Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are we raising incompetent human beings?

When I was growing up, my father, a confirmed male chauvinist and bachelor, may he rest in peace, used to say to me, "There's nothing more useless than a woman who can't cook and can't drive." (We shall ignore the fact that this was a man who ate Pepperidge Farm oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast, along with half a grapefruit or cantaloupe, which his cleaning woman would halve for him.)

At the time, my response was, Why when you live in New York City does a woman need to cook or drive?!

Oh how times have changed. Dad, you were right.

But it isn't just girls who should know how to cook and drive -- and know how to keep a checkbook, and do laundry, and shop on a budget -- before they go off to college. It's boys, too.

Maybe it's because I was the only child of a single working mom, but by the time I was 13 I was doing my own laundry, making my bed and cleaning my room (daily), and cooking. And I could sew a button on and darn holes in clothes. A few years later, I was buying my own clothes on a budget.

Yet I am constantly surprised by how few teenagers today, or maybe it's just suburban teens of well-off parents, know how to take care of themselves. Maybe this isn't a new problem, and I am just more aware of it now that I am a mother of a teen. But I worry about today's teens.

I also wonder what the cause is. Is it that parents try to teach their kids these skills but the kids refuse to learn? Or is it because the parents never taught them? And if it's the latter, why not?

I would love to hear from parents, dads as well as moms, whether or not your teen (or tween or twentysomething) knows how to cook and/or do laundry and/or helps out around the house -- either via a comment or by taking the anonymous poll below.

I'd also be interested in hearing what you all knew how to do by the time you went off to college.

Does your teen...

For the record, I taught our daughter how to do laundry when she turned 13, before she went off to a sleep-away program -- and she is now responsible for doing her own laundry and putting it away. She also cooks and buys her owns clothes. We are still working on getting her to clean up.

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