Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Inching toward adulthood

I can't wrap my head around it. My firstborn is now a legal adult. He had his birthday over the weekend. Kind of a fiasco. He had told me he wanted to spend his 18th birthday at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were playing the White Sox, so that was a bonus. I secured some expensive tickets. Then he told me he had to work that day and the boss wasn't allowing switches. When he explained the situation, his boss told him he could be off if he found someone to cover his shift. He didn't. turned out that Wrigleyville was a mess that day...swarming with Secret Service, roads closed, protesters inundating the city. My husband, who is a first responder, was worried and cautious about us going into Chicago anyway. So, he didn't get to spend his birthday there. He spent it at work. We'll make up for it by going to another game later in the season, but I know it won't be quite the same.

I just can't believe he's an adult now. He's depended on me for so long and he will continue to in many ways. It's sad. It's freeing. It's exhilarating. It's nostalgic. It's a lot of things rolled into one. He's a good kid...for the most part, anyway. Like any teenager, he's far from perfect and he's made mistakes, but overall he's been a joy most of the time. I don't feel like I had any really horrible times during his teen years. He didn't always do exactly what I'd like and didn't handle everything the way I'd like, but I'm very proud of the man he's becoming. I think many parents breathe a little sigh of relief if a son makes it to age 18 without getting arrested, getting into drugs or impregnating someone. There are for sure way bigger things to strive for, but those three can be pretty big problems with pretty big consequences and if you can get through the teen years without one of those challenges being put in front of you, you can count yourself as fortunate. We all think we raise our kids to know better, but hey, we were all young once and sometimes teens do and say things in the moment and the consequences aren't heavily weighed. And as parents all we can really do is teach them what is most important to us, relay the importance of priorities, make known the values we hope they will adopt, steer them in the right direction and then set them free into the world. No matter how good the lessons we've taught them, we just don't know what they're doing when not in our presence. We just have to hope and pray that are lessons got through and will guide them in making good choices. As they grown, we no longer have the luxury of making choices for them.

I was thinking the other day of all the things that he is now free to do as an adult. "He can vote now," I said in front of his brothers. "Yeah, and he can get married now," said one of his younger brothers. He could buy cigarettes now if he wanted to, I thought to myself. I'm hoping the voting will come sooner than later, a marriage is later rather than sooner and buying a pack of cigarettes happens never.

Our bank wouldn't let him open his own checking account and get a debit card until he was 18. He was eager to get that done and asked me to take him. I had a hectic day and decided I should send him on his own. He is an adult now and needs to learn to take care of things like his finances all by himself. The other day he had a dentist appointment. I realized that he's no longer a minor and should be able to handle driving to the dentist office he's been going to all his life for a simple cleaning. At first I felt a little mean even, urging him to do these things on his own. I don't want him to feel like I'm kicking him to the curb because he hit that magic birthday.

What else can he do now that he has reached adulthood? He can join the military without my consent if he chooses. He can also be drafted. His selective service information came in the mail last week - right on time. He now no longer has a legal curfew (although I'm of the belief that he's still under our roof and we'll still instill one -- although staying out past curfew hasn't been an issue so far.) He can sign a binding legal contract. He is no longer limited to how many passengers under 18 he can have in the car. He can now serve on a jury. He can buy a lottery ticket.  He can work longer hours. He can go to an adult entertainment establishment (I don't even want to think about that one.) He can buy insurance in his own name. He can apply for a credit card. He can get a tattoo. He can get a ticket to be in a studio audience of a television show. He can pawn something. He can buy a house. He can be convicted as an adult. He can get a library card without parental signature. He can enter the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. He can go on a cruise. He can gamble in a handful of states, like Wyoming and Rhode Island. That doesn't mean he's going to go out and do all these things, but it's all now an option and a week ago it wasn't. Basically, the only restriction once you're 18 is not drinking alcohol.

Seems like just yesterday that he was falling asleep in my arms, I was feeding him from a spoon and pushing him in a stroller. Now he's grown up. He still has so much to learn and so much to experience and many roads to go down, but now I'll be watching from the sidelines most of the time, rather than being an active participant. Sometimes I feel like I'm still learning my way in this grown up world. Now there's another one in the ranks who will be learning his way, as well.

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