My kids, like most other I'm sure, are very curious at what point they will finally be a "grown-up." I usually give some vague answer like, "Well, according to the law, you will be a grown-up when you turn 18, but....that isn't always the case." This is a confusing and frustrating answer to them. But, I'm not really sure how to change it to make it more concrete.
It is true, that years ago in America, one could be reasonably sure that by the time a young person reached 18 they would be ready to strike out on their own and one could also be reasonably sure that they would make it. This does not seem to be the case any longer. Am I right?
I heard the other day that 25 is the new 18. While my knee jerk reaction was to say, "Whatever. These kids just need to grow up!" I realized in the next beat that that was simply not a fair assessment. I do think it's true that kids are maybe not given as much responsibility or expected to grow up as fast as they used to be; however; in their defense, growing up in 21st century America is a bit complicated.
First, I would like to compare it to what it would be like to grow up in a less progressive society. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm awfully glad that I have electricity, running water, and a car. But, what if I neither had those things or knew they existed? What if the age of maturity occurred when a child had arrived at puberty and could hunt a buffalo or prepare a meal? I am just pointing out that raising a child in those cultures is a bit of a simpler affair.
Getting a child to adulthood in America, or any of our counterpart countries, just feels daunting sometimes. There are so many obstacles they have to maneuver around, so many things are expected of them, and they have to know how to do SO MUCH before they can make it on their own.
Then, there is this concept of "educational inflation." 50 years ago, really even 25 years ago, a high school diploma meant something. Now, it really is just what you need to get into college. I know there is the odd person who makes it in today's world without post-secondary learning, but they are few and far between. (Take it from my husband, who is pursing his Master's degree at the age of 46). I remember, as a kid, looking so forward to the summer after high school because it meant FREEDOM!!!! In fact, I spent the summer at home and then the fall after I graduated I jumped on a tour bus with 29 people I didn't know and proceeded to tour the world for 3 years with a dance production. It was the best of times.
I am afraid that for my kids, the summer after high school just looks like the break between high school and "who knows how much more school." I can understand why they sometimes seem despondent about the whole thing.
But, I give them pep talks and I encourage them and I let them know that we will be their biggest cheerleaders throughout the whole process. I tell them over and over that they are smart, that they can do it, that God will help them too, that He has a plan and that He knew all along that they would grow up in this time and this place.
I don't think it's possible to overstate the above - growing up in America in this day and age is not for the faint of heart.