Mother’s Day, a national holiday created in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson when he apparently had nothing better to do, formally recognized that a mother-child relationship is a lifetime pact.
That doesn’t even begin to describe it. The mother-child bond is complicated and ever-changing.
When you were a child, your mom had the right and the duty to make all your decisions for you. You might have argued, sulked, and rebelled, but it was your mom who decreed where you went to school, whether you got braces on your teeth, and when you got your first cell phone. If you got into trouble, the first call was to your mom. It was your mom’s checkbook on the line if you damaged something.
For the first 6,570 days of your life, mom was your first responder in law and in fact.
Then you turned 18. In Texas, you were an adult. The law took the “child” out of the mother-child relationship and, overnight, your mom’s legal rights and duties over you vanished.
You could marry, sign a contract, take a job, stay out all night, or drop out of school, and your mom could not stop you. You could go to the doctor without her. You could enlist in the military. The freedom was instantaneous and blinding.
But then, an awakening. True, your mom could no longer talk to your doctor or see your medical records, but she also was not obligated to pay for your health insurance. She owned your car, cell phone, and residence. She was no longer on the required call list if you were arrested.
You gained your rights, but she lost her duties. She did not have to be there for you.
It took less than 24 hours for you to realize that your relationship with your mom was now a matter of choice and negotiation. What she originally had a right to take, you now had an incentive to give. So, you did.
Over time, the negotiations with your mom morphed because you no longer needed what she could offer. You became financially independent and did not need her money. You created new relationships and did not need her emotional support.
The years hit both of you, but on you it was maturity. On her it was aging.
Your mom may not have been your priority as an adult, but she was there all along in the background. The law recognized it in many ways. By default, she was in line, right after your spouse and children, to make your medical decisions, become your guardian, inherit your assets, and bury you.
At some point, it may have occurred to you that the relationship went both ways. By default, you, as her child, were next in line, right after her spouse, to make your mom’s medical decisions, become her guardian, inherit her assets, and bury her.
You and your mom can both change your defaults by written documents. You can give each other rights, powers, and duties through a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney, a HIPAA release, a family agreement, a declaration of guardian, a designation of burial agent, a trust, or a will. You can also prevent each other from having the statutory default powers by giving those powers, through the same documents, to another.
The law did not take the “child” out of the mother-child relationship when you turned 18. It just changed the definition.
That is a good thing.
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Virginia Hammerle is an attorney with Hammerle Finley Law Firm. She is entering her 40th year in the practice of law. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal specialization. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive her firm’s newsletter.