Today’s Scintilla Project prompt asks:
When did you realize you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?
Whenever I have one of those moments where I realize that I am the adult in a situation, it seems kind of insulting, and also just a little bit crazy. Who would trust me to be the responsible one? I'm cool, I'm young, I'm a rebel - right? No? No.
There’s no denying it – with 40 in the not-so-far distance, I’m decidedly an adult, and not even a young adult anymore.
It’s funny – when I think of the things mentioned in the prompt – the wine-drinking (delicious!) the chocolate-eating (also delicious!), the parent-free vacations – well, I look at the version of myself who did all of those things in my early 20s as still a kid. Sure, I could vote, sign up for the military, rent a car – but the me I am now is definitely more of a grown-up than the me who, all of the sudden, was allowed to legally do a whole bunch of adult-style things. And had a great time doing them. (Well – I didn’t sign up for the military.)
Grown-up-ness came gradually for me. Boy, we really don’t want to be seen as adults, do we? We don’t want to be adults because when we think of adults we probably think of our parents, and even if we love our parents, we can’t possibly be old like them, right? And all responsible and shit? And because people are generally getting married and having kids later and later, a prolonged adolescence can happen well into your 30s, or even 40s. I notice this with guys in particular. Sorry dudes – it’s true.
Of course, I do not speak for everyone. I know plenty of 20-somethings who are FAR more adult than I ever was in my 20s, or even early 30s. Or, really, even now. But for me personally, the realization that I was an adult was something that happened when I became a mother, and became fully responsible for someone else. (I feel like this is a totally cliche answer, and I'm sorry, but for me it's the truth.)
I mentioned this in yesterday's post, but sometimes I feel like I can be a selfish mother – or, at least, I have selfish tendencies that I control. In part, I think that is because until I was 33, I primarily put myself first. And it was wonderful. I got to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and sure, I worked full-time and did eventually get married when I was 31, but I had a whole lot of my “adult” life where I had freedom like I had never had before, and never will again. And it was awesome.
And even when I first had Jane - who was totally planned by the way, lest you read all of this as a "woe is me" post - I didn’t really feel like a grown-up. Despite the fact that I was nowhere near what you would call a “young mother,” I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was the first time in my life that I felt completely unprepared, completely unknowledgable, completely…dumb. Referring to myself as someone’s “mother” felt insane. At best, I felt like a mostly-unqualified babysitter.
Now, nearly five years later, I have absolutely accepted myself as an adult. When I walk into Jane’s preschool, the other kids call me “Jane’s Mom” when they talk to me, like it's my name, my only identifying factor. Like yesterday – “Jane’s Mom, how do you spell rainbow?” If someone is calling you “Jane’s Mom,” it’s time to stop fooling yourself- you’re an adult.
Acting as Jane’s advocate, whether at school or the doctor’s office – certainly makes me feel like a grown-up. Knowing I will ask any question, no matter how idiotic it makes me look or feel, for her benefit, makes me a grown-up, I think. Signing permission forms makes me feel like an adult. Being her main disciplinarian definitely makes me feel like a grown-up – particularly when I hear words my mother said to me coming out of my mouth.
That’s right – I’m starting to sound like my mother.
I don’t know any other thing that signifies I’ve finally become an adult more than that.