Jewish World Review May 26, 2006 / 28 Iyar 5766
Kick the kids out of the nest, for their own sake
Ah, the season of college graduations is upon us. Many newly minted graduates have donned their caps and gowns, marched to "Pomp and Circumstance," and now they are headed home.
That's the problem. Too many of them just won't leave.
In a hilarious episode of "Seinfeld," (and weren't they all) Jerry is doing his stand-up routine. He asks the audience to imagine a grown fellow saying, "Boy my life is great. I just got a promotion at work, my bowling score is going up, and next month I might even be moving back in with my parents!" The audience laughs uproariously, because even back in the 1990s such a move was for losers.
But today fully 20 percent of "adults" between the ages of 22 and 26 live with mom and dad. That percent has doubled since 1970. Now let's be clear. These kids typically have money and jobs. They are buying cool cars, flat-screen TVs, going out several nights a week. Often, they pay no rent. They are having a great time. Only, they are not growing up.
Time magazine, in a cover article last year, referred to these people as "twixters." And it's not just about those living at home, arguably the most extreme examples. The twixters describe a different culture. According to social scientists, there's a new and permanent phase of life now for kids/adults between the ages of 18-25 and often much longer.
Full of angst about finding a meaningful "future," today they blithely jump from job to job, date to date, sometimes city to city without picking up any real responsibilities. But this time in their lives is typically not a sort of well-used grace period. It's more of an extended adolescence. According to Time, some sociologists worry that "whatever cultural machinery used to turn kids into grownups has broken down." The fear is that they may not ever really grow up at all.
One 28-year-told twixter told Time his thoughts about marriage: "It's a long way down the road. ... I'm too self-involved." Um, yeah. The sad thing is there are no longer established cultural mechanisms that will ever really cause him not to be.
I know, I know, there are often heavy college loans to repay, and the economy, and blah blah. But hey, on my first job right out of college which my parents made sure I started some 10 days after graduation, and I thought that was totally unfair I once sold my remaining postage stamps to office mates to get milk and bus money for the weekend. I would never have asked my mom and dad for it.
I just don't think student loans are ultimately why the twixters won't grow up.
Dr. Patricia Dalton is a practicing psychologist in Washington, D.C. She's written about the rise in her practice of having to deal with the various "angsts" presented by parents and adult children living together. She thinks a lot of the reason twixters move home has to do with parents idolizing their kids and continuing to make the family nest so comfy for them they don't want to leave they certainly don't have to.
Dalton says today's kids are "takers, not doers or givers."
Maybe that's what's happening even with the Twixters who don't live at home but aren't quite growing up, either. They are so used to being idolized by their parents they just can't get past "it's all about me."
Yes, there are lots of great, responsible young people out there who are disgusted with their irresponsible, self-absorbed peers. It's just that it appears the tipping point is in the direction of the latter.
Here's a suggestion: this college graduation season, go ahead mom and dad and give the kids a party. A few good meals. A lot of guidance. But please, sometime between now and the end of summer do yourself, your children, and all of us a favor: kick the kids out of the family nest.
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