Sometimes I wonder if we as adults make it hard for kids to want to be adults. In trying to make them responsible people, we focus on the responsibilities of adulthood, often to the exclusion of any of the joys of being a grownup. How many times have we said to kids, “This is the easiest time of your life. Enjoy it!” And they must think, “Well, if it gets worse than this, then I don’t want to grow up.” Peter Pan rules at that point.
And I think that a lot of adults have fallen prey themselves to the thought that youth is what is good and true and beautiful, and so strive for something that can’t be captured: eternal youth. Or let’s be honest, eternal faux youth, since true youth is the gift of time. If it really could be caught and bottled, some giant cosmetic company would have already conquered the world by selling it for a premium price. I think there is nothing sadder, really, than an older person trying to be cool (and by cool they almost always mean looking like a 20-something) these days.
I think it is time to make being a grownup cool again. True cool, not trendy. Cool in the sense of confidence, of being who one is, of developing style rather than following fashion. Of living honestly and realistically. Of looking at society and taking what one likes and leaving the rest behind without qualms. Of living the life of grace fully in this world, in preparation for the next. Of partaking of licit joys and pleasures with a full heart and a happy spirit. That, my friends, is true cool. And it is a winsome picture of adulthood.
I read an essay, some years ago, and I wish I could find it again. I believe that it was written by Stephen King, of all people, and it touched on this exact subject. And what I remember is that we have to tell kids that adulthood is about responsibility and jobs and such. But it is also having a set of car keys and the ability to go get an ice cream cone any time you want one. With responsibility comes joy as well. Most of us have worked hard on that responsibility part. Have we shown our kids the ice cream cone part?
I think it is helpful when there are joys and pleasures that are reserved for adults. And that we show our children that they are something worth waiting for. Sometimes it is more than good for parents to do things that don’t include the children. “This is something for Mommy and Daddy” is a good enough explanation in my book. Back in my day (granted a long time ago!) my mother had coffee with other mothers in the neighborhood. No child was allowed at that table as they sat and sipped and laughed (and I’m sure cried and hurt). That was grownup time. Ditto my parents’ bridge games. We were expected to come out and say hello to the grownups, but we weren’t to stay. It was grownup time. And they seemed to be having such a good time. And I remember thinking, “When I grow up I’m going to have a party with cake and drinks, too.”
I’m not saying don’t focus on your children. But what I am saying is keep in mind this (that my brilliant first pediatrician told me):”At any given moment you may be parenting a 2, 8, or 14 year old. But you are raising an independent and wonderful 18 year old. Keep the goal in mind.”
And I think that part of that goal should be making adulthood look like the good thing it is.