My house was recently designated as being “teen free”.
This is because my youngest two children just turned 20. They are twins. They are both in college, away from home. I only physically see them when they come home on breaks.
Turning 20 means they have run out of youthful brand names. After spending a lifetime transitioning from infants to toddlers to kids to tweens to teens they have finally run out of developmental designations. There is no such thing as twentyagers.
Instead they are mercilessly classified as emerging adults or prolonged adolescents or worse, Zoomers.
It is a cruel fact of life that this age of transition is burdened with the penultimate designation of adult, from which you can only graduate to deceased. Because there is no clear definition of what an adult is, or how you get there, or when. Or even, why?
Of course the quickest way to determine whether you are an adult is to commit a crime. The courts are pretty good at determining when you are no longer a juvenile.
Watching my son and daughter turn 20 is far more traumatic for them than it is for me. I’ve done it before. It took several years, but I did it.
And I get what they are going through. It’s not that they feel like they are losing something, it is more that they know they have to face something. And that something is coming sooner than they feel ready for, even though they don’t really know what that something is other than a nebulous concept associated with taking responsibility for things they don’t yet know how to do.
Like realizing that doing laundry sucks and they have to deal with it forever. Like realizing there is no one to ask when dinner will be ready. Like realizing that cell phone service comes with a bill. Like realizing they don’t have something called a credit history but need it to get a credit card. Like realizing they are making decisions that impact their future.
Like realizing that my advice is probably useless because I don’t realize that things are different for them than they were for me.
Let’s be honest. It’s not all that much fun. I am not entirely sure why anyone would choose to be an adult if it wasn’t thrust upon them.
For a time my twentyagers don’t have to worry. They can still come home and wipe out the refrigerator and take the car and leave their dishes and dirty clothes all over the house like the teenagers I know and love. And they can always ask for help.
But at twenty, the clock of expectation starts ticking. And it is a lot louder for them than it is for me. Because frankly, I like it when they are around. But I am guessing that after living two decades living with me as a dad, they don’t feel quite the same way I do.
It took me a long time to become an adult. It is something I am still working on. I started supporting myself soon after graduating from college, but it felt a little aimless and messy. I was also hungry a lot and lived in a dirty, ramshackle house with struggling roommates who, like me, were still missing that part of adulthood that recognizes cooking and cleaning as prerequisites.
But I did work and pay rent and that was one small step forward.
And sometimes I partied irresponsibly and forgot to pay bills and took a step back.
I think I first felt like an adult when I bought insurance. Buying insurance is something only adults do.
Getting married was also an adult milestone. But in reality my wife and I had each other so it was a lot easier for me to engage in adulthood as a team sport. And obviously, I could not have become a parent without her.
Now, as an adult, I understand that being an adult and acting like an adult are two different things. And it is possible to do both at the same time. Because being an adult is a state of mind. You aren’t really an adult until you feel like an adult. And you can still feel like an adult even when you act like a teenager.
Even when you make bad decisions.
Even when you ask others for help.
Even when you feel lost.
Even when you feel like a bad parent.
Even when you have to ask your kids how to work your phone.
So I don’t worry about my kids. All I see are capable twentyagers who are poised to thrive in a bumpy world they are inheriting from adults like me. I know they will figure it out, despite my help.
OK Zoomer. You’re OK.