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Last weekend my last baby turned 18, far more quickly than I ever imagined he would. My first two are 28 and 29 so I have raised children to adulthood before and know how it goes, but this one is different somehow, in so many subtle ways. It might be because he is the last, or because I raised him as an older and wiser parent, or any number of other reasons that might play into it, but the biggest difference, the thing that makes his entry into legal adulthood so unique is mostly due to the nature of our relationship.
I was closely connected to all my children and have been into their adulthood, but my relationship with Chuck has been something out of an entirely different book. His siblings were a year apart and grew up like twins, completely devoted to each other and mostly inseparable. Because they were 10 and 11 when Chuck was born, he has grown up more like an only child and as such, has learned entirely different methods for living and coping. Even more apparent from the years of raising him has been the understanding that even though he is separated from his siblings by only a decade, he is of a different generation. The fact that the modern world seems to change at the speed of light means that 10 years is a different generation altogether in the lives of young people. If you don't believe it, think about this – the Roman Empire lasted approximately 677 years by the count of many historians. At the beginning, Roman technology included aqueducts to supply population centers with water and the famous short sword called the Gladius. When Rome fell almost 700 years later, they were still building aqueducts and using the Gladius. Now, consider 700 years prior to our current level of technology. That would be 1312 we're talking about. Basically, the Dark Ages. Even more amazing, just think about the changes in the last 50 years in terms of science and technology. It doesn't take much to see that changes in the world have been and are happening at an ever increasing rate. There is a very real difference in the world in which my first two grew up and the one Chuck has grown up in and those differences were definite game changers in terms of parenting.
Chuck has been a unique, frustrating, challenging, and wonderful child to raise. Through it all he has been a great son and a delightful companion and we have built a fabulous relationship. We have not always agreed and we have had our small conflicts, but we share a deep respect and true admiration for each other that puts an entirely different spin on his coming of age. I don't just love Chuck, I really like him. I like the person he has grown up to be. If he were not my son I would wish he were my son, which is saying something. When my first two became adults and went off to college I couldn't help feeling a sense of loss, as if our relationship would never be the same. With Chuck, I feel none of that. Our relationship is so different and so solid that I have the certain knowledge that what makes it strong, our mutual respect, experiences, and unique friendship will remain unchanged. He will go off into the world when he graduates, meet some nice girl and have children of his own someday, just as he should, and while I may not loom as large in his life as I do now, we will always be friends. That feels good.
There was no bittersweet taste to celebrating Chuck's 18th birthday, just a real happiness in celebrating it together. After the party when we were sharing a cup of tea together he informed me that he had to sign some paperwork with his high school giving me the right of access to his teachers and information since he was now 18. I told him that it was entirely up to him and that he didn't have to sign anything if he didn't want to.
“I want to sign,” he informed me. “I'd be kind of a dink if I didn't.”
“Well,” I said. “You are all grown up now and all.”
Chuck snorted. “Really? Because someone somewhere decided that everyone is automatically fully adult after 18 years? I don't feel all grown up yet. When I do, you'll be the first person to know.”
This kind of statement is so Chuck. In some ways he is the most insightful and honest person I know.
Chuck has no problem telling people that I am one of his best friends and neither do I, because he is. Back in the day my other two and their friends used to tell me that I was “cool”. Now Chuck and his friends tell me that I'm “chill”. That's change I can live with.
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