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18 is just a number

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CALOI am on the brink of legal adulthood. With a late May birthday, I am one of the kids in my class who won’t turn 18 until right before graduation, yet I can already taste the independence and responsibility that 18 will bring. I am in the home stretch, so close to being a legal adult.

This is the argument I always fire back at my parents when they try to restrict me from doing something. My mom and dad aren’t strict in the slightest, but they do place some constraints on me that are, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Like everybody, I find it frustrating to be controlled. I butt heads with them on some of these issues, my mom especially. The latest argument was their concern about leaving me home alone.

My parents planned a trip for two nights and decided to leave me on my own, but with a family friend checking in during the evening and spending the nights with me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as I sat on the topic more, I grew offended that their first thought was that I would need someone to watch me.

My annoyance caused a slight rift that quickly escalated into a passionate dispute, and in the heat of the moment I accused my mom of not trusting me. I told her I didn’t need a caretaker to watch me when they went out of town. She said “Katie, it’s not for you. It’s for me.”

That shut me up.

It was a moment of clarity. I quickly retreated upstairs, embarrassed that I hadn’t understood before. It’s not me that they don’t trust; it’s the world. It doesn’t matter to them that I’m almost 18. It didn’t matter when I was 4, and it won’t matter when I’m 30, either. They will always worry about me.

And I think it might be something I will never truly understand until I have a child myself. My parents watched me grow from a fragile baby girl into the person I am now. They have gotten older just as I have, but it’s bizarre that they’ve watched my whole life develop, while I have only seen 17 years of their lives.

I know that they care about me in a biological parenting way I cannot understand, just as my 81-year-old grandmother still calls my mom to make sure she’s okay when she sees something bad in the news about Oregon.

And then there’s the boy in my psychology class, who revealed one day last week that he’s only spoken to his mom once in the past year. She called him on his birthday, spoke with him briefly and wished him a happy 16th on the day he was turning 17.

I can’t even imagine a mother like that. It is unfathomable to me, because mine has always been there for me through everything. Both my parents have always supported me, and have always watched out for me.

And I can roll my eyes at their rules, and slam doors in frustration, and accuse them of being paranoid, but I realize that every single thing my parents do for me is to ensure the best life possible. Every restriction and rule they place is to keep me safe and on the right track.

With every choice they make, they consider my interests (and my brother’s) first. They embrace me as the adult I’m becoming and give me so much freedom because they realize I am not inferior or incompetent, but regardless they will always want to protect me.

They are selfless and generous and supportive, and have never forgotten how old I’m turning on my birthday. My problem of rule-setting parents really isn’t a problem at all.

So even though turning 18 is on my horizon, I will always be their Little Bear Girl, their Peanut, their Katzu.

Lakeridge High School senior Katie Calo is a regular columnist for the Review and can be reached at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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