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.

Nope, I’m not Amish just cheap

I’m a city girl by ny ature despite the fact that I live in Maine, hell I was born in Chicago and spent almost 30 years there.  However after 7 years in Maine, I will admit that some “Maine” ways have crept in..Mainers by nature are a frugal lot. Folks in Maine will freely sit used shit on the side of the road so it can be recycled and no one and I am talking folks I know with millions here have any shame in hitting a thrift store. In fact rich folks here seem to go out of their way to not seem rich, generally the only outward signs is that they may have an oceanfront house which even in Maine still costs a lot.

Nope, Maine folks take pride in being frugal and its something I have come to appreciate. That said, as I have been connecting more and more with old friends and associates from back home, I am a lot more conscious on just how wasteful I used to be granted I still am wasteful by Maine standards.  I have also come to appreciate that its just wasteful to spend money on shit you can do yourself which is one reason I have become interested in learning to sew and knit. It looks relaxing but also over the years I have become a sucker for buying anything handmade that in theory I could make myself for a fraction of the costs.

Look, we all would like to believe that we are always going to be financially comfortable but the truth is that for many of us that is no longer reality. When I met the Spousal Unit he was a college grad pulling in a solid salary, now his field and career are in flux and the cash flow we used to have simply doesn’t exist. Now, I am not going to toss his ass out but I have had to have a paradigm shift in how I view the world. Weekend getaways just for the hell of it simply don’t exist any longer and while I could be bitter about that, what would be the point?

Instead I focus on what we have (good health, great kids and love) and look at our new financial reality as a time to make changes and seek the fun in those changes.  I know some folks I know wonder why I seem to put such effort in home cooked meals, well they are tastier than most outside meals, cooking can be fun and in most cases it also saves money.

I also think that as adults we owe it to ourselves to know simple shit like how to cook (opening cans doesn’t count) do simple home improvements , and even know how to sew our buttons back on our clothes. See, my Mom and Granny had the full array of domestic skills yet I chose not to learn them as a kid and they didn’t pressure me. So now I am hitting close to 40 and barely can sew a button back on which really is stupid. I taught myself to cook early in my first marriage when after months of eating out of a can, I was getting sick as a dog.

Yeah, one could count on earning a lot of cash or marrying into money but shit happens and its best to be prepared. Also 5 years of home ownership has taught me that hiring folks for every small problem gets costly as hell so I now hit the library and google to try and assess problems before I start calling folks. Just yesterday I asked my neighbor for help in the garden.

Living in such precarious times, its not about trying to live like the Amish but just as many of us prepare ourselves by going to college for our professional lives we also need to well rounded in other areas too. The ability to take care of the home and hearth are actually pretty useful skills to have and you can never go wrong knowing how to cook a meal.