CASHMONEY asks: Why must teenagers not leave their home and start life?
Hi CASHMONEY –
Scientists and politicians and religious leaders have been arguing forever, it seems, about when life begins. Is it at birth, at conception, three months into gestation… Only teenagers believe that life begins the day they can get out of their parents’ home!
And that’s a really important part of being a teenager. Little children might fantasize about running away, but that’s generally because they are miserable about how they’re being treated. And lots of adults cling on to their parents’ homes to a degree that sometimes looks bad to others, who say “Why don’t they grow up and move away?!” But most teenagers have this enormous yearning for the freedom of getting out of the house, of making their own lives, finding their own way… or, as you said, starting their life!
Now some teens do just that. Where I live in the United States, there’s a thing called “emancipation,” where a teenager can legally leave their family and be considered an adult. Most often it happens if they marry or join the military, but it can happen other ways too. And of course some teens do just run away from home, or (in the worst cases) get kicked out by their parents even though it’s not legal to do so.
But you’re right that most teens are told to stay home. They’re told that they’re not mature enough to live on their own. That they need to behave well with their parents, and do their schoolwork, so that they’ll be prepared for the world they’ll enter when they’re 18 or so.
And there is a reason for that, and that reason is just what drives teenagers crazy, and the parents of teenagers even more so!
You see, when a person becomes a teenager, their hormones go wild (responsible both for your sudden desires and for all those zits!), and their minds go two directions at once. One direction says, “I’m being held here against my will, told to do stupid things that make no sense, and need to get out.” The other says, “No one’s taking good enough care of me!” These two views don’t seem to make any sense, but they’re exactly what a teenager feels. And when adults criticize a teen for those feelings, they’re not being fair: teenagers truly feel these things, whether or not they make sense to others!
So our societies tend to put a date on the ‘turnover.’ For some, it’s the teen’s 18th birthday: “Happy Birthday, get a job and get out!” For others, it’s graduating high school and moving to college or university, where the teen tends to get just what they want (freedom from parents but an organized stable environment, full of people their own age), in return for working their tails off in higher education. For others, it might be joining the military (which sort of offers the same things), or, of course, there might be no turnover: they might just stay home.
You see, CASHMONEY, there’s no perfect answer. There’s no moment when it would be easy for a teenager to head out to full freedom. When part of you is ready, other parts aren’t. 18th birthdays and high school graduations are just a ‘best guess’ as to when parents should ‘cut the apron strings.’
But, strange as it sounds, it is your job to be frustrated until that day. It’s a teenager’s job to question authority, crave independence, test limits and boundaries… hopefully as safely as possible… until the day they break free!
…and find themselves on a street or a campus or a training camp, wondering “Hey, what just happened? How did I get here? And how do I get back home?!!!”
And that’s part of the journey too.