Some of my friends are sending their kids off to college this fall and discovering, with some shame, that their offspring — who can build Web sites, play stringed instruments, and locate Latvia on a world map — are deficient in other life skills. Basic skills. Crucial skills.
“We just got back from dropping Devon off for his first night in the dorm,” says my friend Tracy. A superlative mother, Tracy has taught her children to play cribbage, iron a dress shirt, and consider protein and fiber percentages when choosing their breakfast cereals. But that evening, while introducing her son to his new bedroom, she realized there are still some things she’s failed to demonstrate.
“They need to learn how to put sheets on their bed,” she says, describing a slapstick scene of mattress-wrestling that left her shaking her head. “Thank god he didn’t have the top bunk.”
We modern parents are great at teaching our kids the value of empathy, recycling, and broad bandwidth. But have we forgotten to school them in, say, soaping their skivvies?
A young woman I know admits she had no idea how to do laundry when she left home: “My mother always said she paid too much for my clothes to let me mess them up in the wash.”
Another says she’s flummoxed by grocery shopping: “I always forget to buy something important.”