2014-08-15 11.57.242013-06-29 12.40.24 copyToday, Alice is 21. At 6:08pm to be exact. There we are at the beginning of her adventure and last year, as it continued. (I’m not standing in hole on the left – she really is that much taller than I am).

Every birthday is special but this one is a landmark. At 16 she could drive, at 18 she could vote and now she can drink. Drink legally that is. And (I had to look this up) apply to adopt a child, and get a commercial drivers license.

But 21 is our society’s informal definition of adult. I asked my undergraduate classes what defines an adult and many of them said ‘being financially independent,’ but most described it as more qualities than benchmarks. An article in Psychology Today several years back pretty much says the same thing.

Alice is very much an adult in many ways. I am amazed at her intrapersonal intelligence, maturity in reasoning about others’ behaviors and motivations, her ability to express herself and be true to her self. She is incredibly creative and resourceful. She can be highly organized and is interested in just about everything. Alice has always been a fabulous traveler- easily adjusting to new situations and interested in meeting new people – and this serves her well as she is open to the world. And, she speaks her mind.

I chalk up the characteristics that would appear to be less mature (OK, sometimes irritating and irresponsible), merely the product of laziness or occasional apathy, certainly not ability or aptitude. She hasn’t been tested in the big ways of being an adult. That of living independently and being financially responsible. But that’s more of a societal phenomenon and privilege of being a full time student in college between 18 and 22. Kind of putting full responsibility for living independently on hold.

And then of course there are the BIG challenges that life throws at you and regardless of your age, you’re not certain you can deal.

IMG_0508 copy P&A sculpture g_close copyAs a parent, who my daughter is at 21 some kind of final exam? Some evidence of how my husband and I raised her? Perhaps. But as much as I promote supporting what parents know about parenting (and that is my job and my line of research after all), I do believe a lot in Alice’s context. She grew up with racial privilege (being white), with two highly educated parents, and a family with fairly decent resources – financially and emotionally. She lived in safe neighborhoods and went to good public schools. So, at birth and because her parents ensured that her socioeconomic conditions remained stable, she was one of the lucky ones. She also had chances to travel (to China, Europe and around the US) and go to school with a diversity of kids.

That’s not to say there weren’t socioemotional pressures and challenges along the way. Alice faced more than a lot of kids. But I have to believe that, like the ones Patrick and I faced as we grew up, they made her wiser and stronger and more sympathetic.

So, if 21 is some kind of exam (I know how parenthood works and that this is anything but a final), so far we’re, no she’s doing great. “A” level great.

A for Alice. A for amazing. A for all that she is. A for all that is before her.


~ by Susan Walker on August 16, 2014.

2 Responses to “21”

  1. What a sweet post…happy birthday to your great daughter! You’re clearly doing something right 😉

  2. Thank you SO much, Emily! I do hope so!

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