We teach our kids that they can be anything they want to be. We encourage them to go far in school, to take every opportunity and to conquer the world. We teach them that they're brilliant, special, and that they deserve so many things. But do we teach them to make adult decisions?
You see, we send kids off to college, with the expectations that they will figure things out. But is that the right way? What would it look like if, instead, we had kids truly explore different career options, brought in trade school representatives and brought in real networks for gap year programs (instead of just paying lip service), and honestly validated any career aspirations they might have? Why not give them an idea of what their futures could look like, rather than pouring expectations down their throat, expecting them to "find themselves?" Why not give them the ability to decide whether or not academia is truly for them rather than attach those futures to our checkbooks and their lack of financial independence?
With that, why don't we encourage kids to start commandeering their own finances? Why not encourage them to start their own lemonade stands, dog walking services, and do extra chores for that iPhone? Why not encourage them, when they're older, to take that CPR class so they can babysit or really push them to get a summer job as soon as they're old enough. With that, why don't we teach them how to budget and save and allow them to make their own mistakes with money (provided nothing illegal or immoral)? Why don't we give our children the message that they can control their own futures with their pocket books and give them the tools to be responsible for themselves?
Why don't we encourage kids to own their own faith, instead handing them religious coloring books and promising it's "all over" after their Confirmation or Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Why don't we encourage them to ask questions and have serious conversations with them about the various scriptures we read? Why don't we encourage their curiosity about God, rather than freak out about their supposed asceticism? Why don't we give them practical applications for faith, such as opportunities to serve other people, to lead a community, to take their work seriously, and to build lasting relationships? Why don't we encourage them to question, at least so they can gain a deeper understanding or be honest with themselves (and God) about what they believe?
And, while I'm thinking of it, why don't we teach kids to take control of romantic relationships? Why don't we encourage them to see behind their companions lovely eyes and smile straight into the heart? Why don't we encourage them to honestly consider what they want in a partner, as they should consider their careers and general life directions? Why don't we encourage them to focus on becoming the person they want to be, rather than the person a supposed significant other would want them to be? And why don't we encourage them to consider serious decisions such as marriage and family when they themselves are ready (whether that be early twenties or late thirties), rather than when they've got their first child's college fund already saved?
A twenty-two year old adult should be able to function as an adult. By this point, we're above the age of majority and probably have made our own mistakes. Even if we can't see the next 80-odd years crystal clearly, we should be able to stand on our own, make responsible choices and take control of our futures. We may be young but that should not equal powerless. We also have strength, vigor, and intelligence. If we can take care of ourselves, we can take care of the world. Let's go after it.