Permissive parenting: what I am reminded of Chris’s parents every time I come down to visit them

Every time I come down to Melbourne and have a daily observation of how Chris’s parents interact with him and his younger brother, the more I am reminded of exactly how permissive they are in terms of their parenting style. “Permissive parenting” is also called “indulgent parenting,” where parents are not only warm, nurturing, and encouraging of their children, but also reluctant to impose strict limits. Granted, at this point, Chris is almost 41 years old, and his brother is 37, so it’s not like they are young anymore, but their parents still basically are fine with whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it, whether it’s in their house, with any of their random belongings, or with one of their cars.

Here’s what happened this past Monday: Chris wanted the three of us to go to the Yarra Valley, which is about an hour’s drive away from Melbourne. Since his parents didn’t have plans that day, I thought it would be nice for all five of us to go together, especially since they obviously want to spend as much time as possible with Kaia and us while we’re still here. So I suggested all of us go. The issue, though, is that we would need to take two cars; Kaia’s car seat takes considerable space, and so the middle seat of the back of the car would not be comfortable for a fifth person to sit in for more than a 15-20 minute ride. They didn’t want to take the second car because Chris’s brother Ben would need it to go to the gym, they said.

Ummm, what? His gym is about a 10 minute ride away, he’d be there for just an hour long workout, and his parents were willing to give up an ENTIRE DAY of fun and drinking in the Yarra Valley with us… JUST so that their youngest son could get access to their car and stay away from public transit or Uber?? I thought the idea was completely absurd.. they were being so lenient with him. And need I remind you: it’s THEIR car, not his!

I lightly suggested paying for an Uber to go to the gym, or even to take a bus. His dad didn’t want to ask and said just to let it go, and perhaps just their mom could come with us. It still did not sit right with me. Plus, I knew his dad would be sad about not going, and his mom would enjoy herself more if her husband came. I still thought it was dumb. I didn’t know this until afterwards, but Chris ended up going upstairs, saying a few choice words to his brother, and then his brother changed his mind and said he didn’t need the car anymore. I have no idea what words were spoken, but the goal was to guilt him into not insisting on using the car that day.

In the end, we all went to the Yarra Valley in two cars together and had an enjoyable day. But the impression still stayed with me regarding how absurd and permissive they were being. Their parents are WAY too good to Chris and his brother. I already know how this would have gone in my own family, and I can guarantee you: neither Ed nor I would have gotten the car, ever, regardless of the situation!

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