Knot Yet! #5: Responsibility Phobia
What comes first, maturity or the responsibility? In the world of adultescence, the absence of the necessity to be responsible, delays maturity.
Most of us look back at adolesence and shiver – it’s a tough time developmentally when the young person is reaching for independence but doesn’t quite have the mental resources to cope with adulthood.
Many people are aware of the ‘maturational crisis’ of adolescence. Marked with the physical maturing of our bodies, most of us also know of someone who is going through a midlife crisis – it’s another developmental period when we are confronted by the limitations of our life and the reality of fading youthful vigour.
Those who successfully traverse these two maturation crises emerge with deeper sense of purpose and richer personalities. None-the-less, both adolescence and mid-life are turbulent experiences.
Few people appreciate however, that there is a third maturational crisis which occurs in the early stages of parenthood (preferably after adolescence is finished and well before midlife). In this maturational crisis we are confronted with the reality that the world most definitely does not revolve around us – a ‘Copernican Revolution’ of the most unwelcome kind.
The entry of a baby into one’s life turns a person’s world upside down, starting with severe and sustained sleep deprivation. The noisy helplessness of a baby simply demands unselfishness from its parents. Instead of living their life on their own agenda and to suit their own desires, new parents quickly discover that it is not about them anymore. It’s all about baby.
No wonder new parents often feel depressed and overwhelmed!
What marks each of these maturational milestones, is the move away from a self-centred mentality towards increasing responsibility in relation to others.
But what comes first, the maturity or the responsibility?
There seems to be an underlying assumption in our culture that maturity should precede the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. “He’s too immature to be a father”. “She’s too young to be tied down by marriage.”
The truth is, it is responsibility itself that establishes maturity. When people are called forward to take up responsibility, maturity quickly follows.
The tendency to delay and protect our young people from the responsibilities of marriage and family does them a disservice. It has given rise to the phenomenon of ‘adultescence’ – the extended adolescence that too many grown men and women continue to indulge.