the grownups ain’t coming


I was having a chat with a friend the other day about being vs. feeling like a grownup. I have realized something crazy lately, mostly since becoming a parent, but also since turning 30: the big secret of being an adult is that almost no one actually feels like one a lot of the time. That and the fact that the only major perk of being an adult is getting to have ice cream or popcorn for dinner if you want to. But mostly the thing about not feeling like a real grownup.

At least I don’t. I find myself, 30 years old, mother of twin three year olds, married, homeowner, scheduler of important things, manager of some serious medical issues, meal planner, writer, friend…and feeling like I’m playing house. I look around at all my responsibilities, which I usually handle just fine, and often wonder, “Who the heck decided I could handle all of this?” It’s like I’m waiting for the real grownups to show up and take charge, only to realize, the grownups ain’t coming. The grownups are us.

I’ve even realized that I seem to think of “adulting” like others might think of playing video games: I’m earning or losing points along the way, and occasionally leveling up. Remembering to pay a bill: points. Actually calling and talking to the insurer or medical supply guy or specialty nurse about something: points. Doing all the steps of my skincare routine for more than three days in a row: points. Exercising, even with kids underfoot: points. Eating the recommended servings of vegetables: points. Remembering the paperwork for the kid thing: points. Not getting sunburned or allowing my kids to get sunburned on the beach vacation: points. Not letting the clothes get funky in the washing machine before switching them to the dryer: points. Hosting actual adult parties: points.

Getting married? Leveled up. Buying a house? Leveled up. Moving halfway across the country? Leveled up. Dealing with loss? Leveled up. Facing my own mortality in a major way? Leveled up. Becoming a parent? Leveled up. Twins? Leveled way up. Having a kid with a disability? Leveled up. Managing my own chronic health issues? Leveled up. Realizing what I do or DON’T want to do with my life? Leveled up.

It’s like I think that if I collect enough points or get to a final level, I’ll stop feeling like I’m pretending at being a grownup and actually feel like an adult. This probably makes me a stereotype of a Millennial, but what can I say, I graduated high school in 2003. My generation allegedly feels like adolescents forever. Guilty as charged. The thing that really lets me know that I’m a grownup is that I now know it doesn’t matter if I feel like an imposter, because I still gotta get shit done. It turns out being a grownup is a lot like being brave: it’s about feeling one way but doing the damn thing anyway. Brave people are still scared. Real grownups still feel like kids playing house a lot of the time. You just don’t tell anyone you’re secretly earning merit badges in your head and move along your merry little way.

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10 thoughts on “the grownups ain’t coming

  1. i remember sitting in the kitchen at 444 Fairfax eating popcorn one evening after a really bad day at work telling you that the only good thing about being a grown up was getting to eat popcorn for dinner. i might have wanted ice cream, but your mom would have frowned at that :). you swore that being a grown up looked super fun. here’s hoping that keeping up the myth can be as great an experience for you as it’s been for me!

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  2. Yes in SO many ways. Greg and I were just discussing this. I think it’s especially helped me to relate to my own mother. Sometimes I look at how little I know and how overwhelmed I am at times and how much I feel like I’m pretending this grown up thing, and I think, “Oh– I bet my mom felt this way too.” Weird.

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  3. You have probably inferred by now that I am feeling my age–and I’m 24. I feel like I have wasted a lot of time and I’m not sure I’m ready to be an “adult”, but the truth is.. I’ve been an adult for quite some time already.

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    • I know no one wants to be told this at the time, but 24 is a GREAT TIME. And you’re about to embark on a new grad school adventure, and you’re going to get to do so much awesome stuff and meet people who share your passions, so, I’m rooting for ya.

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  4. I don’t even think this is a millenial thing. I remember my grandfather saying when he was in his 70s, “I look in the mirror and see a stranger–I still feel like an 18 year old kid.”

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  5. I love it when someone articulates what I want to say. I realised that everyone feels the same when a middle aged mum of three said she still felt like she was pretending to be an adult!

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  6. This is spot on. At 39 I mostly feel like I can never quite get past the next level. But, I pick up those dang video controllers every day and I think there’s something to be said for that.

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