Museum of Motherhood

When Your Child Turns 18, Does Parenting Stop?

By: Alexis Chapman

This was a topic that was brought up on the JoinMama community by a member. www.joinmama.ning.com When does the responsibility for parenting end?  Should parents close the door to their children and not be overly active in their lives once they turn 18, the legal age of an adult in the United States?  My opinion is definitely not!  I do not have children yet, but given the experience that I have had in my life, with parents who decided not to sever the cords when their 3 children turned 18, I will follow in their footsteps.  A stronger relationship between the child and parent can be formed once the child is older.  The child will have more experiences and be able to reflect on their childhood experiences.  Also, this allows a human to human relationship to occur between parent and child.  I consider this an evolution of the relationship, in a positive way.  I cannot imagine being 33 and having the rapport with my parents that I had when I was 16, it would be awful.  I have been able to apologize for some of the choices I have made, along with having a better understanding of the choices my parents made.  One decision was getting divorced, I initially wanted to title this post “Why I thank my Mom for leaving my Dad and other things I am grateful for as an adult” but my Mother didn’t think that would be appropriate.  I explained that it was just some dark humor and that I would never maliciously slam my parents via a public forum, and she said she knew this and understood, but that it would be more appropriate and not be offensive if I steered clear of that title.  Out of respect for my Mother, and this alone, I 86’d  the title.

It’s true, I am thankful my Mother left my Father and not because it was easy for either parent to deal with divorce, and not because I was horribly spoiled because of the divorce (that was the younger sister) but because as an adult I can look at the HUGE leap of faith my mother took and the strength that she had to make a decision to leave the man she had been with for 17 years, 3 kids later and working full time in a small town where our last name was held in esteem and go out on her own, circa the 1980’s. at age 35, 2 years older then I am now.  I would never have appreciated the trials she went through or the sheer force of will that this woman possess had I not had a relationship with her as an adult.  The healing process between teenager and adult Alexis with my Mom would never had occurred, and who knows if I would have remained bitter of my interpretation of events as opposed to being an adult and experiencing an adult relationship with both mother and father.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t view my parents as parents and love them as a child loves them, because that is far from the truth.  As stated earlier, it is an evolution of the relationship and bond between my parents and myself.  This is the same for both of my siblings as well.  Not only has the relationship between my parents and each sibling evolved, but the relationship between us siblings has evolved as well.

Does this mean that everything is hunky dory and that we all get along like some Norman Rockwell dream? No.  But I do know that there have been personal adult issues that my siblings and I have gone through that would have been much more difficult without the relationship we currently have with our parents.  For me, it was a combination of mental health and substance abuse.  Without the strength of my core family and stability, understanding  and structure that they could offer, I wouldn’t be here.  Again, not a fairy tale situation, just an example of what hard work and continuing to bridge communication gaps and gain understanding can do.  And it’s awesome as a child of these 2 flawed, unique, amazing human beings to have a family dinner where they can be in the same room as each other and understand that they brought 3 children into this world, all of who are well over the age of 18, yet they are still their children and we can all laugh together.  To me, that is family.  That is an example of why parenting shouldn’t end when the children turn 18.  That’s just the beginning of the next evolution.



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