When I was a kid I was always desperate to be a grown up. I put this down to a symptom of having a sibling eight years my senior and, with no other kids in the family, always being in more “mature” company.
Now with three kids of my own, I can see that it is simply human nature to want to be what we aren’t. The grass is always greener, and all that. My nine and seven year old sons often lament the unfairness of childhood, how they never get to do what they want and how having a bedtime is the absolute worst.
Some days, as I field their complaints of childhood oppression, I’d like to let them in on a few little secrets about being a grown up.
- Doing what you want is never as simple as that. Let’s face it, right now I want to be on a tropical island, sipping cocktails while being massaged by Channing Tatum. No amount of grown up-ness is going to make that happen.
- Money will always be an issue, even when it shouldn’t be. My kids are starting to become acutely aware of the value of money. They think it incredibly unfair that since grown ups have control over the money, they have the balance of power. Case in point: the injustice of not filling the shopping trolley solely from the confectionery aisle. If only they knew the full extent of the complications money brings. And the injustice of money = power certainly doesn’t disappear in adulthood.
- Responsibility only gets bigger as you do. My kids feel burdened by having to feed the dogs and cat. If I forgot to feed them as much as they forget to feed our family pets, there would not only be a revolt on my hands, I’d probably be investigated by social services. One of the beauties of being a kid is being able to pull the immaturity card and abdicate all responsibilities.
- Magic doesn’t happen so often anymore. Whether believing in the tooth fairy and the fat man in the red suit, or getting swept away in imaginary games with friends, childhood has so much magic. The harsh reality of life can take the sparkle off even the most magical moments when you are grown up. Like the barriers to having fun, seeing the magic in life takes mindfulness and being in the moment, something most adults have lost the knack of.
This adulting caper all sounds pretty grim when laid out in black and white, doesn’t it? But before we all go hide in our pillow forts, we can’t forget that there are some pretty cool things about being an adult too.
- You make the rules. Bearing all that aforementioned responsibility has to come with some perks! Ice-cream for dinner really is as good as it sounds.
- There is no bedtime! My personal favourite thing about being a grown up. Wake up time is often dictated by children or work but being able to stay up as late as I like is true freedom.
- Alcohol. When you are a bonafide adult you can buy that stuff any old time you want. And if you are doing a good job at adulting, you can probably even afford the decent stuff. Bubbles, anyone?
- Personal insight. Now this isn’t a guaranteed element of adulthood, and there are certainly a lot of grown up people who still lack it. However, if you are lucky enough to possess insight when you are older, you will understand so much more about yourself, and the world around you. When this happens, some of that elusive magic can return. You can embrace the fact that you are the master of your own destiny and that other people’s opinions about you don’t matter. The knowledge that you can be who and whatever you want to be is the most empowering part of being a grown up.
Being an adult is complicated. And that’s exactly why I won’t be sharing these insights with my kids, no matter how much they complain about how good big people have got it. Instead, I will gently remind them that they will grow up in good time (all too soon, in fact) and that they should revel in their childhood while they can.
In the meantime, I will live vicariously through them, soaking up as much of their youthful fun and magic as I can. And every now and then, you may even find me abdicating all responsibility and hiding in a pillow fort. Just for a little while, of course – at least until the kids get hungry.