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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Mandatory Maturity for the Immature

maturityI don’t know how it works in your household, but there’s not a whole lot of maturity to spare in our home.  On the one hand, clinical professors of psychiatry report that brain development is often not complete until age 25-30.  On the other hand, kids are being asked to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life by the time they turn 18.

Slow down. Hurry up.

Adolescence signals a time between puberty and adulthood.  An invented idea, many would say, since it never existed long ago.  Young teens were considered semi-adults in Colonial times, able to reside away from the immediate family, often serving in an apprenticeship as a transitional stepping-stone to full independent living.  In Shakespeare’s 16th century tale of Romeo and Juliet, it’s conjectured that the couple may have been prepubescent 13-year-olds, yet considered to be adults by society.

In our time, teens may set their sights on earning their first paycheck and learning to drive.  Yet, news reports informmaturity-is-not-measured-by-age us that more and more late 20-somethings are residing in parents’ basements, playing video games, while supposedly looking for work.  What happened to shortcircuit the process?

Our family, formed by adoption, feels the yin and yang, the pull between immaturity and maturity, perhaps more so than the average family.  The children in many ways missed out on a carefree childhood, having to worry about things like finding food and staying safe. 

teens-testingAlternately, their orphanage existence, while giving some sense of chores, offered none of the responsibility normally associated with family life.  In the same way, possessions in the dyetsky dom could be lost, smashed, or stolen, because they were not true personal belongings.  Nothing much was expected of them.

Fast-forward to life with a new family, and a new home, in a new land.  How could we help the children grow in their understanding of maturity?

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Most of them came home as preteens, a couple had never really been to school, and a couple were far behind in what drug_testing_teenlittle schooling they had.  We had to pick up the pace in academics, while acquiring English, and while learning some real life skills that would demonstrate any modest level of maturity.

How to control the emotions.  How to plan ahead.  How to pick up after oneself.  How to listen and obey.  How to study and remember material the next day.  How to offer to help.  How to show empathy for others.  How to display manners and grace.  How to move from being a blank slate to a beautiful work of art.  How to attempt something and not be afraid of failure at first.  How to like oneself and feel comfortable in one’s own skin.  How to explore future purposes and professions.

Pretty heady stuff if you couldn’t even remember to brush your teeth without being told.

Pretty overwhelming stuff.

What does maturity look like in your house?


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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Leah says:

    Our culture in general sends kids schizophrenic messages. The teens and twenties in the public eye frequently excel in sports or music or acting. Some would call that “play”. The youth who are truly making a difference are not always featured in the news. Then we tell them to grow up in their twenties while the role models on TV, etc., are still”playing”.

  2. avatar Mindy says:

    I think sometimes my 16 year old, adopted at 11, acts much younger when things are not going her way – particularly in her coping skills. She seems to go back to the age when things started getting pretty rough for her in Russia. I thought of your post yesterday, when she stuck out her lower lip to pout (like a much younger child does), while she was wearing her high school’s t-shirt. I would really like to solve this mixed maturity thing. She wants to drive like her friends do, but she is just not ready, while her 12 year old sister could probably handle the responsibility of driving now if she could reach the pedals.

    • avatar admin says:

      You’re right on target, Mindy. These are exactly the behaviors that happen in our house. When things go well, everything’s good. But when a couple of them don’t get their way, watch out-! We’ve talked about coping skills, coached them, given them coping alternatives, made it “in their best interests” to get with the program… but some are ready, and some are not.

      I know what you mean about reverting back to the age when things starting getting rough for her in Russia. My husband and I once tried to help an acquaintance who was about 30, but in her form of dress, profession, choice of pals, etc., acted like she was 12. She was stuck there. Finally, my husband asked her: “What happened to you at age 12 or 13?”

      Bingo. Until she was ready to deal with that and recognize that she now had the power to be in control of her life, she would be stuck. I think that’s why mentally or verbally our kids often think of themselves as helpless victims in certain areas of life… they have never sufficiently dealt with the past.

      Thanks for the idea– I must develop this further and write a little piece about it. 🙂 Stay tuned and keep chiming in!

  3. avatar Sybil says:

    Our daughter just turned 21 last week. Thank goodness we realized she needed time as she grew up and was not on the fast paced schedule as most “home grown American children”. She was not ready to drive at 16 and waited until 17 1/2 to get her license. Even then, she didn’t go further than up to 15 minutes away in driving time for well over a year or so. When it came time for college, she said, “I’m not ready to live away from home, can I go to college and still live at home?” That was fine with us and now she is ready and will be moving from her community college to the next step. She is lucky, she realized all the things she was not ready for and was not embarrassed because of it. I would advise you with younger children to try to teach them to follow the path that is comfortable and right for them while still achieving goals they can accomplish.

    • avatar admin says:

      Fabulous advice, Sybil! Your daughter is so wise. Our children are occasionally like those with eyes bigger than their stomachs (or life experiences), wanting all sorts of privileges at arbitrary ages. We’re trying to treat it all very low-key. Their eldest brother is in no rush for his driver’s license, and will probably get it now that he’s 17 and has had the learner’s permit for a year. Another very brainy girlfriend in college just got her license at 20 and they all look up to her, so we’re hopeful. It almost seems as though there’s an inverted equation: those who rush into experiences can sometimes be more immature, while those who wait can frequently be more grounded and balanced.

      Then again, I rushed into everything (good things!), but I was born old…. 🙂

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