Something for the Young People

Lately I’ve been pulling punches.  Holding back.  Trying to be some sort of bland hot cereal that appeals to everyone. No one likes that.  Spicy, at least identifies a tribe.

If you are between the ages of 15 and 23, I am going to tell you something that it seems no one else is saying. While I am by no means speaking to every person in that age group, I am addressing a trend.

Here’s the deal.  I think I can say this because I am older than the number on those black balloons at the party store. And if you ever throw me a party with the black balloons with my age on them, I will assure you, in sign language, that you are “number 1″ and walk out.  I am already “that old lady”.

I digress.

Here’s the deal.

You can do adulthood.

I apologize for my generation.  We’ve made it look awfully freaking dismal.  Except for, apparently, the alcoholism cocktails.

No wonder so many of you guys put on your snap front, short sleeve cowboy shirts, throw on one of those tiny knapsacks with a string, hop on your scooters and wander off to find yourself.

Some of you look in bars and farmer’s markets and ratty old buildings with chalkboard signs.

Some of you go to school, but have no idea what you want to do, and when you graduate, you aren’t sure you want to work.

Let me just answer that: you don’t.  Here is the disservice your education has done you.  Starting with the Dora the Explorer panties or the Avengers toothbrush, we made every non-negotiable task negotiable.  Until it looks very much like you get to choose the glory tasks and opt-out of the @#$% tasks in whatever path you take.

Sorry.  That’s on us.

Here’s how this should have gone.

Dad:  Now you’re going to brush your teeth like mom and I do.

Kid:  You’re joking!  That’s fantastic.

Dad: Yeah, because also, your teeth won’t rot out.

Kid: Man, this big boy @#$% just keeps getting better and better.


Mom: You’re too big to wear diapers.  You’re going to wear regular underwear and use the toilet like Dad and your sister and I do.

Kid: I don’t know how to do all that.

Mom: That’s why they call it potty training.

Kid: Wait, what’s ‘potty’ mean?

Mom: That’s a baby word for the commode.

Kid: So no more strangers working me over in the church nursery?

Mom: That’s the deal.  AND, when you poop you won’t have to sit around in it until we get where we’re going in the car or I get the casserole into the oven.

Kid: I’m all in.

I’m mostly not joking.

You were created to grow up.  The culture casts parents as buffoons and the child as the guru on the mountaintop.  “The wisdom of children” is simply more pressure to talk like a poet.  You aren’t supposed to be responsible for deciding Every. Single. Thing. when you are 6 or 7 years old.  When you get up in the morning when you are 7, you should pretty much know that your parents have this @#$% nailed down and all you have to do is step into the template.  There are clean clothes in the dresser and closet.  Put some on and be open to editorial revision by your mother.  Comb your hair.  Present yourself to the breakfast table and eat what magically appears there.  At the bus stop, you should find yet another hardworking adult waiting to deliver you into the classroom where your teacher has a lesson plan and doesn’t require guidance from people who don’t possess the skills she is employed to teach.  At the end of the day, give a nod to the bus driver and chuck your backpack on the entry floor.  Eat your “4 food group” approved dinner and relax for a couple of hours.  Take a bath and get in bed.

You might need a team sport or piano lessons.

But not really.

By the time you are 13, you should be able to follow the above with the exception that you should be able to make dinner.

If you are 15 and you can’t make dinner.  Call me, I will teach you how.

You can do this.  You can grow up.

Adulthood doesn’t suck.  And there is more privilege to adulthood than the beverages.

Work is not a punishment.  It’s what we are made for.

You were made to grow up.  A very wise man wrote a book before you were born that discussed the fact that we were pushing the curriculum down and adultifying kids’ clothing.  So, somehow, we interpreted this as people should be babies as long as they can be.

My generation has not allowed you to grow up.  We might teach you to do some fun skill at a really early age for our own entertainment, but as soon as you start telling us your life plan, we start digging our heels in.

“You don’t want to go to that school.”

“You don’t want to study that, there’s no money in it.”

“You are too young to choose a life partner. You are not ready for marriage.”

Incidentally, I have never heard a parent say, “You aren’t ready to get a job and stop living off me.  Why don’t you go to Europe for six months or a year?”

Young adult, you are ready to grow up, get an education, enter the workforce, and discern an appropriate mate; in any order that life serves itself up to you.  One caveat:Being young is not an excuse for poor decision making.  A lot of damage has been done by the expression, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission”.  Yeah, that’s true.  I can repair drywall, but I can’t spackle your soul, Chickie Baby.  Use your head.

People also say, “Don’t let your life pass you by.”  Usually they mean surf and skate and have sex with people you don’t know and drink until you blackout.  No red flags there.

I think I saw this trend emerging and couldn’t speak to it and then I went back to school and met a lot of young people who do know what they want to do with their lives.  They are working hard at strenuous jobs and making commitments and following through.  It really shined a light on the prevalence of this issue in the lives of our friends and relatives.

The truth is:  You are not ready.  It’s like cliff diving.  You can’t just stand there until you are ready.  You leap and get ready in the air.

There is no perfection. There is only good.  Good takes a lot of work.  People gotta work.  I didn’t say, “Other people gotta work.”

Sometimes, you are ready and too lazy to get on with it.

It isn’t difficult.  There are no secrets.  Choose your path.  Show up for your commitments.  Don’t make excuses.  You might suck.  But.  The sun comes up tomorrow.  With new mercy.

I believe in you.













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