My, “Hold on, what am I?” moment was a bit like the time I was standing at the dog park in fairly muddy conditions. Our dog, who was a rather large Boxer, came running towards me and I realized that he wasn’t going to stop. He was going to take me out.
He hit the skids and tried to stop but no luck. I was straight down, legs out from under me, flat on the ground in the mud in jeans and an overcoat. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react. Despite how I felt physically, or my husband running to make sure I was okay and concealing his own laughter, I couldn’t stop laughing.
That’s pretty much how I felt when I found myself standing in the kitchen while the kids ran and squawked at each other – and me – firing a million questions like bullets racing past my head. They were arguing with each other about who said what first, who’s turn it was on the iPad, why weren’t there any clean clothes, where were their homework folders and coloring pencils? It was then that I got mentally taken out.
I felt as if I was face first in the mud again, and it dawned on me: “Hold on, what am I?”
Call me slow but I’m now 37 and I suddenly realize I’m the adult. I think that’s how most of us realize it. It’s us. There is no adultier adult to take charge and tell us what to do. Surely there is someone doing this better than me, killing it in the adult department. How did I get here? And how did I get here so fast?
The kids are going to be asking me for advice. Why? Because I’m the adult! Ha! I got asked the other morning, “How did the sky make so many colors?” I suddenly thought: Shit. I don’t know. How much MORE stuff am I not going to know?
I was sure that every time I asked my parents a question, they knew the answer. Didn’t they? Or did they? Perhaps you’re so in awe of your parents you don’t see all the little things that I now pick myself apart about.
I thought I still had time to work stuff out, to get it all together, but now I’ve realized over the last few years: None of us have it together. We’re all making it up as we go along.
Some people claim to have it together but even they don’t really have a clue, they are just better at hiding it. I’m a big talker and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I tell my friends how I feel and if I’ve had a bad day or morning, it shows. I can’t pretend when I’m chatting to the mums in the playground that my kids have been angels this morning and packed away all of their crap. I can’t really hide it if my husband and I have had some sort of major blow-out over something ridiculous. My house is never perfect – in fact, it’s a downright mess and I like to throw the word “homely” around a lot.
I do raise my voice at the kids because sometimes I just don’t know what else to do, and their science projects probably won’t top the class because I don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. I’m not perfect, but for some reason I just assumed that when you became an adult you got perfect somehow and were worldly and wise and just knew how to do stuff.
I thought I would have worked all this out by now. I figured I’d be a total pro at this age. I would have achieved mastery in the areas of work, life, exercise, clean house, organizing, being a role model to my kids and other kids who we hang out with, having a clean car, knowing what’s happening in the local community, being able to discuss world issues, paying the bills, knowing how to hem a pair of pants, not getting too drunk at the party and just all the stuff that I thought being an adult was all about.
I look back at my mum and she seemed to just have it all together – worked full time, cooked dinner, everyone’s clothes were always back in their drawers, the house was clean. Maybe she was just winging it too, but I just didn’t see it.
It now occurs to me that age is just a number, and reality is learning there’s no such thing as being an adult. You grow older and, if you’re lucky, maybe a little wiser.
At the end of the day, I don’t think my kids care that we have to Google just about every scientific fact they ask us, or that we’re really bad at the art project. I don’t think my friends care that I have no idea about the American presidential race or that my house isn’t straight out of Vogue magazine. What’s important is how I conduct myself, and if that means being silly and laughing at the same jokes I did when I was 25, well that isn’t so bad.
I want to be a great role model to my family and I can do that by just being me. I’m a good friend, I try to be a good listener, I set boundaries for my kids and teach them manners. I try to improve myself all the time and I can be mature (sometimes).
I am trying to be the best adult I can be – and the best mother, and the best friend. I won’t know all the answers all the time, but I will always try.