I am forty-five and a half years old and I still am not sure if I’ve completely figured out what I want to do when I’m a grown-up. Part of the problem I feel, is that so much of my early life was taken up with just getting prepared for a generalist life. The whole idea of being well-rounded was very important still. It wasn’t so important that I figured out something I wanted to do or focus on, but that I knew a little of everything just in case I need the information.
I find that it’s helpful to have a broad range of understanding and knowledge and experience because it helps a person create new ideas and connect ideas from different disciplines, but there’s a limit to how useful it is to know a little of lots of things. At some point you just have trivia and no framework within which to put it all together.
I feel like I am currently working to shake off all the crap that was piled on me in order to make sure I became a successful adult and try to figure what I want to do as that adult. I feel that the panic and fear that parents have in looking at their children and seeing that there’s no way that this person , who can’t even keep their socks in their room, remember to clear their plate from the table, or take enough showers to be appropriate in public could possibly become a functional adult.
Raising children who are developmentally children makes many people panic. They feel that they need to push these young people hard for them to become capable of taking on the responsibilities related to being an adult. People seem to have forgotten that children are developing, generally, at a typical and predictable pace and will be able to take on the appropriate degree of responsibility when the time comes. Although, research has found that the brain doesn’t fully complete its growth until aged 25ish, people are able to take care of themselves quite a bit earlier than that, generally between sixteen and twenty regardless of what kind of push they’ve been given.
Humans (okay all animals) are built to do what the adults around them do. They are built to basically replicate the people in their environment. It’s similar to genetic PASSING ON. Grownups make kids by passing on half of their DNA material. Parents then pass on their own cultural, value, life ways. Kids are basically soaked in this so they take it in by osmosis. It’s what they know and are comfortable with. They do not need to be directly taught any of it. In fact, kids will “ingest” this information in such a whole that even the parts that the parents are not happy about the kid will take in as well.
The best advice for parents is to become who you would like your child to be since that’s what your child is generally going for. Just like in DNA, though, there is both a mixture of two sets of DNA material and there is the possibility of mutations. Small things can be different than the parents and/or the combination of the two sets of DNA will make a child different than expected, the same happens with the cultural PASSING ON. A parent may want their child to follow this or that path that the parent has and not another one, but the child is their own person and may have picked up some other cultural or value material elsewhere or just the combination of who they are and the world they live in will cause a difference from their parents.
The take-away from this is that parents have all of the material to pass on, but little control over how it is expressed. It’s unlikely to have a set of parents who are extremely secular and nonreligious have a child who grows up to become a nun, although, not at all unheard of. It’s unlikely to have highly educated parents who have children who drop out of high school and pursue no further education. That is, though, if the children are not harmed in pursuit of the parents attempting to make the kids do what they think is best for them.
Often when parents get worried that their child is never, ever going to be an okay adult while viewing their lack of adult skills at ten years old, work to push the child as hard as possible to get those skills and actually succeed in putting up barriers for the child actually developing the way they would have and could have. Often all the work a parent puts into forcing their child to do and be what they want them to be causes them to be just the opposite.
It seems that we, as parents, can have such a profound and long-lasting effect on our children that we want to work hard to make sure it’s the right effect, but that’s not how it works. The child lives in the parents’ world. They breathe in the parents way of doing things and even thinking and communicating and treating others and the values they base decisions on. You can tell your children any other method, different from what you’re doing, but that’s not what they have been ingesting day and night for their entire lives. Basically, if you want your children to do something significantly differently than you do them then you will have to change yourself first.