Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of something; buckling my son into the shopping cart, cutting up broccoli into toddler sized pieces and putting away a tower of blocks at 10pm, when I’ll stop and think about how odd it is that I am in fact a mother, a wife and more so, an adult.
There are times I feel like I will always think of myself as 16 years old, driving with the windows down, listening to some gloriously-’90s band. I can remember back to those beautifully naive days as if they only happened yesterday, which is totally cliché in itself, but incredibly true. It was even more strange when I taught high school – did I, too, think I knew everything at their age? Was I as independent as them, as headstrong in believing I was invincible? I think so. There were so many times I would feel bad for the kids I taught, in all of their iPhoning-Facebooking-texting-glory. I would think about the days of my childhood, social media and digital camera-free, and feel that kids today sure got the bad end of the deal. But did they? No. All I’m doing is assuming my way of growing up is the only way, much like my parents did, and their parents too. The circumstances just change, and I think that every generation has that golden nostalgic feeling of their youth following them as they move through life.
And thinking of myself as a grown up? So, so weird. How did this happen? It’s a topic that comes up often in my group of friends as we’ve all begun entering ours 30s right around the same time. Over the past couple of years, most of us have had our 10-year high school reunions, and figuring out what we want to do with our lives can at times seem like its on a deadline of its own. Suddenly The Real World isn’t so real anymore, Spring Break just means it’s a good week to avoid the mall or any tropical destination, and we kind of just feel… old.
Just the other day I was in the produce section of the grocery store when a young kid, maybe 7 or 8, ran by the avocados, knocking a good amount of them to the floor. One rolled over to the foot of a well-dressed, middle-aged woman, and she picked it up and walked it back over to the now-destroyed avocado pile. As she placed it on top, she looked at me and said, “Kids these days!” with more than a trace of disgust in her voice. I smiled at her as her eyes narrowed at the sound of the wild, laughing child in the background, and wheeled my cart on by.
Being a parent is the quickest way to feel grown up. You are in charge of a child’s whole entire life. I stay home with my son, so my job is my son. I often find myself thinking about the different ways to raise a child, parenting techniques and quite frequently I find myself getting sad at how fast time is going by. The “kids these days” remark from the woman at the grocery store, paired with my recent introspection in regards to all things getting older, led me to think a lot about the kind of adult I want to be.
I never want to find myself glaring at a laughing child, forgetting what it was like to be young and without a care in the world. I always want to remember what it was like to be “that” age. At the same time though, I never want to be the trying-too-hard parent, the best friend rather than mother, or someone that actually lets their kid run wild in a produce section, subsequently knocking over 20 avocados onto an older woman’s foot!
It’s a fine balance, but I hope that I’m able to someday figure it out. I look forward to saying “Kids these days” but then smiling with a happy shake of my head, rather than glaring. And I hope that I’ll still have these moments, even when I’m 80 years old, where I find myself asking, “How did this happen?” while thinking about how weird it is that I still feel like I’m 16, driving around with the windows down, music up, that same favorite song from 1998 still playing in my senior-citizen mind. I hope.