There is a natural transition every person experiences in life. It is the transition from youth to adulthood. Naturally, this transition does not occur at a universally defined age – maturity, wisdom, and life experiences which result in a person’s transition to adulthood obviously vary from person to person. The one element that is consistent with a child becoming an adult is the differing opinions between the child and his/her parent on the timing of this transition.
Needless to say, a child often believes they are capable of making adult decisions at the age of eight. The parent then assumes the role of having to protect their child from themselves (and the absurd decisions they may make). The challenge for a parent after so many years of guarding their child and assuming that they always know what’s best for their child is truly recognizing when their child has, in fact, become an adult.
This past summer my son interned for a Congresswoman in Washington DC. Although it was quite an accomplishment for him to obtain the internship out of such a large population of applying candidates, like any other parent we still viewed him as our son who we needed to protect. My wife or I would speak with him several times a week giving him advice that he would politely listen to (and then like we did with our own parents when we were his age……probably ignore most of the advice and make the decision that he believed to be the best).
Towards the end of my son’s internship, we traveled to Washington DC to visit him and tour the national monuments. The first night that we saw him, he was half-shaven wearing shorts and a t-shirt and extremely excited to take us to the zoo. Quite simply, he was the goofy boy that I love as my son.
However, the next day my son worked while we toured the museums. As we met him for lunch, he walked out of the Halls of Congress wearing a suit and a security badge. He was professional and walked with confidence. As he walked towards us a few people stopped to ask him questions which he answered in a clear and concise manner. The obvious immediate thought of both my wife and I was who is this man and what did he do with our son?
Did my son go off to Washington and become an adult? Doubtful, since it could be argued that very few people working in Washington (especially the Halls of Congress) actually act like adults. But, there was a noticeable change and transition of our son. He was no longer the youthful boy/young man. He was now a man.
Reality is that this transition into adulthood occurred over a period of time. However since parents are so emotionally close with their children, it is often difficult for the parent to view their child through objective eyes. But, when the parent can witness from afar the interaction, behavior, and maturity of their child, it is realized at that moment that the child has become an adult.
For a parent, it is difficult because regardless of your child’s age, the parent instinctively wants to protect and attempt to provide guidance (which is often just an opinion). I saw my son so incredibly mature while working over 3,000 miles from home in our nation’s capital. I was proud to see the man that he had become. Then, not two days later he said and did something completely immature. Did this mean that he had not yet truly transitioned into adulthood? No…..if that was the case, any given week my wife, my mother, and even my in-laws could claim that I acted in an immature manner and have not yet become an adult.
My boy may be a man, but I will always be his dad – always there when he needs me, supportive even when I may not fully agree with his decision, and respect him as a man while loving him as a son.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.