How Do You Become an Adult? And When?

I followed the link from dslartoo‘s interesting post today to Are We Grown Up Yet? Study Says Not ‘Till 26.

I’m not really surprised by the survey results. I knew that my views on adulthood—both who qualifies, and when people *should* be adults—do not agree with those of many people in the US today. I hadn’t seen that spelled out quite so clearly before, though.

At 18 I was married and supporting my husband as he continued his education. I was an adult. We didn’t get any money from our parents, and honestly, the thought of asking for it would not have ever crossed my mind. We certainly weren’t on any kind of public assistance.

I had absolutely no trouble getting a job, finding and furnishing an apartment, setting up the utilities, keeping us fed and the place clean, keeping the checkbook balanced, etc. There were no parents involved in any of those tasks. I lived in the apartment alone for a month or so before we got married. I had already been working (beyond babysitting) for seven years. Moving out was just another step in a logical progression.

My parents raised me and my siblings to be responsible people. The thought of someone being a child at 26 is obscene to me. In fact, the thought of an 18-year-old being a child is disgusting. The thought of a 16-year-old being unable to take care of both himself and (at least for short periods, say a weekend or so) take care of younger children is simply ridiculous.

For years, people thought I was much older than my actual age. I thought I must look really old. Now I realize that it was just the maturity factor. Apparently, I don’t look older than I am now and have been told that I look younger (not that I really worry much about it). Maybe my agemates are just catching up to me?

There is nothing magical about the age of majority that means “okay, you’re an adult now!” in anything but legal terms. You definitely cannot flip a switch and cause someone who has been treated as and held to the expectations of a child until his 18th birthday to suddenly, mysteriously, be an adult.

The process of raising a responsible adult human being starts in early childhood. You can do some “remedial parenting” later on if you realize that things are off-kilter, but it isn’t as good as consistent training and modeling from birth.

No, I’m not saying that children should be given adult responsibilities and be laborers all their lives. I am saying that giving them the chance to develop real skills and prove their competence to themselves and their friends and families is vital. True self-esteem is based on competence. Without skills, there is no possibility of true self-confidence.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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