Adulthood is the goal

I often find myself thinking that in today’s world of hands on, feel good, kids first parenting that there is one key item that many of us are forgetting as parents. The goal is to raise healthy well-adjusted kids who become healthy well-adjusted adults. No matter how it feels at times, kids do grow up. I know firsthand when you are in the thick of the daily parenting grind and just keeping your head above water, it’s easy to think that today’s cute baby, toddler or preschooler is eons away from adulthood. The grown up years seem so far away, yet as a parent with one adult child, I know that childhood goes by a lot faster than you realize. The reality is you don’t realize how fast it goes until they start driving the family car, graduate from high school or go away to college. Then you find yourself realizing you have a few more strands of grey hair, wondering when they hell did they get there and more importantly who the hell is that adult in your kitchen at 2am? Oh, it’s the baby! Only if you are like me the baby stands a good foot taller than you, has a deep voice and isn’t really a baby anymore but as I tell my son, he will always be my baby!

Yet in today’s parenting world where many of us are trying not to repeat the harsh parenting techniques of our parents and grandparents, it’s pretty easy to get a child to adulthood without that child having any practical life skills. Since my son came home for the summer he has shared stories of his fellow classmates and dorm mates which are frankly disturbing. Kids who don’t know how to wash their own laundry who will let a dorm room start smelling like a stale locker room rather than do their own laundry. Kids who for the first time are handling their own money and freaked out because no longer can they engage in retail therapy as their parents are finally instituting limits and the kids are not only freaked out but in some cases down right depressed.

I might have chalked my son’s tales up to random occurrence’s until I stumbled across this piece in the New York Times and started thinking this is a problem. The other night I was tweeting about my son’s cooking, and had a few responses from folks surprised he could cook. Why? My son has been cooking since he was 8 or 9…at 10 he made me a wonderful meal of Cornish Game Hen and rice. Hell, last summer he shared his killer fried rice recipe with both my husband and I and it’s now a staple in our household. Just the other night he decided to make himself some General Tso’s using tofu which judging from the smell it came out pretty damn good and he made it without benefit of a recipe which is a useful skill.

The reality is there are way too many kids turning into adults who lack the ability to cook, clean, shop and balance a checkbook. We as parents just assume at some point they will learn these skills but how are they going to learn them if we don’t teach them? I am a big fan of bringing kids in the kitchen with me, even if all they are doing is watching; believe me they pick up things. A while back I shared some pictures I took of my almost six year old cleaning and a few buddies of mine were surprised…why? I grew up in a family where Saturday morning was cleaning day and even as a small kid there was always something I could do. When my girl was 4, I would give her a bucket of vinegar and water and a sponge so she could assist in wiping things. Too many times we focus on the fun stuff; carting kids here and there which is great but real world skills are even better and can be made into a no cost fun time.

Just last week my son flew to North Carolina and his return flight was delayed yet he was able to get a new flight into a different airport, by the time I knew of this situation he was already in Boston getting ready to board the train to Maine. A few years ago I would have been the one calling and rescheduling things but as a seasoned traveler and more importantly a young man he told me recently he feels this stuff is his responsibility. I admit it feels bittersweet but at the same time I am proud of him. I find he is asking for my help less often and while there is a part of me screaming Nooooo! I know it’s time to let go and let him stand on his own. He has friends who are lovely young men but who can’t navigate travel at 19 without the assistance of their parents. This is not good.
No one is saying we must turn kids into mini adults but at the same time we do our kids a grave disservice when at 18 or so they are launched into the world without a clue how to do the daily activities of life.

What’s Up with Generation Y?

Turns out it was hot all week up in my corner of the world. For those who say global warming is a myth I say bullshit to you. Maine is by and large a pretty temperate place to be in the summer time. High eighties and nineties rarely happen and there is still a large portion of the population that doesn’t even have air conditioning. I hate heat in any form especially when I am sleeping or cooking so I have a few window units but let me tell you this weeks’ blast of summer to the extreme made me realize that my units were not nearly as high powered as they could be. And by the way old houses while they can’t hold heat in the winter time when you want them to they hug the hell out of the heat in the summer time.

So while lots of great ideas passed through the noggin this week, I was simply too spent to actually do anything other than drink cold beverages and whine and say someone turn this fuckin heat down. However between gripe sessions I did do my daily reading and stumbled across this sweet piece of story. I am starting to think those folks at the NY Times need to hire me or some real working class folks impacted by the economy so they can stop writing these bullshit ass pieces or maybe its that the folks in New York are living in a bubble separate from the rest of us. So they are unable to get a clue on what real hard times looks like.

In any event, to recap this piece in case you don’t feel like reading. We have a kid from good upper middle class stock who graduated from college 2 years and has not found a job…oh but he turned down a job paying $40,000 a year at an insurance company because well it wasn’t quite the path he wanted to go down. So until recently this kid was living at his parents’ house while they provided room and board, he now lives with his brother in Boston and his folks are paying his share of the rent until the end of August. Oh my!  

I have a lot of friends who often say I sometimes seem older than my years and maybe that is true. Just the other night I was looking at elder boy aka the college boy now and thinking back to when I was his age. Well when I was his age, he was growing in my womb and I was getting the crash course in grown up life. By the time I reached the same age as the kid in the Times piece, I had been married, divorced on the brink of remarriage and actually was making a career change all by the tender age of 24. Nowadays I meet members of the so called Generation Y and the Millennials and often think damn, you are a lazy fuck.

Look, I never planned to become a crotchety old woman saying these things but I have to be honest in the past couple of years I have seen a disturbing trend where I encounter younger folks and the expectations are that they are owed more though they have done nothing to achieve it in the work world. Look, you cannot work a year or two and expect you are going to shoot up the ladder; you got to pay your dues.

It also says a lot about how this generation which actually my son is a member of has been raised when a $40,000 a year job is looked down at. In the real world and not just rural America plenty of folks wish they had a $40,000 a year job, no it’s not a great deal of dough but if one lives frugally it can be more than enough. Generally speaking a daily latte and weekly stops at the mall won’t be happening on such a salary yet you generally can be assured of the basics of life.

Before I decided to write this piece I actually spoke to my son since I did not want him thinking I was attacking his demographic and he said he understood where I was coming from. However he said he felt it was not the entire gen Y crowd that seems delusional about their worth but that yes by and large a great deal of his peers do see themselves starting at the top rather than the bottom.

Again call me foolish but I think there is a great deal of value starting one’s professional life at the bottom, first off you get to really see the organization, field, etc. You also are still at a point in life where you are still learning who you are , where you want to go and while making a great deal of money is nice when you are young there is nothing wrong with having a little. Even though I married young when I was between husbands I had the roommate adventure, quite the journey in young cheap living. Bottom line these experiences grow us as humans, every shit job we work in our early 20’s, every shitty place we have will hopefully stay with us when we grow up and become real adults.

But the younger generations today want it all, my son’s theory is that the media is to blame and while  I want to say nah…I think he may be right. Mine was the last generation not raised on a steady diet of cable TV, yes many of my peers were the early latch key kids but there were still kids like me who did have a stay at home parent and no TV. I have said before, I got cable for the first tine when I was an adult, in fact lately as I have been checking out You Tube and I have been stunned to learn there were actually videos for many of my favorite songs in the 1980’s, granted music videos of the 80’s were primitive compared to what today’s kids see.

The media that is constantly  bombarding our kids teaches them that in order to be happy and successful you need XYZ and sadly as a nation we have fallen for the same hype which probably has a lot to do with the financial crisis we find ourselves in. After all if I wear this label or that label I will be happy. Yet its this type of imagery that our kids have digested that leave them unable to function in the real world, after all if I watch My Sweet Sixteen on MTV or whatever reality show $40,000 often sounds like a very small sum of money and you get a kid straight out of college turning down what in reality is a adequate sum of money because we have a bling bling culture where we want lots of money.

So while I hope this is not taken as a slam on younger folks I will say it’s a lesson for us all that we need to look at the values we live by as for the young man in the Times piece, hopefully he won’t be turning down anymore jobs.

ETA: This is a link today’s letters to the editor of the Times that I think are worth reading about this topic and Scott Nicholson.