In a couple of weeks, my oldest child will turn 18. That makes him an almost adult. I say “almost adult” because even though he will now be able to vote, serve on a jury, be sued and enter into legally binding contracts, he still can’t seem to make himself a sandwich.
Well, he can, but he won’t, at least not if someone is around to make it for him. If he won’t take on making lunch, is he really ready to take on the role of an adult? Does he even know what that means?
Just the other day he asked me what else he can do when he turns 18. I responded, “Go to jail, go into debt and hide your sexual history.”
I don’t think that’s what he was looking for.
So, now I find myself compiling a list of legal issues* associated with turning 18 that I need to discuss with him. I feel like I only have a couple of weeks to force him to listen, so I’m taking advantage of this parenting opportunity.
1. Selective Service. He has to register with Selective Service, which means that he can go to war if there is a draft. If he fails to register, he may be fined, imprisoned or have to forgo any federal grants and loans that he needs for college. It also means that he can enlist in the armed forces — without my permission.
2. Health issues. My cousin jokingly asked my son if he was going to get a tattoo or a body piercing on his birthday. A tattoo? Body piercing? I can weigh in on his choice, but I can’t stop him once he’s 18. I also no longer will have the right to see his health records or ask health-related questions of his doctor. We would like to set up a durable power of attorney for health care in case he is hospitalized and can’t make decisions for himself — but he has to agree first. Which leads me to…
3. Contracts. My son will be able to enter into legally binding contracts like a power of attorney. Also, credit card applications, apartment leases and car purchases are all fair game. The problem, of course, is that contracts have financial ramifications and, by that, I don’t mean that I may have to pay his bills. Bad financial decisions can lead to bad credit scores, bankruptcy and loan sharks (well, probably not loan sharks but it’s a good scare tactic).
4. Jail. The police no longer have to call me if my child gets arrested. I’ve been coaching my son that, should he get arrested or questioned by the police, the first words out of his mouth will be, “I want to talk to my attorney,” which, in his case, means I really want to talk to my mom, so it’s a good thing she’s a lawyer.
5. Privacy. Grade reports, financial reports, credit card bills – no longer my business. Or, more precisely, no longer accessible to me. Some colleges, however, may grant parents access to tuition and housing bills**, which would be nice since I’m helping to pay the bills. My son can also grant me access to his grades, which also might be nice since I’m helping to pay the tuition bill.
Once he turns 18, my son will also be able to drive all night, spend all of his money on lottery tickets, buy cigarettes, get married and go skydiving. It’s not an exhaustive list, just exhausting, at least for a parent. For a kid on the cusp of adulthood, though, it’s pretty exciting.
Connie Lissner is the founder of lifestyle blog i suck as a parent.
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- Selective Service