Are We Really Just Parents for 18 Years?

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You know what makes me laugh? When people say things like, “You’re having a baby? Congratulations! Get ready for sleepless nights for the next 18 years!” Or some variation thereof. As if being a parent is only an 18-year commitment and then you’re free and clear. As if your child becomes a legal adult and then it’s out of sight, out of mind, off to Hawaii and couples cruises you go!

First of all, have you seen an 18-year-old lately? That’s young. Really young. That’s Justin Bieber age. I’m not sure 18-year-olds should be allowed to run around without parental supervision. Have you seen how that kid dresses?

Second of all, who decided that 18 is when the parent-child relationship ends? I am well over the age of 18 and still very much dependent on my parents. Who else am I going to call to find out why my car is making that funny noise or whether it will ruin the recipe if I use dried basil instead of fresh?

Maybe it’s that a parent’s legal responsibility to house and feed their offspring expires when the child turns 18. I don’t know about you, but I can think of a bunch of 18-year-olds, not to mention 20-, 30-, and 40-year-olds who still live with their parents for various reasons. And even more adult children who still get some sort of help or support from their parents — moral, financial, or otherwise.

If it weren’t for my parents and in-laws, for example, my kids would never own a hand-knit sweater or the hideous licensed-character themed clothing they adore. (BTW, thanks a lot for that light-up Wall-E sweatshirt for the toddler, Mom!) We would have to pay a babysitter every time we went out, if you can imagine.

Seriously, though, now that I’m a mother myself I can’t even fathom turning in my mom card when my boys turn 18. I mean, sure, I hope I raise kids who become independent, successful adults someday. But they will always be my babies, no matter what age they are. If I’m lucky and do my job right, I hope that 18 years is only the beginning.

What do you think about being a parent for 18 years? Do you agree that it’s much more than that, or not?