Monday, August 23, 2010

Daddy gets his shoe out... or

Can these Twenty-Somethings ... saved?

I was standing in Micucci's blessedly short checkout line last Saturday afternoon when I overheard a conversation (Quelle Nosy Parker!) between the attractive boomer guy in front of me and the petite forty something gal ringing up his groceries. They were having a mutual kvetch about their respective kids. Both had offspring in their twenties who couldn't seem to just get it together and truly get out on their own in the world. They keep coming home! Always need money! I don't get it, the guy moaned. While the gal at the register nodded her head up and down and back and forth repeatedly lamenting: I know, I know.

.... Ahem! Can I get in on this conversation? They both smiled at me and turned to expand their little improvised den of misery. You too? Uh huh. How many? Two. What's with this anyway?

In the end we all agreed that our gut feeling now was that we had done too much for our kids. That the cumulative effect of years of 'being reliably there' and giving them so much had, somehow, incapacitated them, rendered them incapable of the kind of survival we had all managed by the age of 20 or so. You know, a habitable apartment, full time job to pay for it yourself, bills, etc. roommates or no. But On Our Own. No money from the 'rents and fully responsible for cars, insurance, food, pretty much every aspect of our own lives. Our kids were supposed to have somehow benefitted from all we managed to achieve decades ago, but have they? Well... according to the gang at Micucci's checkout, to many of my friends with twentysomething kids, and to the New York Times , in a word – NO.

According to a psychologist whose work is the main subject of the Times article, there's a new 'phase' in human development: emerging adulthood. A phase kind of like adolescence only older. I personally find the professional arguments cited in the article against this theory more compelling than the theory itself, but that's just me. I base part of my opinion on the young, fully emerged young adults I encountered on a working ranch out West in Wyoming this spring. Young people who simply HAD to show up early every day and do the do, over a long day, and, as I've mentioned before, if they didn't manage, or somehow failed in their appointed tasks, someone loses a leg or arm, or an animal dies. In short, serious shyte ensues.

The important point here is that they all were possessed of a palpable sense of self and place I found amazing. Not to mention refreshingly wholesome. And they weren't sourpusses; this might disappoint the shrink in the Times piece. They were genuinely happy 'kids', fully adult yet youthful and sometimes funny, but confident, polite and damn nice to be around. Modesty was a prized virtue among them Somehow they all grew up in America without becoming accustomed to "Good Job!" every time they blew their nose.

[OMG! I think I've got it! It's the Good Job praise overload that's the cause of the late (or never) blooming twentysomethings! They think they already have jobs, that just getting up in the morning and maybe making the bed and washing a cup is the job. And that we are the ones who should pay them! I really think I'm onto something here...]Italic

You've heard me go on about this before, so I won't repeat myself. but for anyone who is interested, read the Times article and see what you think of all this " theorizing". For my money, the following studies I stumbled upon offer a more interestingly nuanced view of why this generation of twentysomethings can't seem to get it together.

First let's look at jobs. The Youth Labor Market in Thirteen Developed Countries, over the last 27 years for example. This one's a doozy. Puts to rest some myths.

And here's something you might want to take note of if you're thinking of not attending or graduating from college: "The Recession Is Accelerating the Shift to Jobs Requiring Postsecondary Education." Hmmm.. This conclusion comes from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Report of June 2010. Just chock full of interesting facts pointing to a pressing need for "youth" to have a college degree in the coming decade(s) of recession if they plan on being able to put food on the table and pay the rent, what those degrees should be related to, which industries to focus on, etc. And if, as the report states," Our Postsecondary System Will Not Produce Enough Graduates" to run the show, where will they come from? And what will those without that education do? And will be the result of not enough tertiary level (post high school) education graduates?

Who's likely to start and finish college? Which countries spend more seeing to it that their students have access to higher ed? What factors are more likely to make young people believe they're more likely to go to college? Which subject test scores are likely to reveal those expectations? How does family income affect this? The OECD 30 country report 2007 Education at a Glance may surprise you. (There are more recent ones but this one caught my eye.)

[By the way, all of these studies either directly or indirectly found funding through the good ol US government. And if all these shrink- the- government- Bush- expanded right wing congressfolk and their fans would only do their homework, they'd see that government actually produces some useful studies like these with our tax monies. Trouble is they never read them! They way they go on about it you'd think they're trying to cover up the fact they can't read!]

All this adds fuel to the firestorm around "Why isn't our children learning" to get it together, as W so eloquently queried. Read the executive summaries and see what you think.

I know one thing, and this may just be anecdotal, but I've heard it so many times it's started to take on a viral frequency, and it strikes me every time i see yet another smug, saggy pants, know nothing, "young adult" flaunting their ignorance along with their plastic water bottle, cancer defying ciggy, and latest God- what- a- waste- of- good-money, look-at-me!, no- thought- for- the= future tattoo. I have now witnessed more times than I care to count that many a twentysomething, when backed into a corner about their failure to step up, will lash out with "your generation screwed everything up for us!" Yup. Heard that just one too many times now. From several young sources, some angry, some just bitter or desperate. All cowardly. Lame excuse, that one. For doing nothing in the face of so much that needs doing.

Lazy? Lazy, scared, whatev. Exhausted with VEO, voluntary electronic overload. What's a good excuse?

Like they say in AA: any excuse will do.

That shrink in the Times might want to step out of his ivory tower and take a look at why some young folks are managing their lives just fine and others not, rather than offer the slackers a highfalutin excuse for slacking, for surrender to despair. No one ever said life was supposed to be easy. Or did they? I guess 'they' did. But anyone who's experienced it can tell you one of life's true joys is the satisfaction that comes with the dignity of hard work and a job well done. No pat on the back needed... a reward in itself. It's part of learning who you are and what you're made of. It's a humility of sorts that keeps you honest.

I remember how my dad always told us his generation had it so much harder, and they did! And we knew it. It's a bit harder for us to make the 'I worked after school through the Depression, ate dirt, and liked it' argument. Dad knew 'spoiled' when he saw it! But I also know that, like me, it gave him pleasure to spoil us now and then. Sometimes I wonder what he'd say about all this 'emerging adult' stuff.

One thing's for sure –

he'd have his shoe out while he said it.

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