Adult Boys – perhaps that’s an oxymoron or contradiction in terms? But, in my mind, it’s an apt description of many young adults today; many so-called “millennials,” of which I have two. My two are now out of the house and we are empty nesters. In many ways, I am quite happy and, to my surprise, adjusted very quickly to their absence. In other ways, I’m alarmed or concerned or just mystified (by their generation).
Their interest in world affairs is negligible. At my age, I was also disinterested in “the news” and anything resembling politics. I did get slightly caught up in the hysteria over Vietnam but mostly it was following the crowd versus really knowing anything about anything or really understanding it all.
What strikes me most about “my” adult boys is how much they know, how technically savvy they are, and yet how naïve they are about the world at large and about economics/money (though, in their case, they are both learning this quickly…now!). Dare I say they are not much different from their peers? Yes, I’ll dare say it. So, I truly don’t mean to single out my boys but I just know them better than others in their generation.
So, what does this mean, that they are more knowledgeable in one area and “naïve” or perhaps less knowledgeable in another area? This is the incredible dichotomy that boomer parents have inflicted on their kids (myself included). Many of us monitored our kid’s activities to an excess degree; some even went to the “helicoptering” extreme.
Every detail of their lives was analyzed and critiqued and every minute of most of their days was planned and filled with activities. The “self-esteem” movement enabled every kid to win a trophy and losing was often taken out of their lives since they might feel bad.
Failure IS the best learning experience anyone can have. Sadly, failure has almost been eliminated in primary school. Many colleges pamper their students with grades and assignments often tailored or weakened to give “disadvantaged” students an edge that their own abilities wouldn’t provide.
Naturally, all that does is set up those students for worse failures later on in life. The business world largely does not “grade on a curve.” Real life and bank accounts don’t take into account that you may have come from a bad background. It may be a shock to some, but 1+1 still equals 2. You can make it easier for some kids in the short run, only to hurt them irreparably in the long run.
Not getting overly political, this is one of the greatest failures of my (boomer) generation. We’ve overthrown all standards when it comes to education and, in a perhaps more destructive way, when it comes to any moral or social standards. Now we have many more descriptions of gender/sexuality than the LGBT designations. I’ve read about one such “class” of sexual identity that basically suggests you are whatever gender (I still prefer SEX as the name for male or female) you feel you are at a given moment – and you can switch that “feeling” as often as it feels right. Again, feelings vs. reality or standards.
I suppose I’m just old-fashioned in believing there are heterosexuals and homosexuals (including lesbians). Beyond that, I think we’re wading into very confusing and destructive models. To be clear, I really don’t care what anyone does between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. How we portray sexuality in the public sphere might bear further scrutiny but I’ll save that for another column.
Let’s get back to the central point about “adult boys” which is that they are physically mature, knowledgeable about a range of topics way ahead of previous generations of young adults, yet less prepared to balance a checkbook and navigate adult life than most any previous generation.
Vast numbers of young adults are moving back home with their parents and staying well beyond the time that previous generations had long moved out. Simple natural evolutionary events such as marriage and having children are delayed or not even considered in staggering numbers such that many countries are not reproducing enough to maintain or grow their populations (see my two columns on this issue).
We’ve enabled and babied these adult boys (and girls – I have to be inclusive). There will be a price to pay for this in the future. Perhaps they’ll never move out of the basement?