My child, who is a pretty terrific kid, has no interest in growing up, getting a job, living on her own, learning to drive, or any of things I associate with maturing and becoming an adult. She is reluctant to learn how to cook, and when I ask her what she’ll do when she lives on her own, she says she’ll have a really nice roommate who will do all the cooking.
Which has got me to thinking: have my husband and I made adulting look so awful and tedious that she wants nothing of it?
We, like many, have jobs that get pretty serious pretty fast, especially in the Death and Dying Department. We get the occasional call in middle of the night or too early in the morning. We talk about memorial services over dinner (until she reminds us of the “no work talk at dinner” rule.)
We pay the bills together so she hears us talking about whether we’re ahead or behind for the month. She knows how much vacation costs, and hears us admit with some guilt and resignation that maybe we spent a little too much on getting away this year.
When I was a little older than she is now, I could not wait to be on my own, to get my driver’s license, to imagine my first apartment and my own dishes and my very own vacuum cleaner. My first year after college I shared a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan with two of my college roommates. We’d put on our suits and tennis shoes in the morning and walk to work, and walk back home, and we’d have pasta carbonara for dinner and watch “Flame Trees of Thika” on PBS. It was as glorious as I imagined growing up would be.
Since then life has intervened. There have been lean years, and job disappointments and failures, and debt. There have been illnesses and deaths that still shake me. There have been more moves than I would like, and goodbyes to dear friends. But I still love being an adult, with all the responsibility and burden; with all the freedom and agency, too.
This morning on my short drive to work I heard on NPR the last bit of an interview with Senator Ben Sass of Nebraska, who has written the book “The Vanishing American Adult.” I can’t comment on its content, but the two minutes of the interview intrigued me. He spoke about making kids work, making them do hard work that isn’t much fun so they will build up “scar tissue on the soul.”
Adulting is hard. Moving from adolescence to adulthood can be pretty painful. It’s not all fun and entertainment; I’ll admit that. But I wonder, almost every day, as a parent, if I’m doing enough to help my child build some of those muscles, acquire some of that scar tissue on her soul, so that by the time she’s 22 and looking for her first apartment with friends and buying dishes at the resale shop – so that by then, she’ll walk nervously and hopefully into the next part of her life.