Adulthood Does Not Begin at 18
Last year I shared the experience of dropping off my freshman daughter at a faraway school. It was full of tears and saccharin and schmaltz, all sincerely felt, I promise. There I was, waving good-bye to my sweetheart and feeling like I was leaving my heart on the sidewalk.
Well, this year, things went a little differently. I drove to Boston, pulled down her street, slowed down and told her to do the “tuck and roll.” And before you think I’m a terrible mother, you should know that she was willing to jump out the window as soon as we hit Comm Ave. The summer did us in, changed us forever. Instead of mother and daughter, we were two she-devils, baring claws and gnashing teeth before breakfast which, for my daughter, was usually round 2 p.m.
What the hell happened? Where did my sweet child go? What rat bastard forced her to drink the “I am an adult now” Kool-Aid? That was the summer mantra: “I can stay out as late as I want because now I’m an adult.” “I can wear whatever I want, say whatever I choose, entertain any loser I drag in off the street, because I am … ” You get the idea.
Now here’s my confusion. This is a fairly bright child. Why do I even have to explain the concept of dependent adult? You know the one defined by the fact that I pay for her clothing, shelter, education, food, cell phone, car payment, insurance, and healthcare expenses. Exactly what kind of an adult would she be without that support? She wouldn’t, she’d still be a kid, which is exactly what she is. So who started this crap about being an adult at 18? Is it because we don’t have the collective conscience to say we send our children off to war? It’s easier to say we send our young adults, I guess.
Who brainwashed these kids into thinking that on their 18th birthday they wake up sages of wisdom and experience? I have a feeling that the rat bastard might just be that happy, bouncy guy at last year’s orientation, the one who announced to the crowd that “Your children are adults now. Therefore, we will not be notifying you of any academic sanctions, medical emergencies or legal issues that may arise during your child’s tenure here.” Really? She could be a drop-out drug addict sitting in a Boston jail cell, and no one is going to give me a call, all because she’s an “adult”? Funny, though, that same guy can find me when it’s time to pay the tuition or fund-raise.
So, there we were, unloading stuff into the new apartment, keeping our distance and our tongues. We’d called a small truce in the last few days, both of us aware that our strained time together was coming to a close. I asked her if she felt it was okay for me to share this year’s experience, fully expecting ranting and raving, whining and complaining. Instead, she said, “You know Mom, it was a tough summer for both of us. It was hard on us to learn how to be different people around each other. I think it’s a good thing for you to write about it so it’s okay with me.”
Go figure, what an adult thing to say.