My oldest daughter turned eighteen yesterday. To celebrate (or assert her adulthood, I can’t be sure which) she went out and got a body piercing immediately upon leaving school. When she came home and showed off her new navel ring I oohed and ahhed appropriately before eyeing the redness and asking whether it hurt. She confirmed that it did, but she said it was worth it. And then I asked if it was everything she had hoped for. A sly smile crept across her lips and she reported that the best part of the experience was when the technician verified the birthdate on her driver’s license and then took a bold black Sharpie to the parent/guardian signature line on the release form.
She loves the new bling on her belly button, but moreover, she is absolutely giddy over being “legal.” I’m fairly certain that she’ll spend the next few weeks in a state of euphoria—her head swirling with ideas on how she can make the most of this newfound freedom. After all, with this milestone birthday comes the right to vote and buy lottery tickets, not to mention the ability to leave school grounds without parental permission. There are perks—no doubt—to reaching the age of majority. And because I’m a nice mom I’ll let her revel in those for a while; I’m sure reality will hit soon enough.
My experience with reaching adulthood came about far differently than hers. I was sixteen when I gave birth to her—a high school cheerleader with big dreams of heading off to college with my friends. Along with those two pink lines came the dissipation of those dreams. Reality settled in instead, dirty diapers and all. By the time I turned eighteen, I had long since been dealing with adult responsibilities. I’m thankful that my daughter chose a different path, and I’m curious to watch firsthand what the natural progression to adulthood looks like.
Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about this milestone in my daughter’s life. On one hand, I’m excited to watch her blossom into an adult—thrilled to see what she does with the blank canvas of her life. On the other hand, I hurt for her a little because I know that real life isn’t as dreamy and carefree as she has it chalked up to be. There is a learning curve to this parenting thing, probably more so in our case given that I was so young when she was born. I’ve learned a lot along the way but perhaps the most difficult lesson has been that my experiences aren’t necessarily transferrable; as much as I wish it were so, she can’t possibly draw as much from my mistakes as she can from her own. And eighteen years in, I’m only now getting comfortable with the idea of letting her make them.
When I told a friend about my daughter’s big plan for a navel ring, my friend wanted me to pass along the story of how her sister had inadvertently ripped her own navel ring out when she turned over in bed and caught the jewelry on a blanket. I happily conveyed the story to my daughter, hoping I might sway her. My scare tactic failed miserably. Here’s the good news, though: last night, as she was getting ready for bed, my daughter placed a Band-Aid over her freshly-pierced navel, mindful of the story I shared. My motherly advice might not have entirely won out, but at least it sunk in. And if that’s the best I can hope for, I suppose I’ll take it.