The first surprise is the beer. Carol and I usually have walk-and-talk lunches so asking our waitress for "the coldest beer you have" is not in the order of things. "I need to celebrate," she says by way of explanation. "Thank God they're gone."
"They" are two sons--young adults. The 20-year-old flew off to college the night before. The morning of our lunch, the 23-year-old packed up and left for a training session for his first non-summer job--as an AmeriCorps volunteer at an inner city school in a city about an hour from home. Having them in residence for the summer was exhausting--mostly because of the nagging it took to get them to do anything she wanted them to do. "Anything" covered everything from finding a summer job [neither succeeded], helping with household chores and projects, studying for graduate school exams, filling out forms for the next semester at school--you probably know the list. She found her boys to be "lazy" and spoiled--"They expect us to do everything for them without any strings attached."
Let's put her frustrating summer in perspective. The boys--young men--were 20 -somethings: "Emerging adults," according to this New York Times article by Robin Marantz Henig. "The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course," she writes, "as young people remain untethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life."
Here are the stats the author uses to back up her point: "Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s"
And that leads to this conclusion: "To some, what we’re seeing is a transient epiphenomenon, the byproduct of cultural and economic forces. To others, the longer road to adulthood signifies something deep, durable and maybe better-suited to our neurological hard-wiring. What we’re seeing, they insist, is the dawning of a new life stage — a stage that all of us need to adjust to."
And when that adjustment takes place in our home--up close and personal all summer long--it leads to a cold beer when the kids--finally--go back to school or move out to test the waters of independent life.