Julie Lyles Carr: Monday Musings...Rites of Passage?......

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Musings...Rites of Passage?......

To me rites of passage through life, that's a wonderful, beautiful thing.
Lance Henriksen

Humans...we're such an interesting bunch, aren't we?  4 of 8 was reflecting the other day how funny it is that when we are children we want to be older and then when we are older, we want to be younger.  We start off early in our quest to quantify our life seasons, looking for the developmental markers that morph a newborn to an infant to a crawler to a toddler to a preschooler.  

And we have all these little ceremonies throughout childhood to mark the arrival at new seasons.  First day of school, first communion, bat mitzvah,  quinceanera, sweet sixteen party, graduation.  These represent some fairly agreed upon markers of arrival: age 6, age 8, age 13, age 15, age 16, age 18.  Parties, festivities, rites of passage celebrating the maturation process.

And then there are those rites of passage that every family seems to have but a community of people can't seem to agree upon the arbitrary age for transition into this new privilege.  Take, for example, ear piercing.  I just never had the notion that creating permanent holes in one's ears was a marker of maturity.  So when 1 of 8 asked to get her ears pierced, I took her.  And then when she asked to get them double pierced, I took her.  And, me-oh-my, did I create a windstorm of controversy at the elementary school.  One of 1's friends told her that this friend's parents were extremely concerned that M and I had allowed this kind of folly to take place, all before 1 was truely 'ready' for double pierced ears.  'Ready'?  Really?  Had I missed the memo that ear piercing was a defining, 'for 11-year-olds-only' event?

Or certain movies.  I personally don't care what the rating of a film is...I care about the content.  A ratings board who somehow makes 'The Passion of the Christ' rated R and leaves any variety of slap-stick, adolescent bathroom sexual humor films back in the PG category is not a ratings board who shares my personal sensibilities.  So, we've never had some magic number that at age whatever you get to see PG or PG-13 films...if it's trash, it's trash, regardless of rating.  If it's quality, if it's art, if it's important, then viewership is all about that particular child's maturity level.

Some of our dear friends had to make the decision a couple of years ago that their sixteen year old child simply had not shown the maturity to be placed with a driver's license behind the wheel of a car.  Needless to say, the sixteen year old was not thrilled with their assessment.  There was something of a sense of entitlement that maturity level should have nothing to do with obtaining said license; it was all about birth date.  We applauded our friends' strong decision.  I've known individuals who could have handled a vehicle with great responsibility at age 12...and I've known several 40 year olds who shouldn't be on the road.  Where did the sixteenth birth date mark instant ability to drive a potential killing machine down the highways and byways? 

And how did we arrive at the decision that you are capable of voting and fighting for your country at age 18, but still too irresponsible to handle a beer?  While I'm not advocating lowering the drinking age, I wonder about the message this sends.  I have no instant wisdom on this...it just seems that our age markers for maturity seem a bit reversed, a bit skewed.  In some ways, I guess I would rather know if a young adult who chooses to drink alcohol can handle that on his ten-speed before we put him behind the wheel of a car.   It seems more logical to me that if I'm going to ask a young adult to lay down his life for his country, he needs to have the full rights available to every citizen of that country.  And if that means we need to delay military service until 21, so be it.  If that means we need to rethink the age at which citizens vote, well, okay. 

Now don't misread me here...this is not about advocating lowering the drinking age.  It's about asking how we arrive at the thresholds for certain rights and behaviors we assign as a culture.  It's about asking how we determine what true maturity looks like.  It's about asking if there are things we personally can do as a family to celebrate the entrance of our children into new seasons without somehow conveying a sense of entitlement, but rather increased responsibility.

We've taken the same tact with the dating question.  Some preset mid-teen year just doesn't seem qualifying enough.  If I've got one kid who sends off pheromones like a beacon and is deceitful to boot, well, we're gonna have to rethink things.  If I 've got one who seems to handle social pressure well and honors timelines and traffics in authenticity, we can move within larger margins.  But reaching a certain birthday doesn't guarantee moral fortitude.

Our kids know that a birthday is no guarantee of pierced ears, makeup, gaming systems or movie rights.  They know that only true responsibility and maturity is the path to a driver's license.   Call it situational privileges, if you will...it's all about behavior.  

What about you?  Do you embrace the ages at which our society has placed certain privileges, or do you disagree?  Do you have agreed-upon ones within your family, a certain age for dating, a certain age for certain books?  Did you have rites of passage as a child, as a teen?  And to my readers outside of the U.S., let us know what ages are customary in your corner of the globe for certain privileges.  Feel free to leave a comment or to write your own post on this topic and then put your name and the url of that post in the Mister Linky's box below.

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