Saturday morning I woke my 16-year-old son Talmage earlier than he had hoped, and asked him if he would go with me to work on our church’s welfare farm. In his usual easygoing manner he agreed without argument, but was quiet for our 20-minute drive to the farm. We were just two of a small group of men, and a few boys drug along by their dads, volunteering to help clear a new plot of land of rocks in preparation for spring planting of corn.
Talmage listened to the stories of our group as we joked about our younger years and expressed concern on the state of the next generation of boys to enter adulthood. He quietly worked and listened as we heaped seemingly unending quantities of rocks into piles.
As we made our way toward another section of the field strewn with thousands of rocks that needed our attention, Talmage said, “Dad could you tell me a story of when you were younger and you got into trouble being mischievous?” I of course denied everything with a smile so that he knew not to believe me. “What do you mean? I’ve never gotten into trouble!” “Dad, I’ve heard a couple stories so I know that you did.” he said with his own smile.
In that moment, I sensed that my son might have been looking for evidence that his own dad was more like him than I let on. Talmage wasn’t asking simply to be entertained with fun stories. He wanted to affirm that he was normal, that he was still “on track” to turn out just fine even though he didn’t love working like we men seemed to.
I’ve heard it said that expecting a 21 year old to be independent today is like expecting a 13 year old to take care of himself a couple of generations ago. All I can say is…really? Are we raising kids that unprepared? Is this delayed adulthood completely fine and we have nothing to worry about?
Well, I believe that we do have reason to be concerned about our boys and young men. I believe that there are far too many boys delaying responsibility for far too long, growing up confident in their video gaming skills, but scared and insecure when it comes to the prospects of needing to fend for themselves and eventually a family.
Societal factors are certainly playing a role; I acknowledge that. Marriage rates are going down. Age of first marriage is going up and being put off longer. Boomerang children are becoming the norm instead of an anomaly, and we have a new stage of development that we’ve never had before called “Emerging Adulthood”. It seems that there is no clear event now at which a boy moves from dependence and childhood, to independence and adulthood. Adulthood just kind of “emerges”.
This month’s Notes From Home is on boys and the challenges they face in the world today. I hope you will find inspiration in the sound advice and research reported here. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
To Your Family’s Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.