Coming of age

When does a child become an adult? Our society doesn’t have a simple answer to that question. We confer greater freedom and responsibility on our adolescents gradually, in bits and pieces, as they pass through their teens. Instead of a single rite of passage, we have lots of them at differing ages, from bar/bat mitzvah (age 12 for girls, 13 for boys) to the ability to buy alcoholic beverages (age 21). As a result, it’s not possible to meaningfully say exactly when your children grow up. But when your family experiences several of these events in the space of a week, you can no longer deny that something momentous is going on.
My family has just experienced such a week:

  • On May 26, Ben (our 15-year-old) passed a written test and obtained his Limited Learning Permit. He can now legally drive a car with adult supervision.
  • On the 29th, his sister Ruth turned 18.
  • The morning of May 30, we attended Ben’s confirmation at Christ the King Lutheran Church.
  • That same evening, Ruth graduated from high school.
  • On June 2, Ruth obtained her Driver License. And she registered to vote.

All of these were major milestones. But the one that really got to me was something unscheduled and unexpected. Ruth enjoys baking, and on the evening of June 2, she felt the urge to make a batch of cookies. But when she started to gather the ingredients, she discovered that we didn’t have enough eggs. Marie suggested that Ruth walk to the nearby Food Lion (it’s only five minutes away by foot) and buy some. Ruth grinned and said, “No, I’ll drive. Dad, can I borrow your car?” I nodded, and she picked up her purse, strolled out the door, and drove to the grocery store. Alone.

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