“It’s like Chinese New Year every evening at dinner” reflected one of my Singaporean friends. The surprise gift of time with our young adults seems to be felt across the globe. They’ve returned to the nest during COVID-19, and those who were still living with us are suddenly spending all their time at home — rather than treating us like a free AirBnB.
Here in the US it’s rather similar to Thanksgiving. You know you can count on everyone showing up for a family meal together. There are no competing anythings to draw them away. We can check in with each other more deeply, catch up, and continue conversations from the night before. We even go for evening strolls after dinner and watch a TV show together occasionally. It’s a throw-back to earlier family life. It’s cozy. I’m getting used to this. I already know I going to really miss this on the other side of the pandemic.
“It’s developmentally inappropriate” is how my 25-year old positions this after prefacing her comment with “no offense or anything, but ….” I guess she does have a point. This would not have been my definition of a daily choice of fun when I was in my 20’s. I get it.
So many young people are locked up in isolation with their parents. It was tolerable — more or less — while everyone was going through the motions of online schooling and young professionals zooming into work, AND we thought it would all be over by the summer. But now, we’re into summer, there’s no end in sight and the troops are getting restless.
The generation that we thought subsisted on texting, Snapchat and Instagram turns out to have a greater appetite for face-to-face contact with their peers than we had thought. How re-assuring.
How will the youngsters on the stair steps to adulthood be changed by 2020? Are they going to miss some steps along they way and get tripped up in the future? Or worse yet, fail to make it to the next step?
A missed prom or walking the stage at graduation won’t change anyone’s life trajectory. But what are they missing by not being able to venture out into the world and cut their teeth on real life experiences without a parental blanket covering them?
They’re not taking those first self-organized and self-propelled adventures – either near or afar. They’re not figuring out their own plans for the fall season, be it school or new jobs. Many have lost employment opportunities to help fund next years tuition. And none are they off on last-chance carefree trips on shoe-string budgets.
They’re frozen in time and place.
They’re waiting to be told what the boundaries will be within which they can operate. Will they be sitting in classrooms together and if yes, when and how? Will they be able to take the necessary national tests required to move to the next step? Employers are moving the start date or withdrawing offers.
How can this generation get out the door and get launched?
If “adulting” was already a “thing” that was hard, won’t it get that much harder?
Generation “Z” will surely get some new nickname a few years down the road, just as I’ve been labelled a “Boomer”. The story has not yet been written – we’re still in the first chapters. Who knows what the impact will be. Will they be the locked-ups, the mollycoddleds, the zoomers, or simply the pandemics?
They’re not on the trajectory they had imagined for themselves. Their ideas about how the world would unfold for them have shifted. The old model has been discontinued, but the new one hasn’t yet evolved.
At a certain point they will stop waiting and begin to define the new reality for themselves, so they can live into their potential. We need to make sure that we are willing to let them leap and start taking the risks that will be needed for this to happen.
And it will not be risk-free for any of us.
For me this will be hitting very close to home in a couple of weeks when our medical student leaves the safety of online only classes and ventures into the heart of the Texas COVID epicenter. Our protected bubble will be compromised, our risk level goes up, and at the same time we need to support this next step forward.