Tomorrow, September 26, 2015, my daughter turns 18 and will be a legal adult. She will be allowed to register to vote and enter into contracts. She will be able to sign herself out of class and, according to Massachusetts laws regulating junior operators, drive unaccompanied between the hours of 12:30 and 5AM. She will be charged fees for maintaining her bank account and reported by name on census forms. While much will remain the same for my little girl – she will still be in High School, living at home and subject to my rules – I can see that so much is also changing for her.
I have mentioned this week to acquaintances and colleagues that Rebekah is turning 18; the replies have been nearly identical every time: “What? That’s not possible!” But, alas, it is true. The little princess, our only girl, is a child no longer. The days of baby dolls and dressing-up are over. The time for bedtime stories and checking brushed teeth has passed. The pictures of her younger years are all that remain – snapshots that capture her cute smile, her occasionally crooked bangs, the frilly dresses with frilly collars and the frilly socks that three year-old young ladies love to wear. I am left only with wondering how all those years could have so quickly passed.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
There is a thought that new parents sometimes entertain – that if their children can only reach adulthood relatively undamaged, they’ve done their job. Speaking as a parent of two adult children (beginning tomorrow), I am unwilling to relinquish my role and cease to provide parenting to my over-18 offspring. I will acquiesce to a few changes in the relationship with my soon-to-be-adult daughter, as I did three years ago with her now-adult brother:
- As an adult, I will allow her to make her own mistakes and, hopefully, only offer advice when it is requested;
- As an adult, I will try to remember that she may hold different opinions than mine and have different experiences than me, but I will reserve the right to confront stupidity and sin;
- As an adult, I will try to encourage her in following the course she chooses without forcing her to change courses for my benefit; and
- As an adult, I will not attempt in any way to treat her like a child.
While those changes are being implemented, one thing will remain the same: I will constantly and unconditionally love my daughter – no caveats, no small print.
Now, isn’t that the way mature people of God ought to treat one another, with mutual respect and mutual encouragement? Isn’t that the way we’d like to be treated by others? As my daughter enters adulthood, I’d like to think that this is the treatment she will receive from her peers. Perhaps that could be our gift to her and her generation – acceptance as adults – flawed, faulty and fragile like the rest of us.
Happy Birthday, Rebekah.