Growing up is hard

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 2, 2013, 5:40 PM | comments: 0

There was a great piece on Slate about how an entire generation, now closing in on 30-years-old, is incapable of functioning in the world. I hate the idea of generalizing about an entire generation, especially after mine was labeled the slacker generation (and fuck you, by the way... we brought you Google, Amazon and laid the foundation for Facebook, you're welcome). But there seems to be more and more evidence that American society has done a shitty job of raising "kids" who are now around 30 and under.

The reasons are important only because I want to understand them, so as not to cause Simon to turn out the same way. This might be harder for us in the short term, because he has already been identified as having dyspraxia, and some degree of autism spectrum is somewhat likely when he's tested for that. Things are already a little harder for him, so it's hard to decide when to let him struggle a little, and when to help. I labor over decisions already for the most ridiculous things, like whether to give in to his demands to get water, or help him when a shirt is difficult to get off.

The bigger theme seems to be the "helicopter parenting," which means that parents are constantly hovering over kids to help them make every decision, and protect them from failure. I can understand this to an extent, because no one wants to see their kid be miserable or unhappy. But it also seems obvious to me that if a kid can't experience failure, and understand the balance of risk and reward, action and consequences, how can they ever do it on their own?

College seems to be another issue. There's a strong feeling among members of this generation that college entitles you to some measure of success. I think in this case, there's plenty of blame to go around. My generation was urged to go to school in our high school years, but it seems like that emphasis now starts when the kid is born, and never lets up. Worse, it's made out to be your ticket to success. College definitely matters, but it surely isn't the slam dunk competitive advantage it used to be.

I think there are two things that are important for making a self-sufficient human being. The first is to help them develop the basic life skills that get them through life... decision making, playing nice with others, handling conflict, self-care, etc. Ironically enough, in questioning the need for college, I think college is a great place to develop those skills if you live on-campus.

The second important thing is education, but not in the blanket, one-size-fits-all approach. Maybe college is the right thing for a kid, maybe it isn't. Regardless, I think it's important that they have context about what their options are, where the opportunities are, how they get there, and maybe most importantly, that they can always change their mind. I keep hearing about the shortage of qualified electricians here in our area, but that's a very different training path than one for becoming a doctor.

I try not to over-think this stuff, and it still feels like parenting is to a degree an exercise in not screwing up your kid too much. :)


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