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, aged 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?
I 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.