Young Adults, Growing Up

Deb Lewis, January 2014, when her son was 22:
I have a sweet story and a thank you. I've been on this wonderful list (Always Learning) since its first days, and used to write more often. Then I took care of my mom for awhile and didn't write as much. There's a different story in there about how unschooling principles help in other parts of life, and in other relationships, but I'll save that one for another post. This one is about a grown up unschooler.

I got hurt in the fall, not seriously or permanently, but as Christmas got closer I was still feeling hobbled and pitiful and decided I didn't have the steam to put up a tree. We're not religious, but I like Christmas trees. I like unpacking ornaments each year and rediscovering them; The old ones that used to belong to my dad, the baby ornaments from Dylan's first Christmas, twenty year old homemade cinnamon ornaments that still smell like cookies, the gifts from friends, and the silly or beautiful ones we collected over the years. I am not overly sentimental, but I enjoy this season of nostalgia. I didn't decide to skip it lightly.

The Monday before Christmas, secretly and quietly, my son Dylan retrieved the Christmas lights and garland from our crawl space under the eaves. Then, after I went to bed Monday night, he set up our Christmas tree. He did it all so quietly I didn't hear a thing. I came downstairs in the early morning to a lighted Christmas tree! A Tuesday-before-Christmas miracle! Later that day he fished the ornaments out of the crawl space and I got to unwrap them, and remember, and smile.

This kind of thoughtfulness isn't exclusive to children who've been unschooled, but it's one example of how sweet a relationship can continue to be with grown children. Everything you do now, when your kids are young, matters. All the little kindnesses matter, every little moment of sweetness between you, every time you choose to be thoughtful of the smallest things.

Dylan is twenty two. He has a job at a small, private saw mill. The man who operates it usually runs things on his own, milling blue pine, mostly for custom orders. He knows my husband, David, and our family a little. When he wanted help for a big order he asked Dylan. That order has long been filled. He kept Dylan on. Dylan is kind of small, about 5'4, and slim. The man he works for is a giant. The work is labor intensive and requires a lot of lifting. He didn't hire Dylan because he was big and strong, he hired him because he knew he could count on him.

I want to thank Sandra, and Pam, and Joyce for all their good thinking and writing. It helped me decide every day, for years and years, to be better and more thoughtful, to try harder and be involved. When I see the adversarial relationships some of my friends have with their grown children, I know things could have been very different for us. I'm grateful every day for Sandra's dedication to making and keeping good, clear information easily available (and free!) to people who want happier lives. Thank you so much!

Deb Lewis
(original on Always Learning, 2015)

More by Deb Lewis

Julie Sweeney wrote in 2012:
I just got off the phone with my 24 year old. He spent hours upon hours on the computer playing games for years.. and through all that unstructured time on the computer discovered Klingon which led to constructed languages which led to studying linguistics and Shakespeare, which led to Rock Band and learning how to write in their language for local bands to get their songs onto Rock Band for sale, which led to meeting people who play Role Playing Games, which led to new conversation partners about everything in life, which led to meeting his girlfriend (online), which led to learning about gender studies from her college classes, which has led to an interest in the influences of language (linguistics) on shaping culture, which has led to a study of gendered language, which is leading to his writing his own RPG using gender neutral language that can be built online with funding from interested parties, which could lead to....?

Wow - that was fun to write. :)

(If it's still there... the original)

Jacki/GoldStandard wrote in November 2008:
Max started college this year in jazz studies, and is in two jazz bands and one fabulous indy-like blues/rock/pop band called "Gita" (www.myspace.com/gitasound). He writes much of the music, the girl writes the lyrics. Okay, so I just went to that site to make sure it was working, and watched the new video they put up, and my son is the guy in the back, and I swear to god that is a joke. He's a very cool guy. Well, I guess that's obvious if you get to the end.

My son Andrew went through bartending school and just auditioned for the part of "Riff Raff" in Rocky Horror Picture Show which plays locally here every Saturday night. I think he starts in a month.

Hannah's a musical theatre/dancer senior in an art school.

Cam's a very cool dude gamer, among other things.

SandraDodd posted - 07/28/2006
Today is the last day I can say "I have three teenagers," because tomorrow Kirby turns 20.

When he was four months old, I went to La Leche League. I wish I had gone sooner! I wish I had gone four months before he was born. I had been reading helpful books, and I knew I wanted to be a gentle mom, but being around others who were doing it consciously and thoughtfully helped me greatly.

I had been going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings for a year by the time I started La Leche League,and they didn't conflict with each other philosophically at all. They were wholly complementary, in fact, and they bolstered me and Kirby both into a strong relationship.

There are things I would love to go back and redo, but though I'm not completely satisfied, I'm not ashamed either. When I said "okay" to Kirby I was saying okay to the little Sandra inside me who might otherwise have built up some jealous resentment about this new kid getting to do things I never got to do. It was healing to imagine that if my mom had been fortunate enough to have other influences and better circumstances maybe she would have said yes to me more often too.

Ren Allen and I did a talk together at a conference in late 2005. There are notes on that here: SandraDodd.com/rentalk

I hope people who come by here might be encouraged, and maybe share stories of your own personal healing. By sharing my children's lives, there has been more happy childhood in my own life.

Sandra Dodd

Pam Sorooshian, 11/24/08, on AlwaysLearning:
They're interested in philosophical questions, current events, human events. They work hard on what they find worthwhile to work hard on—Roxana is an accomplished actress who takes her craft very seriously and has finished two years of college with an A average, Rosie has a black belt in Kung Fu and just finished her 5th novel (NaNoWriMo), Roya has a college degree and a challenging and satisfying job running a program for adults with mental disabilities and is also back in school working toward a masters degree in art therapy.

Roxana: 21 and living at home. Roya 24 and living away. Rosie 17, home.
Roya, on her summer internship in Alaska and her job with Project Independence

Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll and her daughter, on differences between unschooled adults and those who went to school, October 29, 2014:

Joyce wrote:
In another forum a parent mentioned she didn't feel school had markedly damaged her. But we parents don't have peers who didn't go to school to compare ourselves to. So what feels like "not damaged" to us may just be "no more damaged than anyone else."

So I PM'd Kat to ask what differences she sees as an adult between herself and friends and co-workers who went to school.

*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*

What are the differences you see in your age mates? Where are they stuck? In what ways are they having difficulties transitioning to moving on and living an adult life?
*Kat Fetteroll*
I think one of the biggest things is hanging onto that school mentality of doing "just enough" work to get them by rather than working hard to get themselves where they really wanna be in life.

And maybe how they treat the people around them like school peers rather than adults.

Like work or life in general is still a popularity contest.

I think they have to take longer to shake those sorts of lingering ideals than people who never were forced into them.

*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
That's a good point. They've been told what to do so long they have a hard time figuring out what to do when they're not being told.

Can you elaborate on the "popularity contest"?

Honestly, "longer" can be a lifetime. I think some people never shake off those ideals.

*Kat Fetteroll*
Trying to gain approval of those they deem as "cool" or in a position of power in similar ways they did back in high school.

Yes, it totally depends on the person.

I've noticed a lot of the people who have more of an "adult" grasp on life are the ones who were kind of "different" in high school.

Kim from work is like that, she knows how to work really hard and knows what she has to work hard at and isn't content to sit back and do "just enough" or smooch up to the right people.

*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
Yes, the kids who never bought into the ideas in school were able to shake them off most easily. It's personality dependent.
*Kat Fetteroll*
Maybe because they always had to find their own way growing up in school, too.


*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
The people who were less dependent on acceptance by their social group would be less damaged. Which might be from their personality, or having a good relationship with their parents. Unfortunately we're social creatures naturally. We want to find our "people", those we fit with. Throw a bunch of kids into school, they'll naturally form groups. It's just that those groups aren't necessarily healthy. They aren't necessarily focused on supporting each individual the way a family is supposed to.
*Kat Fetteroll*
And it isn't apparent until later to them who they should and shouldn't be associated with.

And some people never, ever learn that.

Plus, being accepted by certain people or groups is an easy coping mechanism in high school but it doesn't work as well in the real world as it did in school.

*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
There's safety in numbers.

You can be protected by your group in school. But in adult life you shouldn't need a group to protect you!

*Kat Fetteroll*
And it usually causes more problems than it solves.

The adult world is set up more with networking and teamwork in mind, not just hiding and kissing up.

*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
Yes, exactly.
Thank you. Some great insights there
*Kat Fetteroll*
Okay!! Sorry I couldn't do more!
But you're welcome!
Glad I could help some!
*Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll*
That was great. Just what I was looking for.


Will they get jobs?

Thoughts on adult children getting new partners