- Family and Parenting
Is an 18 year old person really mature enough to be considered an adult?
So you think you’re an adult?
Hello, I am a Father. For the record, my definition of a Father is not a person who donates a bodily fluid, then goes on his merry way neglecting the life and/or lives left behind. No, a Father is someone who is there day after day, bent upon being there to love his children, and to offer up his wisdom which has been learned through the ages on the field of hard knocks. Now, just because we offer that wisdom does not imply our children will hear, accept, understand or put into practice any part of that wisdom. Far too often it falls upon deaf ears, and we are relegated to the sidelines while our children, whom we love more than anything else on this earth, force themselves through the same, or very similar, situations that we tried to prevent. So, we watch and wait, knowing, or hoping, that at some point they will come back to us, sometimes in tears, asking us to make it all better. What I am now speaking of is that curious and often painful age called eighteen years of age. So many things are happening at or around that age that many of our children say and do things that we would have bet our life savings on that they would never have said or done. There are growing pains which occur before that age in life: sixteen and driving; thirteen and no longer a child; nineteen and about to leave the teen years behind. But nothing I have come in contact with approaches the age of eighteen. That age beats the others hands down. That being said, per our wonderful government, at this self same age our children are considered adults, and are eligible to become killers; to decide on the future of our country and our government; or to infest their bodies with tobacco; or even worse.
Lest you feel that I am not qualified on this subject, allow me to quantify myself. To begin with, I lived through this time period myself, and survived more or less intact. I dated, fell in “love” (ah, the pains of that timeframe boggle the mind!), had a job working forty hours a week, went to school, and generally did everything a person of that age could do or be exposed to in the mid to late 70’s. While I did not smoke, drink, or do drugs, I associated with many who did all of these things on a daily basis. I raced my car, and placed myself into situations from which I was fortunate enough to learn from without destroying my future. Many I knew failed to learn, and have now gone the way of the dodo.
In addition, I am the father of no less than eight, yes I said eight, children. My first marriage ended in divorce after twelve years and three sons. If there was a mistake to be made as a parent, we made it. Once the divorce was final, I did my best to be a Father to my boys, but fate intervened, and even though I felt I made the correct choices regarding them and their mother, in the end they chose their mother. Why, I have no idea. She drinks, smokes, has (and may still) used marijuana, has not maintained a steady job since 1984 (although in one 12 month period worked at 18 different jobs, quitting or being terminated at each inside of a week), and later married a man who lived off the government due to his heart issue. The heart issue in question was due to his heavy use of illicit drugs, which damaged his heart to a point where he fulfilled the qualifications our government have set forth in order to become disabled. Quite a “Leave it to Beaver” family, don’t you think? But none the less, they wanted that life style. The eldest did make it into college, only to fail to receive his diploma due to quitting just short of the requirements. Why, I don’t know. The middle child dropped out of high school, and eventually married. His wife became pregnant after they were married, and when I spoke with him concerning their future, and the fact that they needed an income to provide for this child, he informed me that “he was going to give his wife the gift of having a job, and caring for him and the child.” The GIFT of having a job, while he sat at home playing video games? Yes, he was eighteen at the time this occurred. Does this seem to be an adult decision? It certainly doesn’t to me. The youngest son also dropped out of high school, and to my knowledge, neither of them has returned to even gain their GED. Yet, they have the opportunity to vote on our leaders, to enlist in the military and fight in wars, and to smoke should they so desire. But they cannot legally drink; no, that is too far out of their age bracket. In short, they are adults according to every requirement our society has declared necessary. Yet, their mentality is such that they are unable even to acknowledge the need for an education, a job, or any normal way of life in what I feel to be what our civilization demands. Now, I do not advocate drinking at such an age, but by the same token, neither do I believe these children are ready intellectually to go to war, to smoke, or to vote.
Let’s speak on the privilege that is voting for a moment. Once you turn eighteen in the United States of America, you are able and expected to vote; even though some of the youth that are of age are still in high school! In times past, when our country was founded, people lived a much harder and shorter life, so perhaps this age was appropriate. People of that earlier time expected to live perhaps forty to fifty years of age, thereby only able to vote for about half of their lives. They were more informed and worked far harder at a job earning pay than a large group of youth today. Today, our youth do not work nearly as much, either at home or at a job. Rather, they spend a vast amount of their time playing video games, “hanging out” with friends, or other non-sensical, non-value adding pastimes such as this. This is not to say there are not informed, intelligent, moral eighteen year olds in America today: there are. I’ve met some, and they are ready to take on the world head on. But there are far more who could care less about others, including their families. Look around you: look into the eyes of our youth today. They are so consumed with themselves they cannot see the values we have attempted to impart in them; values which will serve them well for the rest of their lives, and serve America well. So, perhaps we should change the age of what is considered to be an adult to a much more appropriate age of twenty one. After all, it is at this point in our lives that our government has declared us of age to drink alcohol. Surely killing ourselves with tobacco usage or killing our own kind in warfare equates to the age of drinking, don’t you think?
Now, I’m going to show a direct result of this voting at eighteen. In our town, which was hit by a massive tornado just over a year ago, the high school seniors have literally changed the course of our fair city. Our school district was devastated by the loss of numerous school buildings, and even though the insurance paid for what was lost, the administration decided that is was insufficient for what their vision of the schools should be. By in excess of $60,000,000.00. So they appealed to the voters during the election this spring. The proposal was to increase the tax on habitations within the city limits, so as to raise sufficient capital to build a bright and shiny, and highly technologically advanced, school district. It will be one of the best in the state, they say. However, the populous were very concerned, for the tornado had stripped away many homes and businesses, and insurance was not always covering the bills incurred. Money was tight. Oh, there were donations coming in and a tremendous amount of volunteers ready, willing, and able to help clean up after the disaster; but due to the loss of homes and businesses, the fact remained that there was less income actually in the pockets of a great many of our citizens. The administration felt the undercurrent of hesitation of the population who knew they were not going to be able to incur this additional hardship for years to come. Why not build a good, solid school with just the money received from the insurance settlement, we asked? No good answer was forthcoming. So, the administration knew they had to do something extreme to get what they desired. They set forth on an ingenious scheme to gain voters who they knew would support them: the students who would be graduating that year. They played heavily upon the students who had lost their high school, and built in them a desire to “make it better” for the remaining students. They held rallies to have the graduating class of in excess of 400 eighteen year olds to be qualified as voters. They held fundraisers to gain support. They fed the students donuts and such in order to gain their support. It worked. The vote passed by 47 votes. The eighteen year old student: children of the community with no property taxes to speak of voted for the rest of the community to support this vision for a high school that the majority of the citizens who would be required to pay the taxes for it did not want. Did they think about what additional hardships they were thrusting on their parents and grandparents; aunts and uncles? No, not for a moment did they take into consideration others needs or feelings. They were high on the pride that goes with a school which was destroyed, and even though they themselves will never attend the new school, and most likely never pay a penny towards the bill they voted in, they said “it’s okay for you to pay for it. We won’t, but you do it!” Is this an adult decision, this thinking so much of yourself and not for your fellow man? Not to me. It speaks of the general childhood these children are still abiding in; not working for and paying their way; not caring for the majority of their fellow citizens, but rather only looking out for themselves. Not a mature decision at all.
Another situation which has erupted in our household involves our eldest son. When I remarried some years after my divorce, I married a lovely woman who was blessed with four children of her own. Two each boys and girls, they were a joy to be around. The eldest, a girl, has been an especially studious student, graduating among the top of her class, and going on to do the same in her college studies. A member of the National Honor Society in both high school and college, she is exactly what you want as a parent to have for a child. Our eldest son, a couple of years younger than his sister, was the same for the majority of his life. At least, up until the past eight months. It feels as if literally when he turned eighteen, he attained (at least in his eyes) the ability to tell us no; to not be required to follow the house rules that had served him so very well for the beginning of his life. He decided to stay out later and later, and to spend nights with his girlfriend. I hesitate to call her such here, but that at least is a kind way of putting it. She has grabbed a hold of his common sense, and turned him into a person that my wife and I fail to recognize. We tried to reason with him; we have talked, cried, yelled, grounded, everything we can think of. All to no avail. We even tried taking his vehicle away. He still stays away. He has now moved out, saying he cannot live by our rules; that they are not for him. He has stopped paying for his phone, for his auto insurance, and even coming to our home to say hello. All because we want him to attend college; to spend his nights at home; to not go partying every night of the week; to work and save some of his money against a situation which may arise that calls for him to have some money. Horrible, aren’t we? He at least does work at a job, although he is on his third job inside of a year; but he mooches off of friends and their families, or stays with his girlfriend and her single mother. His money goes to his activities, which include gambling at the local casinos (which are more than willing to take your money once you turned that magical age of eighteen), buying food and drink daily at fast food restaurants, buying cigarettes, and generally blowing though the money as fast as he can get it, with no regard for tomorrow. Adult decisions? No, not in the least. His Mother and I did our absolute best to raise him to be the best he can possibly be, to give school the dedication required to see his way into a future and a job that would serve him well, and to ready him for any family that he chose to have rather than struggle along at menial jobs that cannot pay the rent in today’s world. Instead of seeing that future, and becoming his future, he has thrown it all away on some young tart. I know he may eventually come around to see that what we have struggled to put upon his plate is the best choice he could have, but will it be too late? Will he already be a father, flipping burgers at the local burger joint? Or will he become another of the faceless crowd who require; no, demand our government’s assistance to survive; assistance which hard working persons like my wife and I and millions of others are called upon to pay for their choices even while we struggle daily to provide for our own household? We pray for the best, yet fear the worst.
To me, the bottom line is that while our children may be even more advanced in some areas than we were at the same physical age, in many ways these same children are more childish than we were. They may be more advanced in the “ways of the world”, but they are also more selfish, more into themselves in so many ways that actually, they are more children than adults. I fear for the future of our children, and this nation, if we do not take some kind of action in order to hold our children to a higher standard than they currently are held to. We need to hold off of handing over the reins of the nation to them. We need to change the age of maturity to twenty one years of age. At that point, they will be better prepared to defend our country; to make more informed choices about their own future; and to make those same choices for their fellow man. Eighteen is still a child in so very many ways.