Once You’re a Parent, You’re Definitely an Adult

During my late 20s, I started to feel like I was straddling a divide between young adulthood and full adulthood. At 28, I didn’t feel I qualified as an adult, though the age 28 made me feel like I should.

Now I am a parent, and it seems that when you are handed that tiny, warm human, you’re immediately issued your full-fledged adult card, too. Suddenly I am responsible for another person. I am the authority. I make significant decisions–about health, education, development–for this little person. You don’t do that stuff unless you’re an Adult. I definitely won’t be sitting at the kid’s table if my own offspring is sitting there. I’ve officially graduated.

The kids' table (from IKEA)

The kids’ table (from IKEA)

I’m also 30 now, and 30 sounds like an adult age. I have 3 decades under my belt. I have been married for nearly 5 years. I graduated from High school 13 years ago. I’m putting up some very adultish numbers here.

What does that feel like? Well, aside from the taking-care-of-a-kid part, not much has really changed. While I am happy and satisfied with our current situation, many of the uncertainties or “unfinished business” of my transition years are still with me. I feel there’s still a career somewhere ahead of me, the specifics of which are not entirely clear. I still think taking an adult gap year would be a fine thing to do. “Young at heart” is a completely unneccessary phrase as far as I’m concerned. I’m not just young in my attitude or feelings–I still feel young (and really, at 30 I know am still young… but oh, when you’re 15, doesn’t 30 seem, like, soooo old?!).

Mom and Baby. 30 Years -- 6 months

Mom and Baby. 30 Years — 6 months

***

But I often think back on how I pictured my parents. Their childhood sounded ancient to me (sorry, guys). My father would recount his adventures with characters like “Harry the Hat” and “Snot-nose Macalusso,” and these scenes would run through my head in black and white–like a Little Rascals episode. The world that they inhabited as children, and even as young adults, felt so far away from me–lightyears rather than decades.

How I picture my parents as children. From the Seattle Municipal Archives

How I picture my parents as children. From the Seattle Municipal Archives

I realize now that to them, those years would have been as reachable as my own childhood is to me. Some scenes do float at a remote distance in my memory; but overall, I don’t feel so different from the little girl who read in trees and outran all the boys at recess.

And so I also know that no matter how young I feel, Linden will likely imagine my childhood in the same musty, greyed tones in which I imagined my parents’. That really makes me feel old.

I suppose part of me was aware that this would happen–that becoming a parent propels you out of your own childhood–but the adult card has a particular weight and shape that I hadn’t known until it was in my pocket.

***

How about you–what made you really and truly feel like an adult? If you have kids–was it the birth of your children? If you don’t–what was it? Or do you still feel like a kid?

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6 responses to “Once You’re a Parent, You’re Definitely an Adult

  1. Pingback: Developing a Signature Style | the self-styled life·

  2. Pingback: Wondering what to be when you grow up? Get some perspective. | the self-styled life·

  3. I am seriously becoming addicted to your blog. I have much catching up to do and I have to go to bed at some point this month… But, I felt compelled to comment here as well. You and I are quite alike. I have often had that “I’ll be an adult when…” conversation in my head. Only to get to that point and think…”nope. not yet. Maybe when….” And, I definitely feel more like an adult now that I’m a parent. That said… sometimes I still feel like a teenager. I kinda hope that I’ll always have that spark of youth in the background. But, I really want to experience this “adulthood” everyone keeps throwing in my face. lol.

    • Yes! I feel like I’m constantly putting off my adultness. haha

      I agree–I think holding onto that young self is important. I think the thing about experiencing adulthood is that it’s not what we imagined it would be, so it’s hard to identify it while we’re in it!

  4. Josh and I chatted about this and we actually felt that owning a car was the most “adult” thing we ever did (and this was after having baby!). I am sure that 16 year olds who have cars would laugh at us…but this was a big deal for us!

    • Haha, that’s funny! Yes, I bought my first car just a few years ago and that did feel very adult, too–the novelty of the new (to me) car lasted for a while. Ha, imagine what buying a house will feel like! (although in Toronto–that may never happen…)

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