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.

7 thoughts on “Adulthood is the goal”

  1. I am a control freak that why my kids don’t do their own anything lol. I have a certain way I fold clothes and how I just want things done. I’m terrible. I didn’t do my own laundry until I was about 12 or so but I was cook and baking around 9. I won’t let my kids do it. I’ve turned into such a nervous Nelly as I got older. But I am going to give them more responsibility starting this school year. I’m going to be a busy momma and they are going to need to kick in.

  2. My goal is to raise fully functioning adults, and frankly, I feel alone in that!

    So many of my friends just worship at the idol of childhood. Little precious is just PWECIOUS! Bad behavior is laughed off as anecdotal, and in the end, the little autocrat throwing a temper tantrum runs the entire family. They are raising “children”. The goal is simply to give this kid a pampered, perfect childhood.

    I have a 5 year old, and I have her setting the table and putting her laundry away regularly. She’s in charge of the dust buster thing. My battle is letting her do it because I know I could do it myself 10 times faster! It’s frustrating to be patient and let her dork around singing to herself and putting forks in the wrong spot–but that’s the way to learn, right?

  3. You’re a great mom. I wish I had students like your son.

    I was somewhat sheltered and pampered as a kid. I was made to do certain chores (mopping, washing the car). But, for the most part, my family did all the domestic stuff because they wanted me to study (this mentality is very West Indian). Plus, I was an only child. I feel like my parents really felt that I couldn’t “do” stuff without them (this, I realize, was part of their controlling, repressive behavior). I wasn’t allowed to work in college (I secretly got a job on the sly); and they expected me to live on an “allowance” of $20 a week as a college student (this was back in the early/mid nineties though). In college my grandmother would bring me food on the weekend (just like the Asian kids, lol). And she tried to continue this after college until I finally had to put my foot down! (Again, part of the control.) Still, I have a fiercely, independent spirit (probably as a reaction to being controlled and sheltered so tightly). I taught myself to cook from observing my grandmother. Kids today would probably love someone like my family who wants to do everything for them!

    My grandmother is still shocked that I cook so much and even so well, despite the fact that she never sat me down and taught me. I’m 35, what else did she expect? Plus, I love to eat.

    As you know, I’m a traveler. I travel to and fro, often alone–sometimes to not so safe countries. My family is also shocked I do this. I think truly independent people will figure things out, just like your son.

    If I ever have kids, they will be assisting me in basic chores. I’m not talking about breaking child labor laws. But, I will definitely cultivate a spirit of independence and self-reliance in them.

  4. Of course, ITA w/ everything. Everyone around these parts contributes. Even my toddler can pick something up and put it in the trashcan, for crying out loud!

  5. I relate to what both you have said, I actually get Moms who call my center on behalf of their 17/18 yo’s who need to do community service. The first time that happened I thought it was strange, at that age I had a part time job that I got on my own.

    Yet it continues into college with friends of mine who are professors saying they have had parents call about a kid’s grades. Not cool at all!

  6. When I’m hiring summer help at work, the very fastest way to get an application in the “no thanks” pile then Mom calling on the applicant’s behalf.

    I used to be pretty forgiving, after all the kids are in finals season when summer hiring happens, but I’ve learned the hard way that there’s a direct correlation between Mom-calls and kids with a piss-poor work ethic.

    More than once I considered just offering the mom a job instead…

  7. Wow!
    Working with the public I see it all the time: the parent who is advicating on behalf of her teen to make sure his community service hours are complete….the parent DOING homework for her teen because he is too busy. I am even guilty of wanting to protect my kid in the interest if helping her! I do worry for the next generation, children unable to do the basics to keep themselves a float in the world.
    Well said; we don’t need mini adults but we do need chldren who can at least deal.

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