Grown Ups

I grew up in the sixties. I wore those clothes. I was a non-conformist — just like everyone else. I was groovy and outta-sight. I wanted to fit in and stand out. I wanted to be an adult, but not yet, not always, and not on my own. This teenage confusion was not characteristic of my grandfather’s generation. They wanted to join the adult world.

But becoming an adult was easier for my grandfather. Like most everyone else in his generation, he quit school after eighth grade. By then he knew what he needed to get by in an adult world: how to spell, do arithmetic, make change, etc. He got his first paying job at 14 and had to relate to adults like an adult, even if he didn’t carry full adult responsibility.

As a boy, he learned how to plow and hunt. His sisters knew how to cook and sew. They learned from their parents, other adults in their village, people they would know for the rest of their lives. Their teachers lived in the neighborhood, not twenty miles away. When my grandfather talked with adults it was about adult things: whether they would get three or four crops of hay this summer. My grandmother talked about how to remove tomato stains from cotton. They were “grown ups” as teens because they were expected to be, but also because they could be. That’s not the case today.

By the time I was growing up teens weren’t expected to be adults. They were expected to finish high school and then maybe college. My aunt taught elementary school at 18 with all six grades in one room, whereas my peers who became teachers all had to have college degrees or more. Today young people must be educated much more in order to have a role in adult society. For better or worse, adulthood is delayed.

It’s just not as easy to become an adult today. Informed grandparents understand that. They don’t say, “When I was your age…” and then moan about how immature young people are today. It may be true but moaning about it doesn’t motivate young people.

Let’s avoid being “groan-ups.”

Mike Shaughnessy is the Executive Director of Grandly and the Editor of the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter.

Copyright © 2017 Grandly – The Strategic Grandparents Club.


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