Once a Man… Twice D Child?

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Since returning from a seven-year stint in ‘foreign’, having moved to the US when I was 18-years-old to pursue my college education, one thing stands out for me – mostly all of my peers still live at home. Before assumptions and a general uproar begin, this is not a comparison between Trini and American culture, and the stereotype of the socially awkward underachiever who’s over 20, and still living at home. Obviously, the population of Trinis still occupying their childhood room consists of everyone from university students to the basic level ‘pencil pushers’, and the highly successful, car-driving, double-digit thousand dollar earning up ‘n’ comers.

While our culture promotes a close-knit family with this tradition, what I have observed is that although the freedom of young adults has increased, their responsibility to their accommodating parents and household has not. Having three, square meals, clothing, water and shelter from birth to adulthood (starting from the legally adult age of 18) courtesy of your parents, should invoke one strong emotion – obligation. I mean, is it just me or don’t we owe our parents for the successes in our lives? From collected stories of life uninterrupted, there’s UWI rent money, UWI allowance money, cooked and frozen weekly meals, money for extra courses, car downpayment money, and countless other minor expenses that mommy and daddy shelled out cash for.  We’re not even counting the food that is still put on the table, the electricity for the Xbox 360, Playstation, and laptop, or the unmetered gallons of water used to take a fresh before stepping out at to that $600 all-inclusive.

Honestly, I blame the parents. While many rationalise it as the Trini way or unconditional love for their ‘popo’, increased liberty without a similar increase in responsibility breeds an adult man-child (and woman-child). While to the typical Trini parent it seems harsh to push the child out the home at 18, as Americans do, there are essential life skills that children harbored by their parents take unusually long to develop. Like responsibility for self, and understanding the difference in eating that day, or not, which is directly proportionate to having a job and going to it every day. Or a stronger, more committed work ethic, which develops when one realises that a better job or a higher position equals a more liberated lifestyle, and saying bye-bye to the stresses of living pay cheque to pay cheque.

The saddest part of the Trini story is watching our youth struggle to find themselves as they’re stuck in the limbo of being treated and cared for like a child at home, while living as a 20-something-year-old on the outside. So while most enjoy the ‘freeness’ of home, it is not without serious consequence to both parties involved. Aging parents are still forced to work to provide for their ‘kids’, while unfettered offspring ride the ‘free train’ for as long as possible.  Seriously?  In a recession to boot? Admittedly, I moved back to sweet T&T to take advantage of a rent-free home, but hey, I pay some bills, and make sure there’s food in the cupboard.

Living at home with ‘the parents’ definitely has its perks, but somehow the benefits remain one-sided. As a working men or women, shouldn’t we step up to the plate, and contribute to our household in a more meaningful way? After all, that’s what adults do. Right?

 

Quilin Achat

Quilin Achat is an avid lover of reading, so it's no surprise that she runs a small, unconventional bookstore called The Fire is Lit, in San Fernando. Check out the Fire is Lit at http://facebook.com/theFireisLit.

4 Comments

  1. Denyssa

    April 20, 2010 at 5:19 am

    I remember going to the grocery with my momma when I returned from university. I picked up two cans of corn and compared the prices based on the number of grams per can. She laughed…was appalled but proud! Living on your own really kicks or gently guides you into ‘adult life’! Ironically, there are some young people who live outside of their homes who aren’t as reponsible as those who live with their parents. I agree, we should all make significant contributions when we’re living at home…those who don’t need some good ole fashion licks!
    Congrats on your first Outlish article Quilin!
    Your SJC sister

  2. Solange des Vignes

    April 20, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I think you made some great points and drew some interesting comparisons to life in America vs life in Trinidad. Personally, I live in Canada and my sister who has graduated from university in Canada now lives at home with my parents. Although I’m sure she enjoys the luxuries of Life in Paradise: free rent, food, car (unless she bounce it), laundry, electricity and water, I will be going out on a limb to say my mother enjoys her living at home more than on her own. The reality is that Trinidad is not as safe as America so although parents start hinting ‘Get Out’ at 18 in North America, it’s just not safe for a 18-100 yr old woman to be living on her own. To further explain my point, my parents are strict Catholic so the concept of living with a gentleman friend is horrifying so no possibility of living with a boyfriend for safety.

    On the other hand, man-child is NOT a cute look for a potential boyfriend. If you’re over 21 and you’re done school and work and you making enough money to wear Dolce and Gabbana shirt with your True Religion jeans and your Prada shoes and pop Moet bottles in your booth at 51…Move da hell out!

    Good job on the piece

  3. Shyv

    April 29, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I was relieved at the angle of this article. While I am not partial to American culture, independence is one of the traits I admire about young Americans. I met several classmates while studying abroad who do what they have to put themselves through school. Some juggled two jobs to pay tuition while I simply paid with the cheque my mom wrote every semester. They do their taxes, make car payments etc. and like you said generally have a greater sense of work ethic.

    It’s a little far fetched to say they’re more responsible – especially as an RA on campus I’ve seen some really infantile behaviour. Otherwise I’d say their sense of independence is commendable…and few return home after college.

    This was a good read. Congrats to you and the rest of the Outlish team!

  4. wizzythestick

    June 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Cultural reasons and parent enablers are only partly to blame. The unavailability of affordable housing also contributes to this

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