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By Shelley Murphy
This New Year began like so many before, with a walk on the beach trail alongside a favorite friend.
During our countless weekend walks, we’ve shared our kids’ successes and setbacks, including their fanatical Little League tournaments, notable high school hijinks and painful college rejection letters.
Throughout the years, we’ve pondered plenty of parenting questions during our trail talks, but one continues to plague us: Did I prepare my kids for the real world?
In the days following our recent heart-to-heart, I continued to contemplate the question. Seeking an answer, I hopped online and found an article identifying 33 life skills young adults should master before they fly from the nest.
The skills range from sublime to silly, and the following five are my favorites.
They should know how to compose a thoughtful, handwritten note.
Agreed, a handwritten note never goes out of style. My boys began writing thank you notes in elementary school, and I like to think the practice continues.
They should know how to read a map and follow directions without using a screen or device.
Moving to a new city, my older son honed this skill under duress when I volunteered to help him search for an apartment. After two defeating days, I opted to trade tricky technology for the tried-and-true. I drove my son to the local Automobile Association of America and instructed him to get a map. We found an apartment that afternoon.
They should know to place a trivet beneath hot items to protect furniture.
Really? I struggle to get my kids to use a coaster beneath wet water bottles.
They should know that “U” isn’t an acceptable form of “you” in workplace and academic communications.
My older son’s girlfriend, a smart and savvy young lady, learned this lesson the hard way. She and her family share a group text. Often, their texts end with an abbreviated term for Follow Up: FU. It’s OK; she laughs about it today.
They should know how to apply and interview for a job.
Last month, my younger son began interviewing for summer internships. Concurrently, I realized I hadn’t instilled one of life’s most important lessons—prepping for a job interview.
One of the many benefits of living in our small village by the sea is the sense of community and bonds of friendship.
When my sons sought part-time summer jobs in high school, they relied on the kindness of friends, not lengthy employment practices.
I never considered bypassing a job interview to be a roadblock to future success. At the time, fostering my sons’ future life skills took a back seat to tackling present-day teenage tribulations.
While in college, my older son navigated the employment process and became adept at the art of the interview. When he set his sights on a post-college dream job, he survived several telephone interviews before the final Skype video interview.
The night before the big interview, my son called. He seemed nervous but said he’d spoken with friends and planned to follow their advice to ace the online interview. He told me about a buddy who sat at the computer for his video interview dressed in a suit jacket, shirt and tie—and gym shorts and socks.
I warned my son against following in his friends’ footsteps. I suggested that he act as if the interview were in a boardroom, not a bedroom, and advised him to dress from head to toe in suitable attire—and held my breath.
After the interview, my son called; he sounded pleased and reported that the call went well. He said, near the end of the interview, his potential employer asked, “Can you do me a favor and walk to the other side of the room?” My son got the job.
In hindsight, I know I neglected to teach my boys some of life’s lessons. Yet, I also know they taught me more than I ever imagined.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.