It's been so long now since I became an adult that I don't really think of things as always being hard. In fact, there's plenty about a life that is fun and fulfilling and precious and wonderful. In fact, I don't remember coming to adulthood with a perception that the shift from childhood lack of responsibility to personal responsibility was overwhelming. I got my first full-time job at 18 and I married at 19. My husband and I have been navigating my adult life together ever since - nearly 25 years.
Things haven't been so straightforward for Miss Sunshine, and neither will be for Miss Mischief, it seems. We've had to teach Miss Sunshine about the questions she needs to ask and the steps required for the things she needs to do and accomplish and complete. Getting her enrolled in University was a major achievement. I didn't think it was so hard - fill in the form, wait to hear, figure out the enrolment process and off we go. Not so with her. There were trips to the campus. There were trips to the bookshop with questions about booklists because things weren't clear from the websites. We've navigated choosing a car and we're about to do tax for the first time. I thought you just got online, downloaded the form and got on with it. Apparently I have to sit with her to fill it out. And let's not talk about dealing with Centrelink, because that's on a whole other planet of pain. It's taken nine months to get to the point where I can let Miss Sunshine walk into one of their offices without complete and utter terror.
We're about to get ourselves another baby adult in the house in less than two weeks. Last night I sat with her to fill out her University preferences. Oh the pain! This is the child who doesn't know what she really wants to do, beyond interning at church for a year. But these VTAC preferences have to be submitted in order for offers to be forthcoming and deferences to be possible. It was painful to watch her read every. single. word. of the online form. Meanwhile I was skimming through beside her saying "Click no". Click yes. Come on...it shouldn't be this hard". And it shouldn't. But somehow it is.
When we were in Malaysia recently I was telling a friend there how we've had to hand-hold our baby adult into what it means to do all the adult things. Their response? Let them sink or swim. These are people who have no choice but to send their children overseas for a University education. So they send them to England and their children have to figure it out for themselves. Because they have no choice. Because Mum and Dad are half a world away and can't actually come and save them. I simply can't imagine it. Miss Sunshine would have been curled, in a foetal position, murmuring to herself on the floor if we'd let her sink or swim.
And then there are those statistics around young adults and depression.
So we're walking our baby adults through the transition from being a kid, where Mum and Dad take care of everything, to being an adult where they have to make all the things happen. We're dog-paddling our way to an all-out freestyle stroke that feels strong and smooth and confident.
It's hard being the parent of young adults who are sensible, amazing people in every way, but seem paralysed by the responsibility and freedoms that are theirs. Harder than it was in my family, in my generation. We all left home at 19.