Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Finish Line?

Yesterday E turned 18.  We had a big family party on Sunday.  A bunch of her friends also came and E seemed happy to show off her entire family including all of my in-laws who have embraced the girls wholeheartedly.  We ordered pizza from a local NY pizza joint and I made a "duo of penne" that are her two favorite pasta dishes that I make.  It was a lot of work getting the house ready, buying supplies, making a red velvet cake and 24 key lime cupcakes, cooking, etc.  Everyone had a really nice time with good food and company, corn hole going in the backyard and, due to lovely weather, a fun game of whiffle ball at the park across the street. 

Her mellow, sweet mood followed into the next day (her actual birthday) and she didn't even mind that her birthday dinner was leftovers from the night before since D and L had baseball games.  She loved all her presents which was my biggest coup since she is notoriously picky and has a hard time hiding her disappointment.

Since we adopted the girls almost 4 years ago people have always commented that we only have four years of parenting E.  Like somehow that 18 was going to be the magic number and our parenting responsibilities would end.  It doesn't work that way at all.

The things that have changed:
1.  We are no longer her "legal" guardians in that we have to sign things for her as a minor.
2.  We don't have to itemize every penny we use out of the guardianship account and submit a report to the state commissioner.
3.  We no longer receive social security money which helped defray the costs of food, clothes, school fees, swimming stuff, gas money, etc.

Things that have not changed:
1. She is still part of our family and one of our kids.
2. She still has to follow our rules.
3. We will still feed her, do her laundry, take care of her, support  her and do all the things parents do for their kids getting ready to head off to college in the fall.
4.  We still love her and worry about her and want the best for her.

Just like most parents who would never consider their parenting roles done after their kids turned 18, I don't understand why some (including members of my family) thought that when she turned 18 K and I would triumphantly stagger across the finish line with our arms raised in glory and that this date would absolve us of all our responsibilities for E.  She and her sister are not the little lost orphan girls without a family.  I am tired of people treating us that way. We are their family and that is forever. 

I do recognize that our relationship will change in the next year, especially as she heads to college.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that in lots of ways life will be a bit easier with her at school (one less mouth to feed, no more 3:30am wake ups for swim).  But I will also worry about her in a way I haven't had to with her living under our roof.  I expect the texts and phone calls to keep coming all day like they do right now.  She'll be home on holidays, summers and we'll proudly travel down for parent's weekend.  I can't wait to see her swim in the green and gold (go Tribe!).

Even though she came into our family under tragic circumstances that we all wish didn't happen, and through all of the pain, frustration and work living with E has entailed, she is still part of our family.  We will support her in the next stage of her life and be there for her when she needs us and cheer her on in her new adventures.  That's what family does.  We may be dysfunctional in lots of other ways, but in this way our family totally rocks.


  1. Lovely post Peg. E looks beautiful in her prom dress.

  2. You are so awesome, Peg. I loved this post.

  3. I agree, it sounds like more of a milestone than a finish line.

    Your post reminds me a bit of a beautiful piece I saw years ago on 60 Minutes about a family with LOTS of adopted and foster kids, and one of their sons they adopted at age 17, which a lot of people thought was crazy. The mom said simply, "You don't stop needing a family at 18." She wanted him to have a home to come to at the holidays and people to introduce his girlfriend to and maybe see him walk down the aisle with one day.... It made a big impression on me.

    Your daughter is lucky to have such a home and family to call her own for her whole life.

  4. Happy Birthday to E! This was a great post, your family's love is so strong.

  5. A really lovely post Peg. I agree with Korinthia - it is more of a milestone. Turning 18 doesn't stop the need to have a family - a mother to turn to when needed, to share joys and sorrows with. E looks beautiful and happy.

    You are an incredible mother - your sister would be proud.

  6. Happy birthday to E!

    People say thoughtless things and don't really think. Of COURSE she's yours and always will be. This is beautifully written, Peg!

    I think E will thrive here--it's a wonderful small college, it's a small community, and you and K are so happy here I can't imagine she wouldn't be. I'm delighted to hear she decided that is what she wanted. :o)