18th birthday comes with new responsibilities

Today, I’m the mother of two adult children. Yep, it’s the day my youngest son turns 18.

We will celebrate with dinner, and he will be showered with love, plus the usual gifts, cards and cash.

At some point very soon, my husband and I will have the same talk with him that we had with his older brother at this crossroads. We’ll remind him that, as a legal adult, he now is solely responsible for all his actions. Suddenly, with one tick of the clock, any stupid youthful exuberance — planned or spontaneous — now has the very real likelihood of following him for the rest of his life.

He has been responsible and mature beyond his years for quite some time, and while I doubt that will change now, I have to admit it gave me pause when he told me recently that the two things he really wanted to do on his birthday were to (1) go to the casino and (2) smoke a cigar.

The casino is out. He found that out when he Googled it and learned that he’s still three years shy of playing the slots. At 18 he could bet on the horses, but the nearby racino in Austintown has no horse races this time of the year.

If he really has a burning desire to spend his money on a gamble, he might do what his brother did at that age and go buy a lottery ticket.

His brother also has obliged his little brother’s other wish, and the other day produced what he described to me as some “really good stogies” that they will share tonight on the back porch.

Now, I don’t condone smoking nor the use of any tobacco products, but I suppose if this is the rite of passage into manhood, there are worse things he could do.

In addition to legally smoking a cigar and betting on horse races, at 18 in America he now can enter into a legally binding contract, and he can sue or be sued. He can invest in the stock market and open his own bank account (or remove my name from the joint account he and I opened when he got his first job at 16). If he really screws up, he can go to jail. He can get a tattoo without parental permission, he legally can stay out later at night and, if his dad and I disapprove of either, he also can move out of our house. Heck, now he can even buy a house.

And he also can serve on a jury. That could come only after he registers to vote, which, by the way, is also something he says he’ll do within the next week. If he does that by Oct. 5, he’ll be able to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Politics, current events and business are all things he’s had interest in for a few years now. As a senior in high school, he’s into his fourth year of business courses, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he made that his major in college.

So for this young man to register and cast a ballot — a critically important right we have as Americans — I’d be very proud. I believe he’d do his homework on the candidates and issues and not just shoot from the hip like, unfortunately, so many voters do.

Indeed, it’s an awful lot of responsibility for a young person to be wielding, but certainly at 18, he has more knowledge and maturity than teens at age 16 — the age that some people argue should be the legal voting age. (Yikes!)

Yes, it’s a scary world, but we all know that as parents, all we can do is teach them right from wrong, encourage them, be here for them, love them and let them go.

Happy 18th birthday, son. May all your dreams come true and may you always find the courage to pursue them. I love you.



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