About a month ago I texted my 17-year old daughter while she was out, asking her to stop by the grocery store and pick up toilet paper. Once she handed me the goods, you would have thought I asked her to pay for Hamilton tickets from her own checking account. “Do you know how much this cost?” she asked dramatically. “It was 13.99 before taxes. Can you Venmo me that amount now?”
While I thought it was funny, it also hit me that maybe it was time for “Adulting” lessons for both my daughter and almost 14-year old son. We spend an enormous amount of energy (and money!) as parents making sure our kids are appropriately learning the skills needed for sports, playing a musical instrument, preparing for the SAT, excelling in multiple subjects in school—-but do we ever sit down and explain a household budget? Do they understand credit card interest? Do they really know how to clean a toilet? How to sort laundry? Prepare meals?
So I had my “aha” moment replacing the empty toilet paper roll hanging on the wall with not a speck of paper left (note to self: add this atrocity to the Adult 101 Syllabus) and decided this would be the summer they would learn the skills needed to face life as an adult. Because I don’t care how much money you have, every teenager should know how to do laundry and clean a shower before they graduate from high school.
Life skills aka “Adulting” lessons for teens
The Adulting 101 class is going to be wide-ranging, yet comprehensive. Subject matter will include:
- meal planning and preparation,
- learning how to use online bill pay,
- understanding how insurance works (home, car, health),
- cleaning a house properly,
- yard maintenance,
- laundry lessons,
- debt and how to stay out of it,
- understanding taxes (to include payroll, local, property, and federal).
Soft skills for teens
Some of the “soft skills” to be acquired during the summer months will include how to be a good roommate. This means
- cleaning the hair out of the sink,
- clipping nails over a trash can,
- pushing chairs in after getting up,
- not leaving wet towels and dirty clothes on the bathroom floor
- throwing away empty cereal boxes.
Pop quizes on adulting
Other adulting skills have been a lifetime in the making, but there will be pop quizzes to ensure knowledge, including
- saying please and thank you as necessary,
- looking people in the eye when talking to them,
- disengaging from electronic devices at dinner and around company in general,
- showing kindness to strangers,
- being on-time,
- keeping promises.
It’s equally vital that we teach these skills to our boys and girls without gender bias. My daughter isn’t too fragile to put mulch down in the flower beds, and my son isn’t too macho to cook dinner. Both of them need to be able to take care of themselves —and this includes knowing when the car oil needs to be changed and when to throw out the egg carton.
I know a few adults who were thrown into a tailspin after divorce or death of a spouse because they had split household chores into traditional gender roles and were left to figure it out under the most stressful of circumstances.
Because as simple as all this seems, there are a lot of young people, and older adults who genuinely struggle with the daily tasks of what being an adult looks like. There are so many loving parents out there who want their young people to grow up to be independent and strong, yet they haven’t allowed their kids to do the tasks that enable them to be that way. The best thing we can do is give our kids the chance to practice now for the things they need to know later.
Full disclosure: it’s not going to be fun for me or my husband explaining FICA taxes or sitting over a computer watching them type painfully slow the amount due for the water bill for last month (and yes, it really is that much in that summer!). All of this is going to require extra time for both of us, but every second explaining now will save a lot of struggling in the future when we aren’t with them.
One of the biggest dreams I have as a parent is that fifteen years from now I will visit one of the kids at their home, proud to know that he/she has grown up to be a well-adjusted and decent human being. I will pull into the driveway of a house they bought, and where the garbage cans aren’t left outside. I will walk to the kitchen, and there won’t be glasses and empty plates left on the counter.
The lights will be on because they paid their electric bill, and we will sit at a dining table they bought with their own money, and eat from a recipe they found in a cookbook and couldn’t wait to make. We will sit around laughing and catching up, and no one will reach for a phone. Later, I will drift to sleep in a properly made bed with a small smile on my face, thinking that I may have made a lot of mistakes as a parent — but at least I taught them the important stuff.
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