Like many of you, I spent the long holiday weekend with family camping out. We attended a family reunion in beautiful Kulm, ND, and had a great time. But there was one moment during the merry-making that got me to thinking.
My daughter, who is thirteen and began her 8th grade year last week, was talking to one of the adults in attendance. They were talking about career and the future, and the adult told my daughter that she should enjoy her teen years, because with growing up comes responsibilities like bills, work, home care, etc.
This is a common refrain from adults to children. We tell them that their high school/college days are the “best years of their life.” We talk about adulthood as some dreary forced-march through a blizzard of chores and responsibilities toward death. And how often do adults talk wistfully of how much better their lives were when they were kids?
A lot, in my experience.
Is it any wonder, then, that kids don’t want to grow up? That we’ve got a problem in this country with adolescent behavior extending well into adulthood?
I politely interrupted the conversation my daughter was participating in, interjecting that I thought it was way better to be a grownup than a kid. Sure, kids are free of the responsibility of adulthood, but they also have none of the freedoms adults have.
In fact, I’d argue that if your life peaked in high school or college – if those are the proverbial “best years of your life” – you’ve failed.
That’s the message I want my daughter to get. That taking responsibility for yourself is a good thing. That growing up is ok. It means opportunity. It means independence. It means freedom.
On the way home my wife and I talked to our daughter a bit more on the subject. We told her that life is full of risks. Maybe you got the wrong degree. Maybe you took the wrong job. Maybe you invested your money the wrong way. But those risks shouldn’t be a deterrent to growing up. They’re challenges at which you can fail, and while nobody wants to fail, it is possible to succeed even after failure.
What’s worse than failing is not even trying. Or, put another way, refusing to grow up.
It was a positive conversation, – I’m glad we had occasion for it – and in the future I’m going to be on the watch for the sort of messages my kids get about childhood. Sure, being a kid is great, and we all have golden memories from that time in our lives. But for most of us childhood is a small portion of our lives, and it’s not healthy to encourage our children to dwell on childhood while resenting adult responsibilities.
Let the kids be kids. But also teach them that when childhood is over, it’s pretty great to be an adult too.