The Crashing of Antlers

Hi Everybody,

Ah the subject of kids again….adult kids….again. I just thought I’d share a thought I had a while back, which occurs to me often. Someone told me the other day that when adult lions, from a year old on, meet their parents in the jungle, they no longer recognize their parents. (Now there’s a thought, no more lending the car keys, or kids home from college turning your home into a frat house for the holidays, with pizzas delivered, in vast quantities, at 2 am). And I would be very sad if my kids didn’t remember me, now that they’re adults, BUT I do think there’s a phenomenon we don’t pay enough attention to, that past a certain age, somewhere in their 20’s, when our adult kids are home, from jobs, college, other cities, or even for the holidays with their own families and kids, they become adults (quite naturally) trying to claim their turf. That’s probably some kind of law of the jungle too. Decorate a room for a 5 year old, and they’ll think you have fabulous taste every time (for a girl, do it pink or purple, for a boy, put superhero or cowboy or astronaut stuff around the room, and you have it made). But try to pick a chair, a couch, or even set an object down in your adult kid’s abode and you’ll be lucky if they don’t throw it at you. If they come to your house, they’ll inform you of what lousy taste you have, and ask you where you got all this ugly stuff and when are you going to give it away.

A male friend of mine commented to me several years ago that he used to love skiing with his son, who was in his 20’s then, and suddenly he said it was no longer enjoyable. His son would take him out on the toughest slopes, and run his a– off, and nearly kill him by the end of the day. All I could think of as he said it to me was ‘the crashing of antlers’. At some point our adult kids view us instinctively as the elders of the pack, and they want to take over as leaders of the pack and run us off our own turf. They may not be aware of it. But we sure are, as their parents, or I am. Suddenly, at a certain age in their early or mid twenties, daughters are adult women, with their own ideas and taste, and you are no longer mother and daughter living under one roof, but 2 adult women, like roommates, or 3 or 4 of them, and they want to run the show. (It’s probably a healthy reaction, although not always easy to live with). And let’s face it, there just isn’t room for 3 or 4 or 5, or sometimes even 2 adult women running the show under one roof (if you question that, try living with your mother in law. It’s the same phenomenon. You want to take over and push her into a corner somewhere, which is exactly what our daughters try to do to us, convinced that they know better now, and have better ideas and taste. Suddenly, they decide we’re obsolete, long before we are, and try to take over the reins).

And I think the exact same thing happens with men. Suddenly it becomes a competition among bucks, and adult sons suddenly compete with their fathers, and ‘the crashing of antlers’ is the result. Heated political arguments that turn nasty, games each side wants to win, and athletic events where someone gets hurt.

I am always thrilled when my kids come home to stay with me in San Francisco, and we share an apartment in Paris, but as they grow up, I suddenly feel as though I have 5 wives and not five daughters, or am living with 5 female roommates, and we are suddenly competing for space in the fridge, too few closets, and a wardrobe that overlaps—–or some really questionable comments about what I wear. (Do I comment on how short their skirts are, the color of their hair, or the fact that you can see right through a blouse? No. But they sure don’t hesitate to tell me everything that’s wrong with what I wear, own, or buy, or even try on, and not always in diplomatic terms—–all of which would look better on them, according to reports). I’ve never had roommates, or siblings I had to share a home with (I am an only child); I’ve only had husbands and children. Most husbands don’t care what you wear with only occasional exceptions (my least favorite comment from my ex husband, when I wore a new cocktail dress I really loved, “Is that a costume?” hmpphhh). And when kids are little they either love you or hate you, depending on the day, their mood, whether or not you made them eat their spinach, regardless of what you wear. It’s a LOT more delicate with adult kids.

My point is that I think at some point instinct takes over, and you just become a lot of adults of the same sex under one roof. And I think the secret to success (if that’s possible) is to treat the situation as you would living with a roommate, even if it’s just for a weekend—-with the same kind of respect. Don’t borrow her clothes and trash them or lend them to someone else, don’t slop up the kitchen, don’t leave your friends dirty glasses and pizza rinds everywhere for someone else to pick up (they’re not my friends, I didn’t eat that, is a common mantra), don’t eat everything in the fridge and never replace it (more likely to apply to male children, my daughters eat like rabbits, and only organic foods that look like a science project, usually involving quinoa or grains I don’t recognize and have never heard of). I think the roommate rules and ‘play nice in the sandbox’ rules really apply among parents and adult kids, and applies to both sides. Don’t make rude comments, don’t play the music so loud that people in another state can hear it, or take someone’s favorite CD and then lose it, or shred someone’s favorite magazine to put in the litter box. It’s all about consideration and good manners, and just being “Nice”, once you are same sex adults living under one roof, for however long. And no they can’t take over our turf, while we’re still living on it, and we are the head lioness in our own homes, or head lion, or chief stag. But I think all that crashing of antlers, and emotional pushing and shoving is really biological for our kids. If your daughter is a grown woman, she probably instinctively feels she should be running the house, and the show (and is convinced she could do it better than you do) and she may not even know she feels that way. And adult sons have an instinctive urge to compete with their dads and do them in, on ski slopes, at golf, at tennis, or just jogging—-suddenly the competition becomes intense.

I am extremely aware whenever I am sharing a home with my adult children that suddenly we are all pushing and shoving to rule the same roost, we throw each other’s food away, borrow each other’s make-up and lose it, criticize what we wear (or they criticize what I wear). But I think the urge to run the show is normal after a certain age. What we all need to remember is that at their house it’s their show (and we need to keep our mouths shut and respect their homes), and at our house it’s our show. And in someone else’s house, even if you’re related, you just don’t get to make the rules for everyone else. And as long as we’re alive and kicking, we still have our own ideas about how to run our own home. Maybe if we become more aware of those instinctive urges, we can laugh about it. It does give me a new respect though for men who are of faiths that allow them to have 5 wives simultaneously (what brave souls they must be—-not to mention 5 mothers-in-law).  So let’s all try to play nice in the sandbox, and remember whose sandbox it is. You can make the rules at your own house, but not someone else’s. Maybe remembering that will keep the crashing of antlers to a minimum……and make things a lot more fun when we all spend time under one roof. Good luck!!!

Love, Danielle

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9 Comments so far
  1. Calandra February 28, 2011 5:33 pm

    My grandmother is a very profound fan of yours. Her 81st birthday will be on March 31, 2011. Please direct me on how I can get a personal autographed copy of ANY of your novels to her as a special birthday gift. Please feel free to reply using my email address, if needed. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks in advance. I really enjoyed your story regarding your family. Thanks for being so transparent and real. You are truly an awesome woman, Danielle. I pray that God will continue to bless you, favor you and enlarge your territory for you and your family. I look forward to your reply.

    Be Blessed!


  2. P.J. March 1, 2011 11:22 am

    Having no children, brothers nor sisters, I may have no reason to speak, but think it is outrageous that any child whom you raised would be disrespectful of your home, or more importantly, your feelings. Sorry to say, but some children are just spoiled and insensitive.

  3. John Jackson March 2, 2011 11:29 am

    Mrs. Steel, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a guy who likes your work. Although my mom has been a big fan of yours ever since I was little,(I am now 27) as a boy, I was understandably much more interested in Star Trek, Star Wars, and playing with GI Joes than reading a bunch of romance novels.

    As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve learned something very important. For years, I had no idea how women thought. We are wired very differently, are we not? To my surprise even today, I wonder how much my dad “gets it,” or wants to for that matter. Although I don’t expect I’ll ever entirely understand women- that’s part of their appeal afterall- reading your books has brought me a little closer. I’ve learned from you how deeply women carry their feelings, and the importance of treating every woman, if at all possible, as being lovely. By that, I don’t mean flowers and kisses to each one, but inasmuch as I can, showing respect, pointing out what is great about them, and helping them if I can. Your books have brought out in me a kindness that before I did not know how to express, and today, I’m becoming the guy that my female friends can come to to feel validated after a tough fight with their boyfriend, an exam where they didnt do so hot, or just feeling sick, and under the weather. They know I’ll listen, I don’t judge them, and I always try to focus on what is good about them, even as I point out things that might need to be better.

    Finally, reading your books, and observing women in my own life has brought me to one huge conclusion. You women are stronger than us men in so many ways. I know that your characters are fictional, but you no doubt had real people in mind as you wrote them. Could we men deal with half of the things you women deal with in life? I think not!

    Thank you for the insight your books contain, and I wish you the very best. God bless you.


  4. ana laura de la Cruz March 3, 2011 4:40 am

    I have just finished your book ‘His Bright Light’ and I must say that now it seems to me that I have actually met your son once. You’ve done such a wonderful livid description of him that, as you wrote in the book, I fell in love with him as everybody around him did. Thanks for sharing such a special person with the world and of course with me , too. It was such a pleasure to know Nick …. I can’t imagine how proud you must be of having brought him to life, of having struggled togeher, of having discovered your own strengths as a family.
    Well, I hope you get this comment right since I speak Spanish so problably I have made some mistakes, but my intention is simply to tell you that you have reached your aim: I was able to know and love your son through your words. It must still be hard to accept his ausence but I hope that the foundations make you feel closer to him.
    I feel sorry for Nick’s father death,John.
    all my respect and my best wishes from The Canary Islands.

  5. Aaron March 5, 2011 5:03 am

    To John who commented earlier. You are approaching women all wrong. If they loved being kissed up to like you claim, why aren’t they dating you? They come to you and see you as a girlfriend and not a man.

  6. Kimberly March 5, 2011 1:58 pm

    You deserve the utmost of respect.

  7. John Jackson March 8, 2011 7:31 am

    Just a note to Mr. March, I don’t tend to see sympathy, compassion, and understanding as “kissing up.” That implies an insincerity that I do my utmost not to have. I’m also not interested in dating every woman I know, but I would like to help and encourage them if I can, just as I would like to do so with every man I run across. What would Mr. March suggest as an alternative? Hardness of heart and discord? I’d rather be an instrument of healing instead.

  8. Mona Kona March 12, 2011 1:11 am

    Dear Danielle,

    I completely understand what you mean about respecting each other’s ‘sandbox’. I wish my father would respect mine; I respect his.

    After leaving his home once I married, I knew I could no longer comment that his penny pinching ways were absolutely ridiculous. I wanted to yell that he was ‘El Cheapo’, but I never do–it’s no longer my place, literally! I may think it’s absurd, but I’ve never said he was crazy for turning down the heat to 49 degrees in 13 degree Connecticut weather, and preferring to wear a hat, scarf, robe and three pairs of socks in the house. He’s a minimalist. It’s the way he was built, and I understand that, and I want him to live the way he wants. It’s his ‘sandbox’.

    Isn’t it strange that he can’t reciprocate the same politeness when he stays over my place? He yells at me in my own home and belittles me, making me feel like I’m twelve again, and I often feel I have no place to call my own ‘home’. When I roll my eyes as he demands me to stop spraying the house with Febreeze (I have three pets so I’m always paranoid about funky smells, most often he says, “Fine, go ahead and get cancer–see if I care.” Feels like a curse. I totally understand if he demanded me not to use aerosal sprays at his home, but in my home? I suddenly feel like I can’t be me in my own space. So, yeah, I think respect is a two-way street, but parents feel like they can always use that parental card anytime they wish.

  9. susie March 17, 2011 8:12 pm

    This resonated with me as I am a woman in my twenties living at home with my parents. My Dad is really great about the respect thing- easy to get along with. He does his things and I do mine. I always think it is tough as a daughter living with Mom again as an adult- there is something about two adult females who happen to be related- living under the same roof again that creates friction- like the law of the jungle. The whole answer to this is respect on both sides.