When I was a kid we had Pat the Bunny. It’s a little board book that shows Judy and Paul doing various activities, and then you, the reader, do that thing too:
Judy can play peek-a-book with Paul. Now you play peek-a-boo with Paul.
Judy can read her book. Now you read.
And so forth. There’s a tiny book-inside-the-book you can flip through when it’s time for you to read. There’s a piece of cloth for you to lift up when it’s time for you to play peek-a-boo. The title comes from the page where Judy pats the bunny, and then there is a fuzzy bunny-shape on the page for you to pat. Hard not to like a book like that.
Over Father’s day the Art of Manliness ran a piece on the importance of doing strenuous outdoor things with your son.* It’s the same concept: First your son learns how to do challenging things with you, and then he goes on to do them himself.
So now we’re moving on to Pat the Bunny, Young Adult Edition: Mommy can organize a month long trip in a foreign country, now you organize a month-long trip in a foreign country.
This was just what I’d hoped the boy would learn from last year’s adventures, but I don’t think I was quite ready when he came to us a couple days ago, observed how he has been a very low-budget child to raise up until now, and would we kindly chip in towards him spending a month wandering around France this summer?
This is what young adults do. Some of them go off and get their own apartment. Some of them take a summer job on the other side of the country. Some of them hit the road and travel around.
Can he do this? Yes, and he knows how. He’s done international flights and trains and public transit. He’s done hotels and apartments and restaurants and grocery stores and hut-to-hut hiking. He’s familiar with the French obsession for regulation headshots slapped on anything and everything, and how to hunt down a photo-booth when you need one. He’s even demonstrated his ability to read a French neighborhood and know whether it’s one non-locals should be wandering.
What he hasn’t done is doing the thing all by himself, with the parents tucked away on another continent. Of course not, he just turned 18.
When his great-grandfather was 18, he was wandering France, too, though with somewhat more supervision and quite a lot more danger.
18-year-olds are adults. They are young adults with not much experience. It’s the job of parents to give them experience. First you do it with your kid, and then your kid does it on his own.
Yes, he even knows about taking pictures of the map.
*I’m a firm believer in doing adventurous outdoor things with your daughters, too. Girls are different from boys, but they benefit from outdoor sports just as much, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes for different reasons. Humans are made to play outside. It’s good for us.