Being an adult -Cedar Sanderson
Being an adult is more than simply reaching the twenty-first year of age – or any other arbitrary line in the sand that is culturally determined.
Being an adult is being willing to do anything, everything, to help your children succeed in life. Even when ‘everything’ means being willing to step back and let them fall down a little.
Being an adult means not buying oneself toys when one’s babies are in need of food.
Being an adult means knowing that one day you will have to tell your children to check their credit when they turn 18, because chances are their other parent will have used their social security numbers to buy toys and other ‘necessities’ for themselves. And knowing that you will then have to explain that the only way for your children to clear their name is to press charges against that other parent. Being an adult is knowing you ought to have this same conversation with your ex’s new spouse, but that the trust bridge you are building there is too frail to risk, and they won’t hear that you are offering in love, not a desire to slander.
Being an adult sometimes means giving up your happiness, so that others may be happier.
Being an adult means that you are willing to attempt to understand the motivations of others and to be empathetic to them, even though your peers are sneering at you for not denouncing them. But this is difficult, all of this is difficult, and perhaps more than anything else, this willingness to be responsible for one’s own actions, not to blame them on someone else, or something else, this is being an adult.
My dear man, when we were talking about this not too long ago, shared a story of the first time he knew he was an adult.
“I was sitting in the bar when we heard an accident outside. We all ran out, and I immediately started telling people to do the things that my military training told me to do. Get the road blocked off, call an ambulance, send someone for a cop, first aid. Simply because no one was taking charge and it needed somebody in charge. At least until the adults got there. So we’re doing things, and people are looking to me, and asking me what to do. I’m still waiting for the adults to show up, and I suddenly realized that we’re the adults, no-one else is coming to tells us what to do. And wasn’t that a horrific shock.”
I think we all have moments when we wish we weren’t the grown-ups. When we would give anything to turn it all over to a parent who could sort out this tangled mess we’d made of our lives. I grew up being taught that you had to ‘turn it all over to God.’
Well, yes. And no. Being an adult means facing up to what you have done, and asking for forgiveness if that is needed. But it also means understanding that there are consequences for every decision you make, and that simply saying ‘I asked God to fix it’ is a cop-out. That’s not being an adult, that’s being a child.
We are the ones with boots on the ground, and it’s up to us to keep going even when the path gets rough and steep. We can seek counsel, sure. I do all the time, silently, and from those I trust. I didn’t intend this to be religious, and while it is, it’s also not. Even an agnostic knows they can seek strength from external sources, they just don’t call it praying. So it applies whether you are a believer or not.
Face it, life can be farcical at times. Being an adult means knowing that when you get knocked down hard, you have to get up, laugh it off, and gut it out. You can’t run whining to some higher authority about it. You certainly can’t run around whining that you’re being bullied and won’t Someone do Something? Because adulthood doesn’t work that way. This isn’t a playground, life isn’t always fair, and no-one is going to force Billy to give the ball back because you only had it for two minutes and he’s had it for five now.
Being an adult means learning how to share. How to share your life with first a mate, and then later, children. Sharing your life means you can’t demand perfection from someone else, especially if you aren’t offering them a perfect person in the form of yourself. And no, you aren’t perfect. Stop being absurd and don’t make me get religious at you again. You’re flawed, the one you chose is flawed. Accept it, and help them. That’s what partners do, they offer one another support. Remember how I just talked about getting counsel when your life is snarling up worse than a kitten with a ball of yarn? Ideally, this other adult in your life is the best one to help with that.
Which means that part of being an adult is choosing another adult to share your life with. Don’t pick someone who will blame you for everything they do wrong. Don’t entrust your health and sanity to someone who will tell you that you’re mentally unstable while they show all the signs of classic narcissism right down to self-medicating behaviours of addictions to anything from food to sex to gaming. None of those things are harmful in moderation, but we have all seen the damage they can do to a person with the mind of an adolescent who takes everything to an extreme.
Presuming that you have found that other adult who completes you, know that an even greater challenge is choosing to share your life with children. Loving them isn’t always easy, and it certainly doesn’t just happen. Love is hard work and being an adult means you are no stranger to hard work, and that you know hard work brings great rewards. It might sound trite, but that’s because it’s true. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever face, and it is the one with the most enduring results.
Being a parent of a teen brings new challenges. Colic, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, none of these compare to the anger only a teen can bring against their parent. One of the cruelest and most ironic taunts that can be hurled against an adult by their teenager is ‘I’m more adult than you are!’ but being an adult means that you don’t lash back at them. You know what being an adult is, and you know they don’t have a clue yet. So you love them, and you take a step back so they can stretch their wings. Because in this transition to being an adult, you know there will come a moment when you shouldn’t step in and take over, or they will never learn to truly be an adult.