Yesterday we had a birthday party for Alex who will turn 18 next week. We had what has now become the family tradition of the ‘wall of fame’ that is photos of Alex from just before birth to now-with a small extra bit to add photos for the next week.
Officially, as far as our culture is concerned he becomes an adult now. Although there seems to be stages to the process from 16 then 18 and then 21. I don’t think Alex is really noticing too much that there is a step up at this point. He has been planning for it gradually anyway.
As the children reach adulthood parenting adults is a bit different. I think some people think their role is finished at 16 or even younger, but the fact is once a parent always a parent, but the role changes. So we all have to adjust a little.
He is discerning his future; whether he is called to marriage, single life, religious or priesthood and he has long believed he is called to marriage. He therefore wants to be sure he has work that pays for a family life. Knowing this I got him (with his help) a Wacom Cintiq 12WX. With this pretty nifty peace of kit he is hoping to expand his art files and portfolio as well as greatly enhance his college work over the next year. It’s a tool for his career and he has saved up and paid for half of it himself. (I’m hoping to have a go with it myself of course). The reason I talk of this present is that it really is about Alex entering the adult world where his career and future prospects are to be seriously considered. He has to make decisions for himself more and more now and has to take more responsibility in every day life.
In some ways this is already happening. There is an expectation that older children look after their own clothes and do their own washing. Both he and Josh help around the house when they are here because this is their home and they are partly responsible for it. They both have jobs and therefore have to budget properly.
On the financial side I hear a lot of people on the radio (usually Dr Ray’s call in) talking about whether adult children should pay rent or not. I think this depends on the family situation. My sons don’t pay rent. Once their wages are enough we ask them to budget for their own clothes, phone, art materials, and Josh pays for his lenses and bike expenses etc. Whatever is left over from that is put into savings for their future education and career plans.
On the whole I haven’t found the transition from parenting a child to parenting an adult very difficult but it does have its moments when I make what I think are mistakes. It’s the part where you don’t quite know whether to step in a police a situation or let them make their own decisions over it. (such as watching films that I am unsure are morally acceptable).
Dr Ray has said many times that as we live in a toxic culture (to use his words, which fit) that even parents who do their level best to teach their children to lead Christ centred lives are up against it. That it is too easy for young adults to be seduced by the culture of drink, consumerism and sex. This coupled with the difficulties too many parents have of trying to bring our children up with no support from those around us whether family, community or the ever silent Church surely makes the whole business of parenting young adults more difficult still.
I pray Alex has the future he strives for and as the discernment towards marriage continues I pray he will be a good husband and father and live happily (whatever life throws at him) ever after.