My first summer as a single parent was already sweltering upon me when my two teen sons heatedly approached me one morning to proclaim,
“Mom, we’re tired of you treating us like kids. We want adult responsibilities.”
Rushed to get my toddler to pre-school and myself to a meeting, I agreed to give their request some thought and get back to them about it that evening at dinner. I then found myself wrestling with their request the rest of the day, recognizing that they already had so much more expected of them than many young people their age. As I inventoried the situation, I at least felt relieved that sports and work schedules lessened their time for certain other extracurricular activities, but I also knew that summer still afforded them too much time on their hands. It took quite a bit of reflection before I was ready to decisively act. However, by dinnertime that evening, I realized they had actually assisted me in being more prepared to become a change agent of our household in granting their request.
As we sat down to dinner, my teens immediately broached the subject, again complaining that I didn’t trust them and treated them like kids. They reminded me that it was time for them to transition into adulthood, to which I reluctantly agreed – then asked them to wait until after dinner for a family meeting.
The meeting began with me facing two very smug looking young men, prepared to be victorious, as they confirmed their request for adult responsibilities and watched as I slowly, yet somewhat sadly, nodded my head in agreement. From there, I proceeded to hand them each a list of adult responsibilities that I thought they should consider, officially posting the master copy to the refrigerator. I watched as their expressions completely changed to shock upon a quick review of this task list of adult responsibilities. It consisted of things such as doing the grocery shopping, making family meals every third day, paying for a portion of the mortgage and utilities, making a plan to set back their boarding expenses for college, transporting their younger brother to daycare, and buying their own clothing. These were in addition to the expectations they already had upon them, such as making their own car payments, mowing the lawn, and doing their own laundry.
My oldest nearly stuttered his words, “Mom, this is not what we meant, and you know it.”
I’m sure my look was quite smug at that point as I reiterated,
“No, what you meant is that you wanted adult privileges. But you have to be willing to accept adult responsibilities in order to experience adult privileges.”
Obviously, the Family Adult Privileges Act underwent some major re-negotiations at the table that night; however, we walked away with a working document by which all agreed they could live. Of course, everything continued to change as these young men truly did continue transitioning into manhood and out of the house; yet that Act still comes up quite frequently in conversation among our extended family members.
My young men have now experienced the dreadfulness of failures when undertaking some adult responsibilities, as well as the need for balance in experiencing adult privileges. They now understand the importance in differences between the two, as well as how the two so closely correlate.
And I now understand this may have been the greatest leadership moment of my life in enacting my own adult responsibility as a parent, privileged to assist my children in their transition to adulthood.