Today, my oldest kid turned 18, and just like that he’s an “adult”.
I can remember when Owen was still a little guy. We’d come home from work, pick him up from Grandma’s house and I would sit him in his chair, feed him dinner and sing songs, read stories, or tell him poems. I can still nearly remember “Mooses come walking” by Arlo Guthrie, and at least the intro to goodnight moon. It was so dang long ago. These days, conversation over dinner (when we can manage all having dinner together), revolve around grown-up things. Or at the very least, more ‘mature’ endeavours. Lately, we’ve spent rather a LOT of time talking about college, scholarships, student loans, cost of living, jobs, career, and so many related topics. It’s not at all the same, and yet, nothing has really changed, not in ways that matter, at least yet.
It’s funny how we think about age and coming of age. Yesterday, Owen was 17 – technically still a kid. and today, by some arcane legal magic, he’s technically an adult. As of this morning, he can vote, be drafted, work whatever hellish hours an employer can dream up, more or less make actual legal decisions on his own behalf, and 100% from now on be accountable as an adult for everything he does. All that and yet, tomorrow he’ll go to high school just the same as he did yesterday, as if nothing at all has changed. A huge mile-stone is on us, and it feels simultaneously like a big deal and yet just another day in the usual grind.
Over the past few days as we’ve been trying to figure out college and how to pay for it, it’s occurred to me that while he’s earned the label ‘adult’, he’s not really an adult, is he? He can’t rent a car (technically can’t drive yet, but that’s another issue altogether). He can’t support himself, even if he went out and found a full-time job tomorrow he’d still be dependent for some time. The kid can’t go for a beer, buy a cigar, or try recreational marijuana (not that I’m advocating for any of that, mind). I suspect if he tried to book a hotel or a flight, he could not. There’s no possibility for renting his own place, buying a car, or getting a credit card. Even opening a bank account is going to take an adultier adult.
I’ve been dreading this milestone for a while now. I thought I’d be freaking out, maybe crying a lot or seeing to it that at least one freshly opened bottle of whisky doesn’t see the light of day. I don’t know, it’s supposed to be a big deal. Instead, I’ve found it to be a pretty normal day, all things considered. I went to work, called a plumber in a panic while shovelling poo out of my front yard, fretted about taxes a bit, ordered dinner, and went to Target. About the most substantive thing that happened today (outside of the poo thing) was that we lit some sparklers in the kitchen and sang happy birthday over some birthday ice cream.
As bedtime closes in on what is supposed to be one of the biggest milestones of my kids life, and a huge one in mine, I’m realising that turning 18 isn’t really a milestone, it’s the first in a series of steps in a years long transition. We still have a lot of time before our kid truly launches into independence. There is much work to be done yet and perhaps more beyond. I don’t really know, I guess we’ll just have to see.