Age of Enlightenment (06/18/14)

Recent birthdays bring change and redefine a family as college closes in

Last week my older son celebrated his 20th birthday and in a few months my younger son marks his 18th birthday.

While their birthdays fall within a couple months of each other, the significance and difference between their June and September birthdays is as distinct as their personalities.

My older son celebrated his 18th birthday the week before his high school graduation and it commemorated his collegiate milestone.

My younger son will celebrate his 18th birthday as he starts his senior year of high school. Adding an 18th candle to my youngest son’s cake will symbolize the shrinking gap between high school ending and college starting.

Their landmark birthdays put them both legally on the path to adulthood and leave me in the dust contemplating the consequences.

As they abandon adolescence and enter adulthood, I’m no longer a mom of minor children. For years when asked about my kids’ ages, I’ve replied by saying I’m a mom of two teenagers.

As my youngest turns 18 years old, to say I’m a mom of a teenager is somewhat misleading, since I’m lawfully the parent of a young adult.

But it sounds so awkward to say I am the mom of young adults. All I think of when I hear young adult is the type of fiction I searched for when they were in middle school and needed a novel for a book report or to participate in their school’s Survivor Book Club.

According to the United States Census Bureau, I am the parent of millennials. Instead of labeling my sons as young adults, maybe I’ll reply that I have two millennials. Although, some people might think I parent potted plants.

My boys are part of the millennial generation: a segment of the population born between approximately 1980 and 2000 that doesn’t know life without digital technology or the internet.

As much as I complain about technology and my boys’ constant attachment to their cell phones, I admit it’s hard to imagine parenting without my cell phone. My phone acts as an umbilical cord keeping us connected.

Ages ago, as a college freshman, I’d communicate with my parents once a week to check-in on a Sunday night. Today I can’t imagine only talking to my college kid once a week. I’d prefer to hear from him once a day, but he doesn’t share my enthusiasm for conversation.

I confess, technology has become my crutch; I rely on it to keep me in contact with my young adults. I know all about positive empowerment and destructive hovering, but with the Internet’s instant access to information and my lack of willpower it’s tempting to bypass boundaries.

A couple weeks ago my cell phone died an untimely death. Once I received my replacement phone and began reconfiguring it, I discovered several new and enticing applications available.

Naturally, the first app that caught my eye asked, “Do you want to know where your family members are?” It was as if my new phone could read my mind.

I naively clicked on the icon and up popped something called the Family Map. After a few more innocent clicks I immediately received two rapid fire angry texts: “Why are you following me?” and “No, you are not tracking me!”

It’s complicated parenting my soon to be 18 year old who is about to experience unprecedented freedom and tremendous responsibility, and my 20 year old who is embracing independence and celebrating adulthood.

This year my boys’ birthdays represent major milestones for them and me. I’m no longer the mom of adolescent minors but not yet the mom of autonomous adults.

I’m still undecided how I will identify myself this year as my boys transition to adults, but next year I know my identity is inescapable: I’ll be the empty nester. Suddenly, young adult has a nice ring to it.

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