I will never understand the compulsion to treat an eighteen-year-old, that is, a legal adult, like they are still a child. While, presumably, such a young person is leaving the nest for the first time (and therefore needs guidance), one would hope that the parents of this young person have guided them to where they need to go. Whether or not the youngster leaves for college, the military, trade school, a job, a gap year program (volunteering, interning, or what have you), whether or not the family contributes monetary aid, one would hope this new adult is ready to take steps, however faltering, into the path we call life.
Though I am almost twenty-one years old, I remember the last month of my senior year like it was yesterday. My best male friend and I were both accepted into our top choice university (we were the most politically active within our class, so it wasn't surprising) and our mothers were talking about how different it would be to send their children so far away. No one understood why. They thought our parents were crazy to send us to such a "dangerous" city (because living next door to Joe Biden inspires terror in the hearts of men), that our mothers would miss their "babies" terribly and beg us to come home, and even more absurd accusations. My mother often responded with, "If I allowed myself to think of every possible situation she could get herself into, I'd be paralyzed with fear!"
Looking back, I'm so glad my parents were willing to send me so far away to school. Throughout the past three years, I've started learning to stand on my own two feet. For the first time in my life, I had a job and started teaching myself how to budget. I questioned my faith and every aspect of my upbringing and personality. I learned to cook well. I chose a major I've loved and have been on the Dean's List for two years straight. I got my own apartment and never missed a rent payment. I've interned and started my own club. I've developed hobbies and interests. I've joined a parish and started making friends and networks. I had articles published. I developed friendships and learned how to stand up for myself. I learned to appreciate my family more and am more motivated to honor them. I chose to go to Nairobi this fall and I'm doing what I can to make it happen. In short, I've started finding myself.
I say this, not to gloat or to brag, but to show that independence is a wonderful gift, a blessing that you can bestow upon your adult child. Sadly, throughout my home community, there was a tendency to coddle, to smother children in affection and to attempt to shield them from the hard things of life. My parents never did that. If we failed a class, we failed and took the consequences. If we had drama with friends, we were expected to deal with it on our own. We had a cornucopia of chores. When it came time for college, my parents offered financial support with the promise of good grades and hard work. Of course, they were always there to provide love, support, and advice, but they wanted us to learn to be responsible adults. That way, turning eighteen wasn't so scary.
People have told me that I have a strong work ethic and sense of dedication to the tasks at hand. They tell me that I seem strong, mature, and able to take care of myself. I have my parents to thank for that. Their whole lives, they've worked to help us become the people we were meant to be. Through discipline, an emphasis on dedication, and a strong amount of love and support, they aimed to guide us in that process. I am thankful for that. I am thankful that they believed in me enough to let me make those choices. I am thankful for the respect they gave me, as an adult and as a person. The ability to do well in school and simultaneously pay my bills fills me with a sense of accomplishment. I'm glad my parents set me on that path.
It's bogus to think that college aged adults need constant coddling. Not to say that families shouldn't support them or help them when times really do become tough, but that it's ridiculous to assume that we're incapable of caring for ourselves. We learn from our mistakes and our successes, we learn where we need to fix things and what we're truly capable of. We become creative and resourceful in our attempts to make it "out there." By the time we are truly out in the world, we've already experienced it and know what it's like. We're more than our society expects us to be. I wish more people would see that.