Both Molly and Stuart trigger the "growing up" process through cooking a meal for their host families. In doing this both created a role reversal which made them hosts, treating their families as guests. Yet the circumstances for each are quite different. Molly is asked by her family to cook breakfast, and she responds by cooking a huge American breakfast, for which the okaasan gets her the ingredients. Molly's breakfast contributes toward a series of incremental shifts that characterized her homestay. After the breakfast she noticed that she is included in her family's decision-making process, and has gained access to the kitchen. She is definitely becoming an "adult".

Stuart's meal is much more dramatic--and catapults him into sudden adulthood. One reason for this drastic shift is that Stuart felt his homestay was "stuck", with his host family treating him too much like a "child". Stuart's "trigger"--his meal for his family--was actually engineered by two of the student "counselors" who helped out the students in his study-abroad program. The solution they suggested to resolve Stuart's problem was a dinner which was to be totally prepared and carried out by Stuart; his family were to attend as total guests. The counselors emphasized that Stuart should carry out every aspect of the meal himself, to increase the role shift his meal would bring about. They themselves, included as guests at the dinner, were to play the role of a Greek chorus, subtly pointing out Stuart's maturity, and enacting the attitudes toward Stuart that they wanted the family to adopt.

Of course the wild card here was the family. If they hadn't been willing (or able) to go along with the role-shift the dinner was promoting, it would certainly fail. But the family not only went along with the scenario, they went a step further in the role shift, by throwing Stuart the car keys and asking him to take his friends to the station. This dinner completely changed Stuart's role in his family; he was given much more responsibility, and this in turn triggered a much closer relationship with his family. Their conversations now began to deepen considerably. Stuart's dramatic shift to adulthood couldn't really be engineered, unless both sides were ready to accommodate it. The host family's immediate response to the dinner indicated that they, too, were probably feeling "stuck" with the homestay situation, and wanted to move it forward. This case also shows that even situations that seem "stuck" can have latent flexibilities; the perceptions of host family and guest toward one another can change drastically--and result in the child reaching "adulthood".

close