I ran across some information a while ago that as a mom I found rather unsettling. If you’re familiar with the story of Peter Pan you know that he lived in Neverland, a magical place where childhood never ends. It seems that Neverland is no longer the stuff of fantasy. The medical and scientific community have concluded in recent years that adolescence-the final stage of childhood-ends at or around age 25. Yes, I said that 25 year-olds are now considered adolescents.
Given the progress and advancements of the last century it would stand to reason that this generation of young people would be better equipped to handle life and the responsibility of adulthood, not less. It’s obvious that somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn. The worst part is that rather than admit that our culture is failing to do an adequate job of raising our kids, we’ve deluded ourselves into believing that this current generation of adult kids remains so because of genetics.
60 years ago, when my grandmother-in-law married at the age of 17, she knew how to manage a household, handling far more than the average housewife of 2011. She had been taught by her mother how to cook, clean, sew, bake, garden and be an all around effective wife and mother. Her young husband had the knowledge and skill to build the home where they would raise their 10 children-with his own hands. I challenge you to find a twenty year old today who can balance a checkbook, let alone build a house and manage a household. There are exceptions I’m sure, but by and large we have a generation of young people who, like Peter Pan, simply refuse to grow up, and their parents are willing accomplices in this folly.
We have a populace that is more educated in terms of theory and technology, but without the practical skills required to manage the day to day affairs of life. We have a society of young people who go through life playing pretend versions of real life without actually living it.
With three children on the cusp of adulthood, this is an issue I’ve pondered quite a bit. My husband and I have our minds fairly settled on the reality that our girls will not be full-grown adults, capable of shouldering the level of responsibility that was expected of young men and women when our grandparents came of age, and we’re okay with that. We are in no mad rush to be done with parenting so that we can get on with “living our own lives.”
At the same time, the idea that our girls, at aged 21 or 22, would not be mature enough to handle some of the basic responsibilities required of adults doesn’t set well with us either. Both of us lost our mothers at young ages and know something of what it is to find ourselves navigating (out of necessity) the reality of handling life. Yes, we had our fathers, but our fathers, both good men, are both men who were largely invested in keeping us out of trouble and teaching us to swim in the sea of a world they viewed as hostile to young black people. In other words, we had to learn to “suck up” things that our mothers may have nurtured us through more gently.
Our goal is to attempt to raise capable young people who are free to grow and learn as they live their lives but who are also prepared to handle responsibility rather than expect their father and I to care for matters that they should be fully of capable of handling themselves. I’ve seen far too many parents intervening on behalf of high school students who didn’t turn in assignments, failed tests, or missed deadlines rather than allow their kids to live with the results of their irresponsibility. This is a terrible precedent to set, and it lays the ground work for teaching our kids that bad decisions have no adverse consequences.
As a parent, I feel it is my duty to raise children who are able to accept responsibility, serve their fellow man, and view commitment as something to be embraced rather than feared and avoided. And while I am thankful for the progress and advancements of this generation, I think there is much we can learn from those who have gone before us. After all, truth and values are timeless.