Is growing up continuous or discontinuous?

Paul Graham has an essay out on lies we tell our kids. The essay is interesting (though a bit long as usual). What I’d like to do is to riff on one thing that struck me recently, which the essay reinforced:

Is the process of growing up continuous or discontinuous?

It strikes me that the conventions of American society are largely discontinuous, despite the fact that life is continuous.

By the time she’s 30, I’m hoping that my daughter is married, and has given me a grandchild. This naturally implies that I want her to have sex.

On the other hand, I’d be horrified if she presented me with a grandchild when she was 15.

Somewhere in those 15 years, there’s a major change, and I can’t really pin it down to a particular point in time.

The same holds true for drinking alcohol. I certainly wouldn’t mind if she enjoyed an occasional glass of wine as an adult, but I’d rather not have her start at age 13.

Yet policies such as a fixed legal drinking age and prohibitions on premarital sex seem to assume a much more discontinous approach.

It’s wrong to drink alcohol until the day you turn 21, after which it’s A-OK.

It’s wrong to have sex before you’re married, but once the vows are exchanged, you should feel free to get freaky all you like.

I’m not arguing for underage drinking and teenage sex, but I do think we need to realize that growing up is very much a continuous process that requires us as parents to be reflective and adaptable, rather than simply following a set of binary rules.

And kids, if you bring up this post in 2018 when you’re trying to convince me to let you go to that party at the Playboy Mansion, you’re grounded.

2 thoughts on “Is growing up continuous or discontinuous?

  1. Anonymous

    Life would be continuous if we recognized the biological imperatives that drive it. Many laws and mores create the discontinuity you reference. For example, the best age for women to have children is 18-25. Yet during this age period we now no longer expect women to be married, have children or even sex. The further society moves away from the biological imperatives probably the weaker society becomes

  2. Chris
    One thing you wont have to worry about – it probably won’t be the Playboy Mansion
    as a woman I agree with the appropriate pull of biological imperatives – strongly influenced by family and cultural mores – so your daughter is blessed and lucky
    totally OT for here, yet have you seen the great article on why gov. should wiki?


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