Foot on the Gas, Foot on the Brake

Foot on the Gas, Foot on the Brake

Helping Families Move Past Their Developmental Stalemates

By Brad Sachs

September/October 2009

Stuart's 19-year-old son returns home on probation from his first year in college, having failed one course in the fall and two in the spring. He admits to having missed classes because of his addiction to online poker, and is talking about changing his major from biology or premed to music, even though he gave up the clarinet in 10th grade and hasn't studied an instrument since.

Carlos and Nicole's 21-year-old daughter, having graduated from college, now spends her days listlessly lying around the house, watching TV, texting her former roommates, and slowly but steadily gaining weight. She's chosen not to pursue employment or graduate school in her major (communications), but doesn't display interest in new paths, insisting that she just needs "some time to get my head together." However, it's been more than six months of this, with no observable progress.

DeShawn and Sandra's 23-year-old son, almost two years out of the Marines and now waiting tables at a local restaurant, informs his parents that his 19-year-old girlfriend is pregnant, and that while the two of them aren't going to marry, they'll be moving in together and won't consider an abortion or an adoption placement for the baby. They enthusiastically lay out an unnervingly sketchy plan for supporting themselves and their new family while she finishes community college—a plan that appears to hinge greatly on DeShawn and Sandra's regular availability for daycare, baby-sitting, and frequent financial…

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