31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Coming Home...Again

Single With Children: Growing up can be fearful business for 'Twixters'

Susie Parker
Publication Date: 03/09/05

There are five new babies in my home.

I have a new aviary, and just days after introducing two pair of zebra finches, they went forth, laid eggs and multiplied.

And within the abbreviated span of 21 days, Mom and Dad Finch are pushing all of those juniors out of the nest!

Amazing, finches accomplish in about 21 days what takes parents increasingly longer to achieve: Independent offspring who actually go out and do what they're supposed to do on a rather predictable schedule.

Watching the progression from hatchling to full fledging is fascinating, and perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this avian circle of life is that around day 21, the parents begin to introduce the concept of flying and nudge those babies to try out their wings. Mom and Dad still keep an eye on things and deliver the occasional meal, but by sheer instinct, these new finches catch on to the idea that independence is not a choice, but a matter of course.

Apparently they didn't catch the recent cover story in Time magazine, "They Just Won't Grow Up!" The article discusses the puzzling phenomenon of "Twixters," the term coined to describe young adults who seem to be mired in permanent adolescence and confused as to how to move forward and become full-blown adults. Perhaps these "Twixters" aren't as confused as they are reluctant to embrace all that being an adult entails. The prospect of growing up, which looks so deliciously enticing at 12 or 14 years of age, evolves into something more ominous when one reaches 21.

New studies reveal that the process of leaving the human nest can take a few years and is a rubbery sort of affair with the "Twixters" bouncing back and forth between short bursts of independence and retreating to the comfort and lesser responsibilities of living at home. This transitional stage between age 18 and the late 20s isn't so transitional.

Researchers cite such factors as prematurely incurred debt, courtesy of credit cards and student loans, a stiffer job market, fear of divorce, having lived through one as a child, and "so many options, so little time."

Basically, it reminds me of the time I was 12 years old and wanted more than anything in the world to jump off the diving board into the scary deep end of the pool. My dad nearly sank from treading water for more than an hour, coaxing, encouraging, cajoling and promising me, if I just made that leap, I would pop up and remember how to swim, even though the water was very deep. I wanted to dive so bad that I could taste it. I could also taste the fear, and it took a lot of patience, understanding and support before I finally trusted my dad.

Just like he said, I bobbed right back up and swam effortlessly to the side. He had to drag me out of the water well after dark.

The thing I remember most about that small milestone is Dad never gave up on me. No matter how many times I needed to hear it, he promised me I would be just fine.

Thirty-three years later, I never forget who believed in me and loved me through that scary first time.

I've seen some symptoms of this "Twixter" phenomenon in my own kids. My 21-year-old daughter sometimes moves back in for a few weeks at a time and hasn't the first clue about what she wants to be "when she grows up." My 18-year-old son doesn't seem any too eager to graduate from high school and make the serious decisions that will affect a future that is getting closer by the minute. There are days when I have to remember the patience my own father demonstrated that hot, summer day back in 1972. I find this period of life my kids are navigating to be just a little confusing.

Every now and then I study those finches, trying to glean some kind of feathery wisdom, wondering why my kids are so reluctant to choose a direction and try out their wings. Whether it's 21 days or 21 years, growing up is a flighty, often fearful, frustrating business, but in the end, love, encouragement and patience will carry the day.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at SusieWrites@gmailcom, write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166 or visit her diary at www.susiewrites.blogspot.com.

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