As a parent of two young kids, I’ve had a chance to see firsthand, just how silly and carefree kids can be. I’ve seen my kids run around, have fun, play with each other, and learn from each other. I’ve become fairly convinced that some people get drunk just so that they can act like a toddler and still have an excuse.
Kids have feelings that are undiluted. Their feelings are powerful, but they are also fleeting. I am amazed at how excited they get over little things, things that are trivial to me but new to them, and I encourage them to enjoy those feelings. Lately, I’ve been teaching them to play table tennis with me and they get really excited when we have a short rally of 3 volleys. They are mastering a new skill and that is exciting.
As I’ve watched them grow up, to ages 6 and 4 (it’s only a few days now), I’ve also see what happens when they get tired. They suffer from something called decision fatigue. They have small but somewhat painful accidents where they might bump their head on a countertop or fall on their butt. And when I see that happening, I’m there for them, of course, and I suggest that it’s time for them to get ready for bed.
I’m not tired, Daddy. I just have poor judgment.
That’s how I translated their tired protests of bedtime. But with some persistence, I’m able to get them to brush their teeth, change their clothes and settle them into bed.
And sometimes when I think of decision fatigue, I don’t just think of it for a day, I think of it over our lifetimes. As we get older, we develop decision fatigue. All those years of DNA replication errors really add up. Especially if you’re into hard living with alcohol and other mood altering substances and activities. Even just taking a glass of wine a day takes it’s toll on the liver. And that translates, however slightly, into DNA replications errors, for that really is the basis of aging.
I can recall some months back, how a scientist proposed that we structure our economy so that there is no full time work for people under 40. This would give us the capacity to devote our time, when we’re young, to schooling, family and even government.
It’s a lot easier to go to school when you’re not facing a 40 hour week. Sure, there are people who do it, but at great personal expense, and that doesn’t even count the useless debts they incur. Those debts are imposed as if students will never repay their debt to society. But at least if they can make a living working 20 hours a week, young people can get better grades, do better work, and actually find work that they want to do instead of having to do.
When young people raise a family, they have a job, a family, and debts from school to attend to. And they want to buy a house and have a decent Christmas for their kids and have a vacation from time to time. I’m a late blooming parent and I see how hard it can be to work so much and have so little time for my kids. So my wife stays home and I go to work. We can manage on one income.
But I’ve also found that giving our kids attention really pays. I can recall sitting in a therapist’s office a few years ago, and she told me that just being a civilized person around your kids will help them to build character. Just spending time with them, in peace will help them to build character. Just playing with them, reading to them, letting them read to you, whatever…it all builds character in kids. And if young people can work part time while raising their kids, then their kids will have better, stronger character attributes.
And then there is civic engagement. If you’re young, working 40 hours a week, have a family and/or you’re going to school, you won’t have time for civics. Who has time for the school board when you’re that busy? Who has time to go to the city hall meetings? How about doing some personal lobbying with your statehouse representative? Do we even have time to follow legislation, visit a courthouse and see how justice is handed down, or see how civil laws are enforced? I bet a lot more young people would vote if they only worked 20 hours a week, too.
All of this would probably go down better when we’re young. When we’ve got more energy. Family, school and government would probably run better if it were run by people who weren’t suffering from age related decision fatigue.
That’s real, that age related decision fatigue. That’s why we sometimes worry that Grandma or Grandpa might be scammed. That’s why we might worry that our parents can’t take care of themselves. That’s why we have retirement homes for the elderly.
Prohibiting (or at least limiting) full time work for people under 40 would also give people over 40 something to do and extend their lives. I can recall my dad telling me long ago, that people who retire usually die within 5 years of retirement. They’ve lost their sense of purpose and see no reason to go on. So they pass on quietly in the night of their retirement.
I know, it sounds like some pie in the sky thing. But I think this idea is worth considering. I think of someone like Strom Thurmond, one of the oldest Senators ever to serve in Congress and I can see why we’re here. I see Orrin Hatch who is in his 80s and I can see why we’re here. In a country divided by class, gender, race and wealth. And then there is Trump.
Yeah, I think we could use a change of pace. We certainly have the tech to make something like this happen. All we would need then, is the political will to stop making everything a transaction of reward and punishment. It takes political will to see each other as human beings. And that political will might find an awakening in young people.