How Much Is A Child’s Year Really Worth? #NaBloPoMo

More on the parenting teens theme today given this is what is taking up most of my head space at the moment.

At this time of life when asked my age, I often jokingly answer in dog years. This not only paves the way for further discussion, but also serves as an ice breaker and a youth elixir of sorts. My recent parenting teens experiences leads me to question whether 18 years of a child’s life today has the same equivalency as 18 years of a child’ life, say growing up in the 50s, 70s or 80s. Or is it like dog years and equivalent to something less so that ageing in the new millennium like the value of money is decreasing in effectiveness over time?

I met a wonderful woman today in my Zumba class who also happens to be the mother of two boys. Her boys are older than mine, adult clockaged 19 and 22. We were of course sweatily comparing parenting experiences, have just shaken our wobbly bits on the dance floor for the last hour during class. She was exclaiming how both of her boys were now just starting down the tertiary education road after having travelled for a while and taken bridging courses to gain entry into university in this country. She was very proud of her boys going down this road, as she herself had not done so and wished that she had. Anecdotally she advised that most of her sons’ cohorts had also not started university straight after finishing school, but had chosen to travel, work or taken a gap year.

In the ehemm…three decades (or 4 or so dog years) since I was 18, there seems to have been a shift in how an 18 year old sees the world. We often hear that life for children is more complicated today – faster paced, more competitive and just more. There is no doubt the information age has brought with it an array of options for an 18 year old that were not available to us at that age, or not as easily accessible. For example, many 18 year olds place a premium on seeing the world and are more well travelled than most adults. Through those travelling experiences, the world of living, working and loving in a foreign land is now a reality for our 18 year olds.

But does having all these options mean that the timeline for 18 year olds have been pushed out? Is 23 the new 18 and is 18 the new 15, but with drinking, voting and driving rights thrown in (note in Australia the legal drinking age is 18)? At what point should a person get down and get serious about their life path instead of behaving like human flotsam and jetsam? And is this really necessary now anyway given that home affordability no longer seems a reality for most 18 year olds and there is no guarantee of employment after university graduation?

Am I creating a rod for my own back by insisting that my children study ahead of playing computer games and that they strive towards something other than just living for today?

life path signageI certainly don’t believe that the life path I chose is necessarily the best one for my children. We are all unique and each person should be free to choose their own path. But I can’t help thinking that perhaps we are asking our children to make their choice before they are properly equipped to do so. Are these decisions that should be postponed until my children are 21 or 22 after they have acquired a bit of life experience? Life experience that had they grown up in the 50s, 70s or 80s they would more likely have had by now?

I still have more questions than answers at this point, but I can’t help thinking that it just a different world with different challenges to when I was 18.

They say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but maybe it’s possible to put some old shoulders under a young head to offer support and guidance pending launch time.

Any feedback you wish to provide on these issues will be most gratefully received.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

16 thoughts on “How Much Is A Child’s Year Really Worth? #NaBloPoMo

  1. I don’t know if I can help – if you saw my previous comment on your last brilliant post, but it depends on the ‘child’ in question. Many are growing up quicker than their bodies. My darling 26 year old still lives for today – not a thought of what is going to happen tomorrow – no job, debts up to her eyeballs…. you can see why I stress now can’t you? My 30 year old daughter spent 4.5 months overseas just recently with her hubby – but now she has come home hopefully to roost. πŸ™‚ Different strokes for different folks, depends on their mentality and their capabilities. I went off to Europe before I hit 18 (courtesy of my parents funding) and was there for 3 months just travelling and getting into trouble. My 26 year old doing that? Not a chance! I’d have the shackles on her before she moved. Most kids now can’t afford to move out as early as what we did, so they rely on the generosity of mum and dad for many more years than what we ever would have contemplated. Ok I have rambled enough – hopefully some other readers may have something a tad more intelligent to say!
    πŸ™‚ x

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I know I’m not Robinson Crusoe on this but wanted a much needed reality check. Sometimes I think I’m not seeing clearly by being in the eye of the storm. And you comments are always intelligent, even if they are funny πŸ™‚

      • Intelligent? Oh dear..I would not have thought so- but I thank you darling. Don’t worry the storm will pass and you once again have smooth sailing πŸ™‚ xx

  2. There seems to be too many twenty-something adults out there who are floundering, unable to support themselves and still relying too heavily on their parents. By guiding my own kids to independence, I hope to avoid this, but there’s no doubt they have life much different than I did at their age (and easier). It can be hard to know when our good-intentioned ‘helping’ is actually more of a hindrance to them.

    • I agree on the hindrance point. I feel it’s quite a fine line for a parent to tread. And it’s not always easy to see where that line is. If only we had glasses that could see into the future…

  3. I do think life is different today for young people than when we were 18 (I’m stealing your approach for talking about age–dog years, yeah!). Still, your idea of “old shoulders holding up young heads” is apt–perhaps more than ever, teens and young adults need guidance to traverse the many choices they have amidst challenging economic times.

    • They certainly do need guidance. The first step though is the willingness to listen without automatically discounting and to ask for help it is needed. From a parent’s perspective, the backing away needs to be handled both incrementally and objectively.

  4. My only daughter is married with two kids. She did leave home at 18 and her now husband taught her how to get a job (mom doesn’t know anything). She doesn’t see it, but she wanted for nothing she needed (but not frivolous). She believes she lost out on lots. Giving all the time doesn’t help my daughter’s generation. They are used to instant gratification. They got it at home and now they use a credit card to fulfill all their dreams.
    Yes, I agree this is a different world but because it is more challenging and competitive, I believe they must be exposed to the real world. Does that mean travelling first? Who’s paying for it? As well, it depends on the young man or young woman. My daughter was never good with money and I wonder if I haven’t spoiled her into thinking it’s a tough world out there. I still give too much and worry how she’ll manage when I go on my first vacation for a month since her kids came along.
    Not much help, I suppose, but another side of the coin. πŸ˜‰

    • I always appreciate your insights and comments. Thanks for sharing that aspect of your life. I think instant gratification is a large part of the problem because everything is so immediate now. Of course we want to give them a good life as this makes us feel like we are better parents and then we are surprised at the result. It really is a tough one.

  5. I love your idea of putting some old shoulders under a young head, but… isn’t this the dilemma for every generational switch? How to give advice or support in a changing world? Our daugther is only 10, so there is still some time before we are facing her step into adulthood, but still… I am myself the youngest of three, no one in my older brothers’ generation went abroad after school, whereas quite a few of the girls in my class did (myself included), for curiosity, as a sabbatical (time to think or postpone decisions), and we had the chance to afterwards come back to find that there was a space for us as well at universities as in working life, whatever we preferred. I think that young people today are having a much harder time. If they have different choices, it’s less clear what those choices will lead to. Your question about “age” is therefore highly relevant, we can not easily compare or “translate” our experiences. On top, children/young people of today might end up with jobs that don’t even exist today:
    Great post, very throught provocing!

    • Thanks for the feedback. I clicked on your link, it’s very interesting. I like the concept of education in the year 2025 being fragmented and having down time from formal education. The concept of the life-logger is also intriguing, it’s very gratifying to know that the art of good story telling will not die.

      You’re right, I think the world is in transition which makes the options harder.

  6. Very interesting… I have struggled with this same idea with my daughters. I married very young (19) and was living overseas when I was 21. By the time I was 28 I had lived in several places and was a home owner and had two kids. I look at my oldest who is turning 35 this next year, she chose not to go to college and works, she is single, dating, no other major responsibilities and it baffles me. My youngest (30) is a college graduate, is married, and a mother and director of a preschool. Two totally opposite personalities, I think as parents we continue to wonder about our children and worry about them until the day we die. if you find out any other way not to do this, please let me know!

    • I think we sign on for the worry, the minute we become parents. I suppose you could say it is one of the perks. My two are very different personalities also and I wonder whether their paths will be different. You certainly squeezed a lot in by the time you were 28. I hope you’re kicking back now and enjoying all of the fruits of your hard work.

  7. Very interesting! I rather figured it was the other way round? That is: Today’s 65 year olds lecturing younger people (also including me) that we – and the millenials in particular – are too career-focused, materialistic, pragmatic, but not as revolutionary and subversive as they had been in the 1960s and 1970s? That younger people enter the serious phase too early today?? In Austria this comes up again and again in interviews with the guys who are in power today (politicians, tenured professors…) who are so proud of having lived like a hippie philosopher while studying… at a time without student fees or bureaucratic hurdles that are in place today.

    Is this a European thing maybe? We had these legendary student revolts of 1968 that make all later generations look like opportunistic overachievers and careerists.

    There is a quite a famous essayistic German book, called Generation Golf (named after the car – each chapter titled with a different historical VW ad).. alluding to Generation X, this books shows in satirical / sarcastic way how career-focused but still desperate Generation Golf is trying to make a living in times of an ever declining economy – laughed at by the previous generation who could bum around and travel the world because in the 1960s everybody who was not completely stupid or criminal landed a middle-class job … while young people try so hard today, basically writing their first personal business plan at age 15… to no avail. (Not necessarily my opinion – just trying to convey the spirit of this analysis).

    • It sounds like it might be a European thing, because in Australia the view seems to be that Gen Y is not career focused, but gratification focused with a large sense of entitlement. perhaps the revolution is taking place a little more quietly than it did in the 1960s and 1970s with Gen Y staging an entrepreneurial revolution. It seems to me that every second Gen Y wants to start their own business without taking the time to first acquire the skills through an apprenticeship. Its almost as if the thought of working for someone else is abhorrent.

I would really love to hear what you have to say. C'mon.. you know you want to!

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