Sometimes, I can't believe that I am a grown-up. It is ridiculous to think that I am responsible for three little lives, that I have "assets" and a life insurance policy and retirement. I can't believe that teenagers look at me and think, 'Wow, she is old.' And yet, I don't think that any one of those moments (or even the combination of them all) makes me an "adult". Legally, I was an adult at the age of 18, even though I still couldn't buy alcohol or rent a car.
When they let Jason and me leave the hospital with Connor, I was only 22 and terrified. I held back tears the whole way home; I was so scared (and hormonal). We couldn't believe that they just let us walk out with him. No training manual or comprehensive test required. We were automatically parents. But that, in itself, did not make me an adult either.
I remember a drive home from a shopping trip with my mom and my kids. The kids were sleeping in the back, and as we were talking, we got on the subject of my mom's childhood. She was reminiscing about her parents and what they were like. My mom was born in the 50's and her parents divorced in the 60's... not the norm. Her dad was always moving... the next place would be better. They even lived on the Galapagos Islands when she was really young. They never really settled down until after he left. Her mom was an only child and (in the most loving and respectful way, Grandma. Bless your soul…) kind of a nag.
I remember my mom's statement almost as clear as a bell. "If she hadn't been such a spoiled brat, maybe Daddy wouldn't have left." Now my mother is the most kind, patient, loving, gentle, honest woman you have ever met. She rarely says a harsh word about anyone, and I know that she loved her mother. But she was also acutely aware of her mother's faults. And I realized she had been keeping those feelings in for quite awhile.
It was at that point I realized my mom was human. I mean, I knew that, but what I hadn’t been cognizant of was my mom struggling with her hurts over her parent's shortcomings and her emotions from childhood the same way I struggled with my own. When you are growing up, you only ever remember your impression of the "grown-ups" around you. As a child, you don't consider that adults struggle with anger and sickness and hunger and love the same way you do. But there is that point, I dare say, when you are becoming an adult, that you realize the "grown-ups" around you are human too. That they have faults and feelings and are cut from the same cloth of humanity. They make mistakes and have regrets. They felt just as scared bringing you home from the hospital as you felt bringing home your own child. Yet, we live through much of our childhood and even our teenage and young “adult” years coming to terms with that concept. Some realize it sooner than others, just as some of us are forced into “adult”-hood sooner than others.
It seems to me, in my journey towards becoming an adult, that life has given me pieces of adultness. When my grandma passed away, I felt like I was handed another layer of adult. When my paternal grandfather and my maternal great-grandmother passed away at different times during my college years, I didn’t feel an additional burden or responsibility. I was sad, but I didn’t realize. When my mom’s mom passed away, I felt such a burden and so scared; it suddenly occurred to me that now my mom was the Grandma. She was before, but now she was it. I still have grandparents who are alive, and so does my husband. But my Grandma Donna was the it Grandma. She was the one we knew best, the first one I thought of when I heard the word “grandma”. When you realize that you have been moved up in the generational line, there is a new level of “adult” added.
There are the light and exciting moments of becoming an adult. Being able to sign a rental car agreement. Driving cross country alone. Being called Mrs.
And then there are the moments that have weight and deeper meaning. The moments where you feel a burden or responsibility. Bringing home a child. Losing a parent or grandparent. Realizing your hero is human.
Sometimes I still don’t feel like an adult. Sometimes I look at our three kids and then I look at my husband and say, “Can you believe we have three kids?” And then we laugh and shake our heads.
Sometimes I don’t want to be an adult. I wish I had my grandma back for one more day. I wish I could take a nap whenever I wanted. I wish I could still eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight.
Sometimes I wonder what the next slice of adulthood is going to look like. I am excited to become the old grandma who says what she is thinking and doesn’t give a darn what people think. But that is a hard-earned slice right there.