My youngest nephew just turned 19. He’s off at college. He’s had 2 jobs, neither of which lasted very long, and he seems to me to be rather unprepared for responsibilities and the real world. But he’s not alone. The more teenagers I meet, the more I realize how growing up has changed.
At the age of 19, I’d been out of high school for 2 years, having dropped out at 17 and gotten my GED before the rest of my class had graduated. I was working a full-time job and paying for my own car and insurance. I was still living at home but only because I couldn’t afford an apartment at NJ prices, but I was engaged and planning on moving out.
So, yeah that was a whole bunch of years ago, I have to admit. And times have changed.
But what’s made them change?
Is it helicopter parents?
My own change in socio-economic status that college a norm for teenagers?
The part of the country I’m living in?
Or is it a legitimate change across the board?
Are we not requiring the right things from our children?
Are we not allowing them to mature?
Are we taking away their sense of responsibility and replacing it with a sense of entitlement?
Lots of questions, and not many answers. But I do wonder if even just the little changes are having big effects. (No mention of the butterfly effect, I promise. Damn! There it was!) For example, at my son’s school, kids aren’t just dismissed willy nilly like when I was a kindergartner, forgotten on the steps because the bell rang and my sister walked home without me. No, today kids have to be picked up. Parents wait in massive lines, creeping up in their cars, ready with their yellow taxi hang tags that announce their child’s name and grade. Even children who are walking home have to have a parent show up with a photocopied shoe to prove they can walk home. Everyone gets awards for something. No one loses at Little League.
But that’s okay. Because in the front hall of the school is a fine selection of pamphlets that give great advice on studying, learning disabilities, and how everyone can be smart in their own way. And we took three of those pamphlets, wrapped them up, and mailed them to our nephew. And nestled in one of them is a note. And that note says that if he finds the note and emails us, he can have $20. So let’s see if he’s “responsible” enough to read them.