Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Grown Up

Legally in the U.S., we are considered adults at age 18.  At 18, you can enlist in the army, buy cigarettes, score a lottery ticket, be tried as an adult in court.  But 18 sounds like a child.  Sending off an 18 year old to war-- a freckled boy who has just started to shave his stubble, a fresh-faced girl who has just graduated high school-- seems almost criminal.  At 18, I was going off to college, feeling quite grown-up, but oh my God.  I had no idea what life had in store for me.  No concept of living on my own, taking care of myself, let alone eventually a family.  Not that I was in a hurry to feel grown up or to be old, but a little independence appealed to me.

Fast forward to now, age 32.  At 18, I'm sure 32 sounded old.  Or, at least, officially Grown Up.  And I think I finally do feel grown up.  I say that with caution, however, because with each life change or milestone I've experienced, I've thought, "now I'm an adult.  Now I really have responsibilities."

I thought that at 23, teaching full time, living away from my family, paying rent and utilities for my own apartment, I was an adult.  I certainly felt the weight of being responsible for myself and for my students.  How cute, I think, looking back at my 23 year-old self.  Because while I had a job and was supporting myself, I certainly didn't have to take care of anyone else.  And if I had lost my job, there was always waitressing, right?   The future was wide open:  if all else failed, I could move somewhere glamorous like New York or LA.  What an All-American adventure that would've been...

When I got married a few years later, I thought, Aha! this is what it feels like to be grown up.  Life wasn't just about me anymore.  It was about us, as a couple.  We had in-laws to balance, jobs to juggle, holidays to coordinate and compromise.

                                                       (Image is not me; not my husband either)

How wrong I was.  The day I gave birth to my son, another human being, was when I truly did feel a glimmer of what it feels like to have the weight of the world on my shoulders.  No longer did my needs-- or my husband's-- come first.  Need to pee when I got home from an errand?  I'd have to hold it if my 2 month old was screaming to be fed again.  Want to sleep in a bit on a Saturday?  Not an option.  Want to make plans with friends?  I had to plan it well in advance.  My life wasn't my own anymore, and I don't think it ever will be again.

                 (Image not my baby, but there is nothing like the pride you feel when one of these is yours, right?)

Now I have two beautiful little children.  My husband and I are no longer a wide-eyed couple struggling with the amazing novelty of raising our first child.  We are fortunate enough to have two wonderful running targets we created-- and that we must now take care of day in/day out.

So recently I keep thinking, well this is it.  This is what it feels like to be a grown up.  I'm married, with two children who are completely dependent on us.  We have a house to maintain and a yard to mow.  We have constant bills to pay.  Emergencies and losses to cope with.  Neverending grocery shopping to do.  Friendships to maintain.  Whole grain to consume.  Family all over the country who we need to make time for and worry about.  I feel the weight of it.  I feel the crushing sense of responsibility so much sometimes that I have to remind myself to breathe.

And yet, I wonder:  will I look back on this time a few years out and chuckle?  Will I think, oh, how innocent we were watching four little feet padding around our messy, Lego-filled house? How simple life was back then!  

So, I'll ask you:  When did you first feel like a grown up?

~Frantic Mama

*Check out my open apology for being so clueless about kids before I had them on Mamalode.

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