Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

At precisely 10:10 p.m. Sunday, Lola and I will turn to each other, exchange an enthusiastic high-five and joyfully shout, “Mission Accomplished.”

Because at that tick of the clock, our eldest son Aidan will turn 18, officially an adult, legally now his own responsibility. At that point we will pack up our bags we first unpacked when we became his parents and walk off into the horizon.

Well, maybe we won’t. Parenthood, at least in the 21st century, is longer term investment.

It’s at these times that I think of my mother and how she told me she admired birds who destroyed their nests after the fledglings left. She’d get this wistful look in her eyes that a person probably only develops after raising six kids.

Of course, Aidan has already left home to attend college at Willamette (Salem, Oregon) so we’ve kind of booted him. Although, I don’t think he sees it that way given how strongly he objects when we refer to his “old room.”

Although the age of maturity, at 18 he can’t drink alcohol or smoke (21 in Oregon), but he can go off to war if the nation saw fit to send him. He will register for the draft as does every red-blooded American male who receives federal financial aid to attend college (one of the requirements).

This is the conundrum of parenting. Throughout the child’s infancy and development, you both celebrate and mourn each milestone. Some of it is straight out silly. I remember when Aidan started to crawl, I thought to myself, “I remember when I could leave him in the room, come back and he’d still be the same spot.” I nearly shed a tear over him achieving even rudimentary mobility.

It didn’t get any better. I can tell you the night at a Gallery One event when we were in a crowd and I just scooped Aidan up to keep him from getting caught underfoot. I instantly thought to myself, “Someday soon he’s not going to want me to do this.”

I can tell you the exact night that he was feeling sick and crawled into my lap, barely able to fit. I thought to myself, “This is the last time he’ll crawl into my lap,” and it was, and I did shed a tear for that one.

And now it’s, “You’re done. Remember each and every thing I ever told you and you should be just fine.”

I mean, it could be that way, if we weren’t bonded in a way stronger than any fleeting emotion — debt.

That’s right, we’ve embarked on this magical journey of exploration and personal expansion resulting in the daily accumulation of ever increasing debt. Some cultures refer to this as college, but in America it’s boiled down to it far purer form of shared financial obligations.

They don’t tell you this in even the most highly graphic public school sex-ed class but as soon as the baby is born you are legally on the hook for four to six years of college.

I feel a bit bad for Aidan. When I was his age I was lucky enough to come from an impoverished family. Even in Ronald Reagan’s America I met the definition of the “truly needed,” which was saying something.

While I relied on need-based Pell Grants, Aidan is dependent on academic scholarships.

I told him, “When I was in school, all I had to do was stay poor. You have to stay smart. I didn’t have any trouble staying poor.”

Somehow on my journey through this world the phrase, “the burden of middle class parents” did not pop up until just recently.

But he’s all grown up now, he’s birth certificate says so, he can handle it.

Contact managing editor Michael Gallagher at mgallagher@kvnews.com.


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