I know a lot of parents who think parenting ends at 18. That 18th birthday is the magic day when all our responsibilities as parents go POOF into the ether and we are no long responsible for our offspring. Would that this could be true.
Truth is, 18 is just when kids graduate high school (presuming they gradate high school). And in high school, about 99% of kids don’t get classes in
- prudent grocery shopping
- looking for an apartment
- reading/negotiating a lease
- tracking their money (also known as balancing a checkbook)
- opening a checking/savings account
- buying a car
- financiing major appliances
- writing a resume
- applying/interviewing for a job
- saving for retirement
- general household cleaning
- sewing a button
- hemming pants (or where to go to get pants hemmed)
Now maybe you’re one of those long-game parents who has spent your child’s high school years, teaching him all these skills. If that’s the case, then GREAT! You are, for all intents and purposes, finished at 18. You might want to stick around in case their are some questions and maybe a forgotten lesson or two, but for the most part, practically you’re done.
But say you have a kid like my kid: responsible, reliable, and totally wrapped up in being a teenager with no place in her head for things like budgeting, saving, learning to grocery shop, how to buy a car, etc… There is a good chance that she’s going to hit 18 and not know how to do these basic things to help her start living on her own.
And I don’t see how I can say “I’m done” if my kid doesn’t know how to live on her own.
So, realistically, the “I’m done” finish line is more like at 22 or 24 or 26…something like that. And I have a feeling that the finish line is less of a line, than it is a finish red carpet walk — you start at the beginning and you’re so excited to be there and then you have to stop every few feet for questions from your kid and then you go a while without being stopped and then you’re stopped again with more questions. And it seems like it goes on forever and you’ll never actually get into that event we call “Freedom!” But, eventually, we do. Most of us.
Again, as my child’s advocate, I have to make sure she has all the skills she needs to not only survive, but thrive. It’s great that I’ve been able to give her some emotional stability, but she needs practical skills too and those are difficult to teach, while your kid is wrapped up with extra curriculars, school, social life, SATs, worrying about college, etc.
My kid is thinking about taking a year off to go to a trade school and get a certificate before she goes into a four year college. I’m all for that - particularly if that means she’s going to live at home, because I have one more year to give her these skills that she needs to have.