“I can’t wait until I’m an adult,” I proclaimed to my parents as a disgruntled eight-year-old child in 1985.
“Don’t rush it,” they said. “Once you get there, you won’t be able to return.”
Apparently, I rushed it. Perhaps there was a rip in the fabric of the spacetime continuum, or maybe time just passes faster when you look back at it than it does when you look out towards it. Either way, here I am, a full-fledged adult with my own children: little apples that haven’t fallen too far from their proclamation-making father tree.
Much to my own consternation, they aren’t heeding my warnings either.
The reasons for wanting to be a grownup back in 1985 seemed quite reasonable to me at the time. I wanted to be able to stay up late and not have to eat my vegetables. Having to brush my teeth multiple times a day was also crimping my style. I was incapable of appreciating the value of a full night’s sleep, the benefits of eating vegetables, and the fact that cavities cost more to treat than they do to prevent.
In short, my motivations were purely autonomy based. There were several nights I would defiantly tell my parents that they “can send me to my room, but they can’t force me to sleep.” In bed, I would lie face up, with a determination to make it an all-nighter. Without fail, the next morning came with the realization that they had foiled my master plans.
My children cite similar autonomous reasons for wanting to be grownups. “When I grow up, I’m not going to tell my children to read books,” both of my children have stated on separate occasions. “Besides, we have so many other things to do nowadays that you never had.”
Their last point is valid, though I still maintain I would’ve read books even if I’d had a cell phone and video game system back then. It was simply impossible to even want to play on the Atari for more than 20 minutes at a time.
The frustration and tragedy in all of this lies in being able to witness the inevitability of something happening to someone else that they themselves aren’t yet capable of understanding. Adulthood has a funny way of sneaking up on you, while also making itself painfully obvious at various points in the process. Growing up is wholly overrated, and the irony is that only grownups realize that.
On a walk the other day, my preteen daughter, in a rather impressive moment of self-reflection, thanked me for giving her a good life so far, even if I “yell sometimes.” She said my wife and I are good parents.
This elicited a feeling of both admiration and concern. On the one hand, she was beginning to emerge from her cocooned childhood, a preamble to becoming a beautiful butterfly. On the other hand, I knew that butterflies eventually fly away.
Both of my children, but mostly my daughter, are beginning to fully realize the ramifications of growing up. After all, it’s not called growing down.
There will come a day, at some point in the future, when my kids will approach me and tell me they should’ve listened to all the warnings we tried giving them. I’ve said similar things to my parents along the way. And like my parents did, I’ll react with a shrug of the shoulders and a wry smile as I welcome them onto the one-way road that is adulthood.