The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
 
"" The Mother of a 17-year-old

I am the mother of a 17-year-old daughter. As anyone who has been in this position knows, I am deserving of a whole lot of sympathy. There are few tests of patience, control and fortitude tougher than parenting teenagers - Marine basic training is nothing but a Sunday afternoon stroll through the park when compared to the battle of wills fought between parent and teenage child in living rooms, kitchens and driveways throughout this land.

However, it has just dawned on me this suffering is to soon come to a screeching halt. And none too soon, I might add. For my daughter and her classmates are passing a magical mark this year. A celebration they've been longing for, dreaming of and planning on from the day they figured out how to roll from their stomachs to their backs in their cribs.

Yes, it's true they are high school seniors and will be graduating this coming June. This graduation is right up there, but not at the top of the longing for list. And, yes, they will have their college acceptances in hand and the fall will hold a new life for them. This, too, is high on the expectations list, but, again, not the tippy-top.

No, that honor befalls that most glorious of days: their eighteenth birthday which, here where we live in Wisconsin, signals the official passage into adulthood.

The eighteenth birthday is not as significant as it had been a few years ago when Wisconsin`s drinking age was eighteen. Now these newborn adults will still have to wait three more years before they can legally purchase and consume alcohol. This is considered a personal affront by the large German population who now call Wisconsin "Home," and for whom beer consumption is an important aspect of their culture.

It hadn't made much difference to me, one way or the other, before my life was super-glued to this other human I produced. There was, however, an incident prior to the raising of the drinking age to twenty-one which left me a lasting, negative impression. I was living a couple of blocks from the local high school at the time and a Friday night football game was in hot-and-heavy progress. It was an important game and the crowd was quite large.

I don't recall the final score; I couldn't tell you the name of the opposing school. What is forever etched across my memory page is the halftime entertainment - A raucous stampede of, what appeared to be, the entire student bodies of both the home and visiting schools. Their mission was to cover the four blocks to the local "watering hole," wherein they would toss back as much alcoholic libation as the short intermission period allowed.

Though I stand smack-dab in the center of a shuddering minority, I was very pleased when Wisconsin was forced to raise the legal age for consumption of alcohol to twenty-one. With this minor exception of alcohol forbiddance, the eighteenth birthday marks the passage of the child to the adult - theoretically, anyway.

Having claimed this landmark more years ago than I wish to recall, and knowing Kate's adulthood is fast approaching, I thought it might be a valuable service to list a few of the many wonders and privileges these new adults will soon enjoy.

(Privilege): An adult can stay up as late as s/he pleases.
(Fact): Most adults long for the bygone days when they could get to bed at a decent hour instead of having to do all the necessary tasks around the house they couldn't get to during the day.

(P): You can get yourself a full-time job.
(F): After the excitement wears off - usually the third day on the job - you start marking the days until your retirement.

(P): You can vacation wherever you please.
(F): With only five days off work and an empty bank account, how does painting the living room and kitchen grab ya?

(P): You can "play hooky" and call in sick anytime you want.
(F): You'll have to drag yourself into work regardless how sick you are - no work/no pay

(P): You can get married.
(F): You can barely support yourself (see above listings); how ever will you provide for your children?
(And, believe me, there will be children - they're the little surprise packages which tend to accumulate when you take advantage of the benefit you're rushing into marriage for in the first place.)

(P): You can now vote in local, state and national elections.
(F): You probably won't find time to fit it in with everything else you have to do.

(P): You can serve on a trial jury of your peers.
(F): You can serve on a trial jury of your peers.

(P): You can watch whatever you want on television.
(F): You can't afford a television. Should you happen to have one, the kids will be glued to "Pokemon" cartoons and "Nick at Nite."

(P): You can - if you must - legally buy your own cigarettes and smoke them in public.
(F): As more No Smoking laws are passed, smokers in need of their cigarette fix must now huddle together outside of public buildings in sub-zero temperatures; if cigarettes don't kill you, the pneumonia will.

(P): You can finally get your own place and not have to follow your parents' Gestapo-esque rules.
(F): Your workplace - and your job - is "down-sized," you lose your apartment and have to move back in with your parents, where you must express your gratitude to them by following their Gestapo-esque rules.

There are more, but you get the idea. It's the old "Grass is Greener" conundrum - children can't wait until they're adults and have all of these wonderful adult freedoms; adults yearn for the days of their childhood where they were wonderfully free of their adult responsibilities. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to being a child and being an adult. And, in the end, there's always the march of time which will deliver you from one to the other, regardless your personal preference.

As my daughter and her classmates approach this milestone birthday, it is my prayer - and those of all parents - these sons and daughters of ours will have gained the maturity needed to accompany their newly bestowed "adult" status, to realize simply being allowed to do something, doesn't necessarily mean you should.

Until next time I wander into your e-mailbox, make the best of it!

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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006