If you’re anything like me, you may have a strange relationship with your “adulthood”. I’m in my thirties. I’m a mother. I’m someone’s wife. For over 10 years I’ve managed to not get fired from a professional day job that most would consider the epitome of adultness, and yet, I perpetually feel like a child pretending to be an adult. My ideals of what “adulthood” means have been shaped by what I perceived the adults to be when I was a child. At my age, my mother was single-handedly raising 3 children and had a corporate job with a pension, and a house, and she most certainly was not the one responsible for eating up the last of the Crunch Berry cereal. She had a toolbox and a sewing machine because she knew how to do real things with said tools. She was punctual, put together and she was not my playmate. It was clear, we were not equals.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a grownup. The adults that were in my life as a child had a distinctly grown up look. Even when I try to put on makeup, it’s about 35 minutes of making messes, poking myself in the eye and starting over. There are constant mumbles of “just a LITTLE more…“ followed by gasps of “WHOA! Too much!” And as I age, nothing is more terrifying than an 18 year old face that is slowly beginning to sag at the jowls. I’m afraid in about 3 years I’ll look like the in-between stages of Benjamin Button! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to look like I’m old and sliding down the other side of the proverbial hill, but there is something more than a little judgmental in the tone of strangers when they find out I have a 7 year old child. Their faces rapidly try to do math based on an assumption that they are talking to a 22 year old fresh out of college. It causes me to feel the need to blurt out that I am as old as they are, which is something real adults would never need to do. Real adults ooze an air of experience and maturity that declares their membership in the grownup community without needing to blurt out their top secret age to anyone within earshot.
Perhaps I am finally beginning to round the corner into true adulthood. I can see the signs like believing I will go out to the bar with friends on Friday night, but knowing that when Friday comes, NOTHING is more appealing than my couch. Blow me, Happy Hour! Nothing is more happy than catching up on my DVR with a bottle of wine and no pants on. I am beginning to say “because I said so” to my kids, and yet I can’t ever quite figure out why I owe what I owe to the doctors after health insurance. I can’t explain the depths of any global crisis or political initiative, but our kids refer to my husband and I as “The Parents” like we’re a faceless, authoritarian governing entity. I pretend I have my shit together and I think I do a fairly decent job with the ruse. When other adults talk about foreign policy or other current events that I don’t understand, I frown in the right places and nod when it seems appropriate. My faux contemplative expression is perfection, while I wait for the subject to switch to Game of Thrones where I can truly shine with my in-depth analysis. Maybe the pretending is adulthood and my parents and friends’ parents were also just pretenders, trying to hold it all together. Maybe my peer group of moms have no idea what they’re doing either. Maybe other grown-ups also feel like they are perpetual toddlers clomping around in mommy’s high heels, 6 sizes too big. It’s possible that other professionals feel like big fat phonies when they want to giggle during a presentation because the business term “low-hanging fruit” makes them think of old men’s balls. Honestly, it catches me off guard sometimes that I am responsible for the lives of other humans and for turning them into functioning adult humans! That’s the scariest part of all. In the mean-time, I’ll manage my adulthood the best, most awkward way I know how, accepting the areas where I am turning into a less picture-perfect version of my mother, all while enjoying a big bowl of the remaining Crunch Berry cereal.