Recently, I read an article about a high school in Kentucky that hosted an “Adulting Day.” According to TV station Wave 3 News, the students of Bullitt High School in Shepherdsville, KY had the opportunity to skip their core classes in favor of learning basic life skills in preparation for independent living in college and beyond.
As one would expect, the word “adulting” in the title of the article set naysayers off immediately.
In one Facebook post, commenters mused why parents weren’t teaching kids how to write checks and change tires. “Bring back Home Ec!” they commented and “These skills were taught in Shop class when I was in high school!” And, yes, it’s true: the amount of students enrolled in family and consumer science (FCS) classes has dwindled over the last few decades. According to NPR,“In 2012 there were only 3.5 million students enrolled in FCS secondary programs, a decrease of 38 percent over a decade.”
Others commented about how teenagers today have become “soft” and I read comment after comment by adults stating that kids needed “safe spaces to learn how to boil an egg” or that “they’d probably cry if they were faced with having to change a tire on the side of the road.”
Real mature, guys.
As I read through the negative comments by adults who seemed hell-bent on disparaging teens for their lack of basic life skills, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience as a teenager.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I had no idea what I was doing with anything related to life when I was 18.
And, newsflash: I bet if you were honest with yourself, you’d admit the same.
I had no idea how to write a check until someone taught me.
I had no idea what a household budget looked like or how to set one up.
I had no idea that homesickness would feel crushing in the first few months of college.
And, to this day, I’d be screwed if I had a blow out on the side of the road. All I can say is thank God someone taught the nice AAA employee to change tires because I still can’t do it at the age of 44.
I was born in the 1970s with my feet firmly planted in the Generation X playing field, and I wasn’t prepared to tackle adult problems. My generation wears it as a point of pride that we are independent, self-motivated, and more successful than our parents. We are the OG latchkey kids, the kids who dealt with a rising divorce rate, and a time in our history when the economy was in full swing. Ours was a generation filled with flashy ’80s fashions, conspicuous consumption, and the best music ever made.
We were also just as clueless about life when we graduated college. Remember Reality Bites?
Seriously, people, we need to give teens a break when it comes to learning basic life skills. We need to support them as they seek out ways to deal with anxiety and homesickness when they first arrive to college. They are learning, just like we did “back in our day.”
And, guess what?
The teens of today are smarter than we are because they are actually asking for help with learning how to navigate the transitions to adulthood.
I don’t know about you but I would have given a school like The Adulting School in Portland, ME all of my money when I was in my 20s.
Because I don’t mind telling you that it’s pretty damned embarrassing to have to admit to the man you are going to marry that you’ve never once balanced your personal checkbook because you legitimately had no idea how to do it. It’s true: when my husband heard of my “I put money in and hope money comes out” financial plan, he almost passed out.
When it came time to merge our finances before we got married, he patiently sat at our kitchen table and explained words like “debit” and “withdrawal” and “reconcile.” Okay, maybe I wasn’t that bad at balancing checkbooks but it was close. The man is a saint and, thankfully, he’s the reason we have nice things because I’ve never firmly grasped the concept of balancing a budget. Or spreadsheets.
My point is that we are so quick to blast teens today for not having the skills they need to survive as adults, yet we chastise them for seeking out ways to be independent. And we were in the same damned boat when we were 18 so everyone needs to take several seats before crying “safe spaces” and “big babies” in regards to our teens.
I can distinctly remember learning how to make a scrambled egg from a roommate in college. She showed me how to crack an egg, beat it and shove it in the microwave until the eggs were fluffy (hey, it was the 90s, okay? We weren’t looking for gourmet dining). I didn’t learn the finer points of cooking for a family until my mother in law spent hours with me each Sunday to teach me the basics.
I was a clueless 18-year-old and yet I have managed to grow into an independent, self-aware adult not because people laughed at my ineptitudes but because people helped me figure things out along the way.
So, let’s applaud teens for wanting march into adulthood with a basic grasp of how to file their taxes and managing their credit cards. And, maybe, just maybe, if you are nice to the teens around you, they’ll teach you how to use SnapChat.