Aidan legally becomes an adult today.
As of this morning, he can vote. Within 30 days he must register with the Selective Service.
As of this morning, the legal responsibility for his choices have changed from being ours to his.
In some ways, this is just the latest in a series of physical and legal milestones that he has passed in recent months and years, another step on his ongoing path to adulthood. He shaves regularly and got his driver’s license this summer, to give just two examples.
But this birthday feels different than the others.
In a very real way, his childhood is over. Forever.
During the past few days I’ve been reflecting and understanding in a different way than when I was Aidan’s age and a sophomore in a literature class at Stanford, what Marcel Proust when when he titled his epic work, “In Search of Lost Time.”
Aidan’s reaching this milestone fills me with pride at the young man he has become, at his readiness to leave our home, attend college and set out in the world. Always independent, he has drawn explicitly on us less and less over time, with our role shifting from director and guides to more of a consultant.
It is an enormously gratifying experience to have participated in the raising of a child who is prepared and able to handle what he encounters, and particularly so to have had many warm and treasured memories along the way.
And yet a trace of sadness dances around the edges of my heart this morning.
The happiness I feel at Aidan’s growth carries just a touch of grief for his past childhood. His reaching this milestone reinforces to me that it has been nearly 30 years since I did the same, a reminder of time’s inexorable passage.
When I was younger, I used to believe more in undiluted emotional experiences. Now my understanding, like my hair, is more grey. This shift is both a gain and a loss, too.
Still, on this day, 18 years after Dunreith finally had a Caesarean when Aidan essentially refused to come out and join the rest of the people outside their mother’s wombs, I feel gratitude and joy and love for the young man sleeping two doors down from me who made me a father and taught me about the generations and life’s meaning.