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.