While proud and delighted at Mollie leaving for university at the weekend, we have also all been dealing with the emotional wrench of such a dislocation. It got me thinking what a particularly middle class right of passage this mostly is. Talking to a builder and his wife who we met on a walk yesterday reinforced this thought. Their kids hadn’t gone to college and so the transition out of the family home was much gentler and more gradual. The need for toughening up and coping with the emotional upheaval had been avoided.
I’ve also been thinking about the many ex boarding school students I encountered in my own university experience at St. Andrews. How much more grown up and intimidating they seemed to those of us who had stayed at home and gone to comprehensive school. In the hey day of public schools, the days of the empire, the emotional wrenches started earlier, the toughening up of the managerial class was more systematic.
I remember my own transition into management and the stress of feeling that I was expected to be “in charge of” other people. The pressure to don the armour of the suit and tie was enormous. I was expected to join the grown ups.
I thought of friends who change as they climb the managerial ladder and of middle managers I meet who talk managerial bollocks and cultivate aloof distance from others. This urge to differentiate themselves as different, as more responsible, as more grown up, is endemic.
You will have seen me dismissively using the phrase “the grown-ups” to describe those in business who over enthusiastically assume this fictitious mantle of responsibility. Who throw their weight around at work, assuming that the “children” they are “responsible for” need controlling. Being hard nosed. Making tough decisions.
But do they really grow up? Is all of this toughening up a good thing? Does it result in well balanced human beings, happy in themselves, capable of inspiring and supporting others? Is it all necessary?