When ‘Boy’ Becomes ‘Man’

My Favorite Domer (A.K.A. my son) celebrates one of those Milestone birthdays this week and since he says he doesn’t read my blog, I’m going to wax nostalgic.

You see, Domer is turning 21.

Legal. With all the privileges — and responsibilities — that brings.

For him.

For me, it brings a certain dash of worry.

By the time a “child” gets to the ripe old age of 21, a parent has had lots of opportunities to worry:

  • While Baby is still in the womb, we worry whether he will be healthy. Will he have all his fingers and toes? Will we be adequate in training up this babe in the way he should go? When will he sleep through the night??
  • As he goes off to school, we worry whether other kids will like him. Will he behave in class and respect his teachers? Will he ever learn cursive handwriting or multiplication tables?
  • Then comes middle school, and we continue to worry whether the other kids will like him. Will he be chosen last in P.E. class? Will he find bullies? Will they find him? In his eagerness to explore lots of different things, are we pushing him too hard, loading him up with too many activities and lessons?
  • As he enters high school, we worry whether the other kids will like him (yes, it’s kind of an ongoing thing!). Will he find a class that sparks his passion? Will he manage to juggle his courses and extra-curricular activities? Will he find work, at least part-time? Will he test well enough to get into college, if that’s his goal? Will he steer clear of the troubled kids and choose to be alone, if that’s what it takes?
  • Then he goes off to college and regardless whether it’s the place of his dreams, we worry. Will he adapt to dorm life, to life on his own? Will he zero in on a major and a career path? Will he eat enough, keep his clothing clean, get enough sleep? Will the other kids like him?

Unlike cars and home appliances, babies don’t arrive with a manual. Parents, especially first-time parents, often find themselves navigating uncharted waters when it comes to making decisions. I’m told it’s easier with number two and later, but I wouldn’t know; my guess is, if you’re conscientious, you’ll find it equally difficult, since siblings don’t necessarily come with the same set of abilities or personality.

Worrying just seems to be part of the parenting package.

And now that Domer is turning 21, it feels only natural for me to worry.

Will he get sucked into those drinking games where you take 21 shots in rapid succession, then pass out? Or will he be the responsible adult I know and drink sensibly? Will he skip classes as a present to himself? Or will he buck up to his responsibilities and celebrate afterward?

A 2006 survey at Virginia Tech University found that 72 percent of men and 65 percent of women don’t feel that getting drunk on their 21st birthday is a rite of passage. In addition, 95 percent of the women surveyed and 80 percent of the men didn’t attempt the 21 drinks.

That’s good to know. Because college is hard enough without trying to do it drunk.

Do you remember how you celebrated your 21st birthday?

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28 thoughts on “When ‘Boy’ Becomes ‘Man’

  1. Debbie, my mom’s 86 and she still worries about me. Not about drinking! But everything else. You sign on for this assignment when you get pregnant, and you’re never “free” of it – but then, would you want to be? Okay, maybe a little! Happy Birthday to our fave Domer.

    • Thanks, Lynne! You’re so right, my mom still worries about me, too (though not about drinking!). I’m afraid a bit of worrying is part of being a parent — I didn’t give that a lot of thought until I became one!

  2. Oh Deb, went through all this 2 years ago – Happy Bday to Domer. We will ALWAYS worry about our kids, it’s just a Mom thing. As for my 21st, I remember trying to drink martinis but they tasted awful. But that’s all I remember. Good post, pal.

    • My sorority sisters took me out for my first legal drink on my 21st b-day. I had no clue what to order, so I got a whiskey sour. Tasted pretty good, too! I never developed a taste for martinis, thank goodness — they can be pretty potent, can’t they?!

  3. Being 21 really doesn’t change…if college kids want alcohol it is readily available underage. And yes, even though worrying does not do anyone one iota of good, as parents we do it anyway. Domer seems responsible. Happy Birthday to Domer!

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes — and for the reminder that alcohol is readily available on campuses across the land. I believe moderation is the key, as with most things!

  4. Debbie, from what I can glean from knowing you and following your delightful blog, I’d say Domer is a responsible, normal ,healthy young man who may test the waters but will know right from wrong when it counts.. Worrying is just part of the parenting package.even when we don’t have cause for worry. So hang in there and Happy 21st Birthday to Domer and you (ager all you were there!) :-)

    • That’s sweet, Kathy — I sure hope he’s being sensible! He’ll be in your part of the country this week for the Big East basketball tourney at Madison Square Garden. At least it won’t be St. Paddy’s Day, with its temptation to imbibe LOTS of green beer!

  5. I echo the sentiments above. Domer has a great foundation and not all 21 year olds are alike. I hope he has a very happy birthday and congratulations to you on the milestone as well!

    • Thanks, Hipster. I don’t think he’ll be foolish, but one never knows. He’s not fond of regurgitating, so maybe that alone will keep him sensible!

  6. Happy Birth-Day! I hope your newly minted 21 year old had a very Happy Birthday (and skipped class–I can’t help myself!) We never stop worrying but isn’t it fun to see what a great job we are doing and in your case have done for 21 years!! You have a raised (reared? Whatever) a boy into a Man…you like and respect. Good job MOM and birthday blessing to you both!! ♥

    • What a sweet message! Thank you so much. Yep, my arm’s getting tired of patting myself on the back — I had a LOT of help (role models, teachers, etc.), and I couldn’t have done it in a vacuum. Now I’m off to visit your blog and see what your young man is up to!

  7. Aw, congrats to both of you on the milestone birthday (him, for reaching it, and you for helping him reach it!) From what you’ve written, I don’t think he will do anything crazy. As parents, I think we are destined to worry until we take our final breath. It’s part of the job description, you know :)

    I didn’t go out drinking for my 21st – I was at home with the Chicken Pox! July in Phoenix isn’t exactly comfortable anyway, but after ten days cooped up in my 300 sq. ft. studio apartment, I thought I was going to lose my mind! (Now that I think about it, this event probably explains a lot about me…)

    • I’m so sorry you missed your 21st birthday by being sick. How did you avoid Chicken Pox when you were little?? I thought only the wee ones got that stuff! I agree that worrying is part of the parental package — not the best part, for sure, ‘cos the sticky hugs and homemade cards and dandelion flowers are far better!

  8. I remember my Mom telling me when I was in my 30’s and living over 1000 miles away with a job that required me to travel a lot that she was just realizing that she wouldn’t know where I was every moment of every day…and that was hard for her. I think all Mom’s are like that. Dad’s too. Congratulations on raising a fine 21 year old responsible human being! You’re allowed to worry. And I bet he does read your blog on occasion.

    • My mom still worries over us kids — always has, always will. No matter what. I’m resigned to doing the same with Domer. It’s a little different with male offspring because you can’t afford to hover too closely! Still, maybe it’s a comfort to him to know I care. As for him reading my blog, well, he’s pretty clever and could have found it by himself, but thus far, he hasn’t given me any indication!

  9. Happy Birthday to your boy!

    I was just thinking how much I wish I’d known back then what I know now. I would have parented with so much more confidence. But our kids manage to turn out alright in spite of our perceived parental shortcomings. Guess it’s a survival instinct.

    I don’t remember my 21st birthday. Maybe that’s because the legal drinking age was 18 way back in my day.

  10. Happy Birthday to Domer! And guess what? My daughter turned 21 about a week ago. In answer to your question, I don’t recall how I spent my 21st, but I look forward to celebrating my daughter’s very soon!

    • Happy Birthday to your sweet daughter! I’m sure she, too, was sensible in her celebration and managed to make her special day memorable! I know it will be great having her home soon — enjoy that visit!

  11. Debbie, happy belated birthday to Domer! As you can see, I’m playing catch up with my blog reading now that we’re on spring break. Hallelujah! I loved this post! My son still has five more months before he turns 21 and I can relate to how you feel. If you ask me, I think getting these young men into college is already a triumph! Even though I don’t know Domer, something tells me this sensible young man has his eye on the prize and the last thing he’s thinking about is engaging in “21 shots”. :)

    • True, Bella, true. Still, we moms worry. It’s not so much Domer, but I don’t really know all his friends, now that he’s off at college. And I don’t know if they wield a heavy influence on my “sensible young man.” You’ll see — just wait 5 months until yours is 21. It’s a “mom thing” to worry, Sistah!

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