This month, my house will have three adults living in it.
My oldest daughter turns 18. In the eyes of the law, she is an adult. She can vote. She can join the military. She can sign anything without my permission. Legally, she doesn’t need me.
It is a strange place to be. As new parents, it is hard to imagine getting through another day of diapers, bottles and
mommymommymommymommy. But slowly— and much too quickly— things change.
The first time the baby sleeps through the night, it seems like the angels are personally singing to you. Looking forward to conquering potty training, you start to have conversations with your kid that don’t involve a cartoon character.
After they are in school, you spend a lot of time signing forms. Medical authorizations, field trip permission slips and test papers are a few of the things that need your signature. Even into high school, you are signing driver training contracts, lab agreements and absence notices. Half the time you aren’t quite sure what you are signing, only that you as a parent or guardian have to sign it; it is required.
Brave new world
Once the clock strikes 18, however, some of that changes. You can no longer discuss medical issues with your child’s doctors unless your child signs a release. Once in college, they need to grant you access to grades and other information even if you are paying. Your child can also sign legally binding contracts without you.
The flip side is equally disturbing. Once a child is 18, he or she can be charged as an adult for crimes great and small. Run up a credit card bill? Sorry, kid, you are legally responsible for paying that. And no parental note will get you out of jury duty or Selective Service requirements.
In my eyes, however, my 18-year-old is still very much a dependent.
Harder than it looks
Recently I sent her to the grocery store to get a box of rice. She texted me from the store, asking me where to find it. During the college application process she wanted me to read over essays and help her keep track of the information needed to apply to seven schools. And it would be hard for her to fill out financial forms without at least a little help.
So my young adult is just that— a legal adult, but a very young one. Just like when she was a toddler, she still needs a version of training wheels to keep her steady. I will let her take the wheel for some things, but for others I’ll rather offer guidance even if the law thinks she doesn’t need it.
She still needs me, in a lot of ways, and I’m not complaining about that at all.