Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Hundred Years Ago I Would Be An Adult (Part 1)

I feel really cheated. A hundred years ago, girls my age were married and had their own house and their own kids. They cooked on a fire and made elaborate quilts and waited for husbands as young as they were to come home. A hundred years ago, boys my age were officers in the army, schoolteachers, business owners, independent farmers, captains in the navy, scholars, writers, newpaper editors, scientists- anything you would think of as being 'Adults Only', people my age did it.

(Let's overlook the fact that a woman's life was much less interesting and varied than it is now.)

I'm their age. I could be a politician, a captain, an editor, a scientist, an 'Adult Only' anything. Instead, I'm seventeen. People act surprised when I use words longer than three syllables. (They act surprised when I use words shorter than three syllables. I was the only one in my class who knew what the dole was. How sad is that?) I've never worked outside of my home (volunteering and digging my neighbor's garden doesn't count). I'm nowhere near ready to get married, let alone have children. I start to sweat inside when I consider getting a job and working my way though college. My tongue ties itself in knots in every social situation. (Communication I can do, no prob. Conversation, not so much.) I've had twelve years of education but I don't know how to drive or do any kind of plumbing.

I'm a child. I'm their age. But they are immeasurably older than I am.

Why? Is it because humans have evolved so that childhood has gradually extended into what could and should be the beginning of our adult years? Or- more believably- is it something self-imposed?

It's easy (as a homeschooler) to point at the public school system as the cause of this extended childhood. But it goes farther than that. Even after school, people are encouraged to be childish. If you feel like it, do it. If your class is hard, drop out. If your boss doesn't like you, find a new job. Buy things before you have money- a grown up version of endlessly 'borrowing' money from parents. Put off 'getting old' as long as you absolutely can. Side step responsibility.

This is the culture I'm growing up it. And it's hard to rise above it and grow up. It feels like defying gravity. No matter how hard I flap my arms, gravity will win.

Maybe having a long childhood doesn't seem bad to you. I'll explain why I- and everyone else- is being cheated by this attitude in the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Those "good old days" also had children that had only a few years of schooling because their parents needed them on the farm. There were children working in factories and mines, as chimney-sweeps and cabin boys.

    I look forward to your next post, but *I* certainly don't want to go back to those days. Children deserve a happy and safe childhood, and the chance to be educated before having to support themselves for the rest of their lives. Does that mean they shouldn't learn responsibility and a work ethic? No, but they shouldn't be forced into a trade before they have a chance to learn what they might actually want to do!

    You're lumping a lot of things together that aren't necessarily a part of the same thing. Is the fact that most adults live on credit really related to not being "an adult" by 17? (Maybe it is!)

    I think our age of technology goes hand-in-hand with many of the attitudes you describe. We no longer have to work as hard to get the same results, so we get lazy and/or take them for granted. What is your solution to that? Should we do away with all our labor-saving devices and go back to making our own soap, candles, and washing clothes by hand? (Shudder!)

    Anyway, I'm curious about what your further thoughts on this matter are. (: Love ya!