Our youngest child turned 18 recently. If you follow this blog, you’ve read my musings about the milestones our family has crossed this past year. Having been through this before one would think I would be more prepared. But I must admit I’m having trouble getting my head around it.
So what happens when your child turns 18? I guess the most significant thing is that according to the state and many of our leading institutions they are no longer “children.” Apparently using the word child or referring to them as “kid” is no longer appropriate. They’re adults now.
I must have skipped that section in the parenting instruction manual. But it’s true.
At 18, society grants a host of rights and privileges, like voting. You can vote, regardless of whether you’ve actually read news that doesn’t come from social media or know any history that predates the invention of the web. To be fair to our new voters, given the state of our politics it’s obvious this is a big problem for millions of more experienced adults.
It’s not just voting. At 18 you don’t need a parent or guardian’s permission to get a job, move out, join the military, buy a car or drop out of school. You don’t have to share your health records with your parents. The same is true for your grades if you’re a college student.
Of course, the same college administrators who set these policies have no problem asking the parents of their “adult” students for money. No one follows the cash better these days than the bursar’s office at your favorite university. But God forbid we see any grades or be informed if our child, sorry adult, is having a health crisis. I could go on about this for hours, don’t get me started.
But in my defense, the path to adulthood is not clean cut at 18. Some doors remain closed at that age. Weirdly, you still can’t buy a drink or play in some professional sports leagues. I guess that means it’s ok for my daughter to tell me to screw off, drop out of high school and move to California, but God forbid she buys herself a six pack of White Claw and try out for the LA Sparks while she’s out there. Does buying a beer or playing in the WNBA make you some higher order adult? Again, I must have missed that section in the parent manual.
Any parent who has lived with an 18-year-old kid (sorry, adult), especially if they are in the second semester of their senior year in high school, understands how much they ignore virtually everything you say. Every once in a while, if you annoy them by trying to enforce household rules they find inconvenient, your new adult may remind you that “technically” they don’t need to listen to anything you say. They’re no longer kids, we can’t boss them around anymore.
Of course, there’s always bribery – money, use of the car – but is it really fair to crassly coerce my newly christened adult? Well, yes.
But maybe Roger Goodell or another league commissioner who thinks 18 year olds are still kids could help. Wouldn’t it be great if one of them spoke up on behalf of all parents and reminded 18 year old’s that until you’re old enough to play in their league you aren’t really an adult, so get your ass outside and cut the grass.
Really, it’s on me. I’ve been through this before, so I just have to get comfortable with the ambiguous transition to adulthood in our society. The truth is I’m enormously proud of our newest adult. She’s much more together at 18 than I was, that’s for sure. But I’m going to continue to reserve the right to still call her “kid”, as a term of endearment, at least until she’s old enough to legally pick up a bottle of Scotch for me.