For reasons having more to do with the predilections of their elders than with any rational considerations, our children seem obsessed with attaining the ages of 18 and 21. As a parental unit, I hit the jackpot this summer: my daughter turns 21 and my son turns 18.
Then again, this would be a watershed year for the kids even if they weren't clicking over those specific numbers on their personal chronometers. Rebecca is expecting her first child this fall; Russell, just finished with high school, is planning to wed his long-time girlfriend shortly thereafter. In my capacity as Dad, I am of course horrified that they would do such things at such tender ages. "What are they thinking?" I wonder.
What they're thinking, of course, is that it's time for them to quit being "the kids" and set out on paths of their own. Every child comes to this realization at some point, some sooner than others. (Yes, I know there is no shortage of slackers who should have set out, or should have been set out, years ago.) My crew, apparently, isn't the sort to hang around the house any longer than they have to, though they aren't about to turn their back on Mom and Dad just yet and it doesn't seem to be a case of sticking close by in case they need something from us, either.
It's my job to worry about them. But it's definitely not their job to ease my mind. What they're supposed to do is get started on the task of taking care of themselves and their fledgling families, and, I hope, to enjoy that task whenever they can. If everything works out, it's wonderful. If it doesn't, well, they're still my kids, and they're still young enough that they'll probably get another chance, and I hope I can keep the envy out of my voice when I say that.
Twenty-one and eighteen! Those are the milestones of their young lives. May they have many, many more.
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Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill