I was talking to a buddy who just got back from his first family vacation in years. They went to an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas. Their two boys who are high school and college age loved the all-you-can-eat buffets, the sun and the beach. For all intents and purposes it was a great family trip. However, my friend experienced one disappointment from their vacation; he couldn’t convince his sons to go on a resort instructional scuba dive. The first time I dove in the ocean I was seven years old and it was was in the Bahamas in a resort course. My Dad signed me up and I was so excited I couldn’t sleep the night before! The really cool part was my Dad’s enthusiasm even encouraged my Grandma, who was in her 60s, to try it too! I remember the instructor making a big deal about having his youngest and oldest students ever, both of us on the same dive.
That first dive hooked me on the sport. I was certified by age 12 and spent my high school and college years going on an annual scuba trip with my Dad and seeing much of the world that way; that is at least it’s underwater portion. It was a great bonding experience for my Dad and me. My buddy’s kids may or may not have liked scuba diving as much as my Dad and I did, but they won’t ever know that because they never gave it a try. I asked my buddy why he couldn’t convince his boys to try it and he said, “Their mother is over protective and they have lived a sheltered life. They were too scared to try.”
That got me thinking. Do you know how old society now considers you to be before you’re not considered an adolescent? 30! That’s right; society deems you something less than a responsible adult until the age of 30! People say, “Oh he’s just a kid, he’s only 29, he will figure it out.” What?! How is it that an elementary school kid of the 70s would jump head first into the water and a teenager of the 2010’s won’t even dip their big toes in?! To be fair, every kid is different and I’m sure there are ones out there that wouldn’t hesitate to jump into just about any life experience. But here’s the point, there’s a heck of a lot less independent kids today then back in the day when I was growing up. Agreed?
You could, and even maybe should, blame the parents for this increasing lack of independence but by doing so you would be only further be contributing to the problem with that attitude. The problem with that is the belief it’s the parents’ or society’s fault rather than the individual for their own lack of maturity. As a parent of two young boys, I’d be the first to admit it’s a struggle to raise our boys to be independent in the society we are part of today. When I was my boy’s ages I lived on my bike. LIVED! Being driven to practice in my parent’s car would have required a category 5 hurricane to be hitting at the same time! But the society I, and maybe you, grew up in is very different than today’s. There was no such thing as travel sports though in society back then; or cell phones or texting, or Facebook or Instagram.
Is it any wonder that fewer 16 year olds have their driver’s licenses today as a percent of the population then any other time in the last 50 years? Why do they need one? They can talk to their friends virtually anytime they want and since fewer teenagers work today than at any time in our country’s history they don’t need to get to work either. The world my kids are growing up in is vastly different than the one I grew up in. This means, if I don’t work like crazy to raise my kids vastly different, they too will be considered adolescents until they are 30.
It’s a daily struggle and one I feel I’m only half succeeding at. In our house, electronic time is limited and indeed only earned when chores and tasks are completed. My 14 year old has a part-time job but his bike doesn’t get him there, we do. We work diligently as parents to instill good exercise and eating habits which has a nice side effect of getting us to practice what we preach. But when it comes to money they have such a skewed perspective that we made the extreme decision to move for a year to a third world country. It was a desperate attempt for them to gain some real world perspective. Then society intervened, as it often does, and my job forced us to scrap those dreams. Ultimately my dream for my kids is to grow up as I did learning to be independent. I would hope that’s every parent’s dream. Let us that are so privileged to be raising kids in today’s challenging society not forget that. Because after all, the kids we raise in society today will be the ones creating the society we live in tomorrow. That’s why it goes without saying; my boys will both be getting certified to dive into the ocean’s depth. I want them to learn the world is their oyster…but only if they are willing to swim for it!