all of the permaculture articles I forward from the PP site. For him and his young family, much of the information I send is likely to be reinforcement of his efforts and lifestyle.
Both of these young (in their 30's) men have university educations and a plethora of practical skills in all aspects of construction. They have ended up in firefighting jobs, so they have paramedic training as well, plus plenty of time to pursue a resilient lifestyle. I hope that the information from PP (and other sites, like The Automatic Earth) will continue to help them prepare for the future.
On the other hand, a niece and her husband (and two young children) are leading a very affluent lifestyle with no thought that things might go awry in the next several years. What I send to them falls on deaf ears.
As an aunt, I don't have the "authority" of a parent, but I think that I'm in a good position to introduce some ideas that may or may not take hold. At worst, my niece and nephews might think what I forward is just some more stuff from crazy old Aunt Kathy. At best, the information I send may help them forge a resilient future.