The Real World – A term we’ve all grown up hearing and using probably for as long as we can remember. However, it seems I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. At the very least, I’ve been noticing it more. And it’s getting on my nerves. So I started thinking during a night’s wrestle with insomnia, what the heck does it mean?
I’m sure at this point you’re saying, “Duh, it’s when you get kicked out or flee the nest, get a job and start paying your own bills.” Hey, that’s pretty much how I’ve always viewed it: life outside the safe haven walls of Mom and Dad’s house.
But I’m going to be obnoxious for a moment and enter a few definitions:
relevant or practical in terms of everyday life
synonyms: practical · actual · everyday · real · real-life · true
the realm of practical or actual experience, as opposed to the abstract, theoretical,
or idealized sphere of the classroom, laboratory, etc.
1. Noun – The real world is the place in which one actually must live and the
circumstances with which one actually must deal.
2. Adjective – The realm of human experience comprising physical objects,
and excluding theoretical constructs, hypotheses, artificial environments and
“virtual” worlds such as the Internet, computer simulations, or the imagination.
You may notice that none of these definitions mention anything about being an adult. So it’s safe to say, unless we are all living in the Matrix, the real world begins at the point of existence. For the baby taking his first breath of oxygen after birth, that’s his whole world: his real world. For the two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store over a candy bar, that’s his whole world: his real world. For the fifth grader about to take a test, yep, that’s his real world, too. The businessman. The couple walking down the aisle. The grandma on her death bed. From existence until death, our life and its events are real and thus, part of the real world.
These definitions also do not hinge upon employment or education. So why, then, does everyone seem to follow the notion that the real world is something that magically begins at the age of 18? School is not the real world, but the second after graduation is. Life certainly counts and matters before those events! And most assuredly, we are capable of making decisions that have very real consequences. I don’t care if we are at an age of reasoning or not. My 15 month old climbed onto the bed this morning and promptly fell off. My 7 year old decided to make a game of “run into the bed at full speed and slide across.” It didn’t go so well either. Both were very real consequences of their actions. My ten year old son is being bullied in school and told that he needs to learn proper coping skills so that, and I quote [the school counselor], “so he will know how to handle these situations when he goes into the real world.” She had me up until that last part. Yes, learn coping skills. But to deal with NOW. Every day. Not some abstract point in the far reaches of the future. The real world is every day for every person. Regardless of age, event or location, we are all a part of it.
In fact, I’ve heard this lame future point of reference term so much lately as an excuse as to why we must put up with this that and the other, or why we must do something NOW, that I might just jump out of my skin the next time I hear someone mention THE REAL WORLD. Is it a cop-out? Are we simply in some sort of training simulation until our entrance into this point of our lives?
I’ve been told so many times that children who are homeschooled are denied the experiences that properly prepare them for, yes, you guessed it: the real world. Who came up with that dumb idea? My kids learning in their home is not as real as kids learning in a classroom? My kids not being picked on by a bunch of their classmates is somehow denying them the privilege of coping with the office jerk they’ll meet in their adult future? Maybe. After all, one of my kids now in public school is at a loss as to what to do when he gets bullied. Hey, maybe if he had always been in real school, he would know how to be mean back. Or, he’d have learned something more effective than telling the kid he doesn’t like what is being said to him (his current “coping skill” method). But at the moment, I’m leaning towards the beginning of John Mayer’s song “No Such Thing:”
“Welcome to the real world,” she said to me
I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above.
Perhaps, we are actually denying our children something even more important by separating their lives this way. I am not saying there is not a difference between the child dependent on his mother and father for all needs and the mother and father meeting those needs. To be certain, they are very different positions. The parents have different responsibilities than that of their dependents. But I think that to diminish a child’s life experiences as merely a foreshadowing of what’s to come (“you think that’s bad, just wait until you’re in the REAL WORLD!”), we are denying them coping skills. A child’s responsibility is VERY great! They are who the future will depend on, and so on! Their lessons in class are vital! The way they handle themselves and their relationships with everyone around them are just as important, if not more so, NOW as they will be when they are adults. Our children must understand that everything they do matters. Now, in a few years from now, and for the rest of their lives. The here and now IS the real world!