Friday, March 31, 2006

The Guy-Child. Lost In Space?

WomanstudentThe girl-child is on a tear, breaking corporate barriers, having children later in life when other goals are met and generally wading into what was once a man’s world with elbows jabbing and knees flying. A derogatory comment by Harvard president Larry Summers that women may not have quite the stuff to compete with men in the sciences, cost him his job. Women are all the rage


But where’s the guy? Dropping out and going home to live with mom and dad, if you can believe the tracking statistics. Leonard Sax writes in the Washington Post that

“One-third of young men ages 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents, taking up residence in their old room, the same bedroom where they lived when they were in high school, working 16 hours a week at Kinko's or part time at Starbucks.”

Parents are pulling their hair out. "For God's sake you're 26 years old. You're not in school. You don't have a career. You don't even have a girlfriend. What's the plan? When are you going to get a life?"

One third?


LaidbackSax wonders what’s gone wrong with guys and I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong with parents? It’s not their job to hector the kid about what he’s got (or not got) in mind, but it is their job to avoid being enablers. Even birds know that. What in the name of god did they expect from all that nurturing?


Let’s face it, it’s not every young boy’s dream to be a doctor or a lawyer. There are those (and I am among them) who believe if a kid’s not deep into drugs, doesn't come home drunk, hasn’t loaded up nine credit-cards to their limit, isn’t breaking the law and is self-sufficient, he ought to be left the hell alone to sort things out.


But parents washing his clothes and setting breakfast on the table as though he was still in high school is ridiculous. Not only ridiculous, but to fall all over themselves catering to his creature comforts and complain in the meantime, is ludicrous.


Another newspaper article, lamenting parents’ unwillingness to let their kids show a little responsibility in (or out of) the classroom, may shed some light on how we came to be where we are. Valerie Strauss, also in the Post, writes

“They text message their children in middle school, use the cell-phone like an umbilical cord to Harvard Yard and have no compunction about marching into kindergarten class and screaming at a teacher about a grade.”

Educators worry about the ability of young people to become independent. Educators would do well to throw miscreant parents into the parking lot and get back to teaching.

"As a child gets older, it is a real problem for a parent to work against their child's independent thought and action, and it is happening more often," says Ron Goldblatt, executive director of the Association of Independent Maryland Schools.

"Many young adults entering college have the academic skills they will need to succeed but are somewhat lacking in life skills like self-reliance, sharing and conflict resolution," said Linda Walter, an administrator at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and co-chairman of the family portion of new-student orientation.

Somewhat lacking? A third of them running back to mom’s sheltering home and you call that somewhat lacking?

"They have been the most protected and programmed children ever -- car seats and safety helmets, play groups and soccer leagues, cell-phones and e-mail," said Mark McCarthy, assistant vice president and dean of student development at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "The parents of this generation are used to close and constant contact with their children and vice versa."

And then they complain when the kid comes home to roost.


LaundrymomIt’s a geezer mentality to complain about kids and their constant privilege, been going on since Caesar’s time. On the other hand, modern parents are guilty of entertaining their children beyond any logical limits. The youngster who doesn’t have a cell-phone, iPod, library shelf stacked with video games and a 600 channel TV in his room is underprivileged. He’s been cocooned since infancy and remains, unsurprisingly, an infant.


No wonder they want to come back to have mom wash their socks. It’s cold and lonely out there in the real world compared to the womb of a parent’s home. But why is this almost exclusively a boy problem? Likely because women still have that ‘girl thing’ to prove themselves against and boys have long since given in to the comforts of home, even if it’s not their home.


Women won’t want to hear this Larry Summers-like comment, but women on the way up share apartments. If they get serious about a guy they’re far more likely to move in with him than the other way around. So finances favor the independent woman lifestyle. Adding to the statistical probabilities, a guy is grudgingly willing to put up with his old man’s grumbling, as long as mom provides the comforts. But what woman in her right mind could possibly survive in a house with her mother?


Boys are lazy and spoiled and guess who spoiled them? The same parents who did all that supporting of their fragile little self-images and now lack courage to kick them out of the nest.


On the other hand, have you added up what it costs these days to build a nest like the one they were (unsuccessfully) nudged out of?
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.