Steely Dan fans can stop right now. This is not a reference to them. No, this refers to my son, who likes to remind us that, at age 19, he is now an adult and can make his own decisions. He implores us to treat him with the same respect that we would any other adult who has reached that magical age of maturity set forth in our laws. Well.
I have a little advice for my son and all the calendar adults like him.
-Unless you are paying your own bills, you are not an adult.
-Unless you are caring for someone else who cannot care for themselves, you are not an adult.
-Unless you have taken up arms, enlisted, or otherwise offered to risk your life in the service of our country, you are not an adult.
-Unless you have learned to selflessly sacrifice your own wants (and needs) for the consideration of others, you are not an adult.
-Working in the summer for spending money at college does not make you an adult.
-Going to school prepares you for life as an adult, it does not make you one.
-Caveat: Working full time so that you can pay your own way through college, does make you an adult. Sacrificing what you want now for a better future, makes you an adult.
-Doing what your mother says, even though it goes against what you want and what your friends tell you is the right thing to do is one of the first steps towards adulthood.
You don’t have to check off every item on this list to be an adult. Pick just one. There are many items I have left off. If you feel as though you are doing adulthood like things that are not shown here, come to me and we can have a reasonable discussion.
Some items on this list have more responsibility than others. Some are harder than others. Having become an adult does not mean the difficulties of the path you have chosen are behind you. In fact, most hardships are still ahead of you.
The more of these things you learn to do successfully, the better adult you will be. You will be a better adult at my age than you are now, just as I strive to become better adult tomorrow than I was today.
There are no prizes for reaching adulthood. It’s not a race. I’ve seen children as young as 12 and 13 have to check off items on this list, leaving their childhood behind well before they should have to.
There’s no straddling the line—once you leave childhood for the responsibilities of being an adult, there’s no going back. Innocence lost can never be reclaimed.
Being an adult is a process that is earned by making sacrifices each and every day. I admire those who are ready to make the leap and do what is necessary to be a contributing member of society. But it’s not something you sit down with your parents and request as if asking for the car keys or twenty bucks to see a movie.
The next time you think about being respected like an adult and throw out, “Hey, I’m 19”, refer back to this list. If you haven’t yet checked off one of these items, save it for another day.