It’s Not All Mary Poppins

This is “Responsibility”?

Florinda posted on this article a few weeks back, and I’m just getting around to responding to it here. (UPATE: Here’s the article Florinda wrote.)

You should really go read the original article, but, in brief, the writer suggests that the responsible thing for adult children to do upon graduation is to go live at home for a few years. Pay down their debt, explore career options, get themselves sorted out while living with mom and/or dad, and then, when they’re established, get out and get going.

You know, as the parent of an almost-22-year-old (who is living on her own after having graduated university), and an 18-year-old who is living at home while he works and takes a gap year before attending post-secondary school, I am acutely annoyed by the article. (And yes, my son is paying rent.)

“Responsible?” In that entire article, there is not one single reference to the parents in this equation. No acknowledgement that it’s their home, too. No, wait: not “their home, too“. “Their home.” Period. The article expressed no awareness that, having had their child out of the house for four or five years, the parents might prefer to preserve their hard-earned parental autonomy. How “responsible” can it be to simply assume one can return to the nest as a chick, without any reference to the needs and realities of the people who own the nest?

The self-absorption is appalling. It’s not “responsibility” he’s describing here, it’s expediency and sheerest self-interest.

In the article, the author wonders “why do we … try to go from adolescent to adult in a matter of weeks or months?”. Hello? What were those four or five undergrad years all about? Obviously, the writer thinks that university students are in an extended adolescence until the very moment of graduation.

Strange, I’d always thought that the four or five years of university or college were supposed to be the transition from adolescence to adult. They certainly were for me — but, oh, that was before the dawn of time and is no longer ‘relevant to today’s experience’. Excuse me. However, those four years also seem to have done the trick for my daughter, who is 21, and for many of her friends. Guess what? People do grow up in university, even in this day and age! Imagine.

A large part of the problem probably lies with the parents in the equation, of course. Who has given these “children” the idea that it’s all right to continue to be children into their twentes? Who allows them back, and doesn’t charge them full market rent? Who infantilizes them so that they can’t make it on their own in the face of normal life challenges?

The article is a pathetic rationalization of a fundamentally unhealthy dynamic. If we’re adolescents until our late twenties, that’s a whole decade frittered away. Why would parents encourage extended childhood in their adult-age children? Oh, that’s right: because we see childhood as nirvana and adulthood as something bad.

Yup, I’m annoyed.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | controversy, my kids, parenting, socializing | 28 Comments