Not long ago it was announced that “The Adulting School” was open for business. Its mission was to teach young millennials to do the basic tasks of life, such as cooking and time management, which they had somehow failed to acquire in their childhood years.
But while the “The Adulting School” received a great deal of scornful condescension, the fact remains that many young people are in need of its services. Statistics show that this is particularly true in the area of cooking. While millennials are interested in the skill, roughly one-third to one-half of them lack confidence in their culinary abilities.
A major reason for this culinary lack is the fact that “fewer millennials have had stay-at-home parents teaching them to cook.”
That’s unfortunate, because as New York Times columnist Dorie Greenspan recently explained, teaching children to cook has countless benefits. Besides gaining the knowledge of cooking, getting kids in the kitchen provides an invaluable opportunity for parents to spend time with their offspring and talk about subjects that don’t always come up in the busyness of life.
But as Greenspan goes on to imply, one of the hardest parts of teaching children to cook is knowing when it’s time to step back and let them fly on their own:
“Our time in the kitchen – all those cookies and cakes and brownies and cupcakes – gave Joshua that quiet sense of competence. Maybe especially the cupcakes. I remember one afternoon when Joshua must have been in middle school. Until that day, every baking project was a work for 20 fingers; that day, he told me that I could sit on the windowsill, that he would make the cupcakes himself. I watched him line the muffin tins with pleated papers and mix the batter. We chatted, and he worked, checking that there was the same amount of batter in each cup, poking the tops of the cakes to see if they were baked through and finally frosting them. When the cupcakes were ready, he admired his work. I did, too.”
Although she may not realize it, Greenspan’s experience of allowing her son to go solo in the kitchen reveals the second major reason today’s millennials have so much trouble “adulting.” Yes, many of them are never taught the basic skills in the first place. But those who have learned them may never have had the opportunity to practice them without a watchful eye peering over their shoulder to make sure they don’t have a mishap.
C.S. Lewis once described this state of affairs as a misplaced form of love on the part of the parent. A truly loving parent, Lewis implied, needs to eventually work himself or herself out of a job:
“But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward.”
Today’s parents are continually concerned whether they are doing a good job raising their children. Based on Lewis’ words, knowing that isn’t as difficult as we might think. The best parenting, it would appear, is that which trains a child how to think and act responsibly on his own.
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.