By Lauren Gonzalez
We’re getting the floors of our house updated this week. I feel so adult when I say that. My husband and I are fairly good about saving up money to make home improvements when necessary, and as a closet HGTV junkie, it feels great to spruce the place up a bit.
Sometimes, though, I reminisce about the days when I spent my money on clothes and food, going to see ridiculously overpriced movies, and sipping delicious drinks at downtown bars. Worries about rent and gas and the practicalities of life came in dead last on my budgetary to-do list. When did I become so… adult?
I used to utter sentences like, “Someday, when I’m an adult…” You fill in the blank. Because I wasn’t an adult. Not yet. I wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, own a car, pay a mortgage, or have a big, shiny “career.” Those are the things that made you an adult. I was single, working at a hotel, driving my parents’ car, renting a spectacularly expensive room in the back of an older couple’s house. I had years before the onset of adulthood.
Being an adult meant having all the answers, feeling more in control of the world, and better able to make sense of it. I figured at some point, I’d gain enough knowledge to make all the right choices 100 percent of the time. I wouldn’t feel scared, or overwhelmed, or uncertain, because I’d be an adult. Now, I find that I’m responsible for making big choices every day, choices that affect more than just my own life, and you know what? I am not at all qualified to be giving these orders. Surely there’s someone else who’s responsible here…
How did this happen? How is it possible that I am paying down a mortgage, a car loan, am married with two children, and I still don’t feel very adult? Thirty years just flew by, and here I am, still waiting to feel old enough for all of this, to feel more competent, more in control, and less scared sh*tless.
When I was younger, my parents always seemed to know what they were doing, to have all the answers as they tackled the big decisions. That’s part of the job, right? My kids are certainly not old enough to make their own choices – given half the chance, they’d raid the pantry for sugary snacks, run around until they barfed, touch every sharp, electrically charged thing, then pass out in their stinky diapers. It’s a good thing that children are born so small and helpless. It gives you an opportunity to practice your decision making skills on their behalf – to build a decent veneer of parental confidence – long before you have to argue with them, and discipline them into submission.
I need this practice period, because right now, I feel uncertain about absolutely everything. When to put them to bed, whether to let them cry it out, what (and how often) to feed them, how and when to potty train, how to address their aggressive and awkward social habits. The list goes on and on. There isn’t one single thing about this gig that makes perfect sense, or calls for an obvious response. There are no rules. This is no-man’s land. This is parenting. This is adulthood.
It seems to me that being an adult has very little to do with the amount of control you possess over your life’s course, the vast stores of knowledge you have about the world, or with the amount of mistakes you make on your journey.
It’s about understanding that there will be good times and bad, that you have very little control over it all, and about knowing yourself just well enough to manage whatever comes your way. It’s the realization that the number of dollars in your bank account and amount of material things you amass matter far less than the quality of your relationships, and that it’s a difficult yet worthwhile task to search for those rare people who will see you through the bad times, and celebrate with you in the good. It’s about taking responsibility for the choices you make, facing up to the consequences, and owning your feelings about them. It’s about realizing your place in the world – that while you aren’t at the center of it, you make a big impact on the people and environment around you, and the way in which you treat them both matters. Especially when little eyes are watching.
As I see it, I may never feel like an adult. I may always feel a bit like a fraud, parading around in my mom’s high heels, playing house and pretending to be a competent parent. I’ll probably never feel capable or comfortable, but dammit, I will give it my best. I will try hard, I will fight through the confusion and uncertainty, and with any luck, I’ll remain “young at heart” forever – because what’s so great about being an adult anyway?
Lauren Elizabeth Gonzalez is a Missoula-based writer and blogger whose kids provide ample inspiration for her short stories, social media posts and articles on motherhood. Drawing on her master’s degree and background in conflict and dispute resolution, Lauren is also working on a series of how-to guides to enable parenting partners to build a stronger, more connected team dynamic. Find out more at www.LaurenTheFreeMom.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter for a daily peek inside the head of a nutty gal just free mommin’ it.