I Am No Longer Anyone’s Legal Guardian, Pass the Pencil 

A recent theme in social media these days is the tagline….”you never know the last time you’ll carry your child” or “the last time you’ll give them a bath or read the bedtime story.” All of a sudden you just don’t. You might not even realize these “last times” until months or perhaps even years later. Well, this “last time” I’m facing will not go undetected for months or years. It has a date.

My daughter, my bonus baby, the big surprise addition to our seemingly complete family will be 18 in a month. 30 days. All this time to prepare, but I still find myself in disbelief. I know most moms feel breathless as the birthdays fly by. This is a universal phenomenon. What’s unusual is what seems to be bothering me the most.

Can you believe it’s the dang permission slips?

I won’t be a legal guardian for anyone soon. (Photo credit: Eve Whiteley)

I’ve filled out forms for the last 35 years

You see I have been someone’s parent, guardian, legal adult for 35 years. I can barely remember a time I wasn’t legally responsible for another human being. All those years of medical forms, school paperwork, field trip forms are coming to a close. I have filled out forms in every format since 1988. From carbon copies to online patient portals, from faxes to scanning, I’ve done it. 

But all this obsession with forms seems like such an odd thing to focus on in the rush up to Spring Break, Prom, Graduation and College in the fall. Those are the real milestones. Not being anyone’s legal “parent,” why in the world would this hit me so hard? 

Let’s face it, the field trips have been over for a while now, but it still has been up to me to sign off on what my baby did. I filled out the forms at the doctor, dentist, summer camp. As parents do, I’ve encouraged my teen to take these responsibilities on herself and she has. Yet at the end of the day, I sat smug in the knowledge she technically still needed my permission. Now she won’t.

My daughter still needs me but not legally

I mean, I know she will still need me. That I am not concerned about based on experience. Any new parent who is under the impression their parenting is done and dusted at 18 is in for quite the surprise, (in many ways the emotional heavy lifting is just getting started, but that is another topic for another time!).

I have 4 official adult children who enjoy their lives in their very official grown-up world. They still reach out for advice and I’m part of their lives, but it’s different, of course. I’m a sounding board. I don’t call the shots. After so many years of calling the shots, maybe that’s why still having one that still needed me in such a “legal” way kept me feeling relevant! 

I shouldn’t have sighed so heavily every time a clipboard with endless forms was shoved at me. I shouldn’t have rolled my eyes when the summer package from school arrived with countless emergency forms; phone numbers to track down, insurance information to scan.

When she turns 18 the clipboard officially becomes hers

In 30 days, I will officially stand in the wings of her decisions. I will need her permission to talk to any school, any dentist or doctor. She will handle the clipboard and endure the cramps in her hand. OK, that I will not miss.

I’ll tell you what realization did sneak up on me. All those years of triplicate forms and paper clipped pages I begrudgingly filled out for one child, then the next and the next, it wasn’t actually a burden. It was a privilege to represent my children for all those years. Yet, as it goes with so much in life, you just can’t imagine the day will ever come when that chapter closes. And then it does. 

So come her 18th birthday, I will encourage my daughter to fill out all the forms as she embarks on this next chapter. I think that will be the easy part.

More Great Reading:

The Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18

About Eve Whiteley

A native of Washington DC, Eve Whiteley graduated from Denison University with a BA in English Writing. Over the last 35 years, Eve has worked on Madison Avenue; in broadcast journalism; lived in the Middle East as an expat and raised her 5 children. Eve and her husband, Andy live in Raleigh NC.

Read more posts by Eve

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