When I was younger, I thought that when I became an adult, things would make more sense and life would be easier.
I believed this because I didn’t see adults having temper tantrums. I just assumed that, once people became adults, things got smoother. I assumed the world of chaos and confusion would magically dwindle and subside.
But my 18th birthday came and went, and the feeling of “adult” was nowhere to be found. Sure, I wasn’t having temper tantrums anymore (or should I say, too many temper tantrums), but my life still seemed chaotic and confusing.
So I decided that maybe it would happen when I was a parent — when I became a mom, I’d feel like an adult.
But again, my ideas dissolved as I attempted to parent using the recommended “shoulds” and “musts” of mainstream parenting books.
Eventually, I’ve come to realize that I’m just a big kid stuck in an adult’s body.
I always thought at some point my body AND mind would develop into a full-grown human who acted mature and could handle the world in both its glory and devastation (aka an “adult”), but that’s still not the case. And no, this doesn’t mean I am irresponsible. Yes, I love my daughter like any parent would.
It just means that I am constantly redefining what I feel it means for me to “adult” while parenting and simultaneously trying to NOT mess up too terribly.
To be honest, I sometimes wonder if life might be simpler for me if I did act like a “real adult.”
You know, someone who acts more mature, dresses neatly, drives without blasting rock n’ roll, doesn’t cuss or dance like a goddess invoking earth spirits at outdoor music festivals, makes pretty casseroles and actually enjoys watching swim practice at overly stuffy chlorinated pools.
But, that’s not me.
As other moms make their homes spotless before parties, I shuffle junk into corners and throw decorative sheets over the piles.
As others make Pinterest-perfect hors d’oeuvres, I bring organic Fruity-O’s bracelets and bags of snacks laid out on a picnic blanket. As others talk about the weather, I’m asking what makes us feel alive and wondering, “Why we aren’t doing these things now!”
And between work, exercise, relationship building, and my own play, I dedicate that time for me and my daughter. This is time where, despite me not being that perfectly mature adult, I try to be present with just her, whether it’s in the sandbox, playing pretend, doing art, or just cuddling on the couch.
Though I probably “should” be teaching her how to cook a perfect lasagna and act politely, I’d much rather let her be 8 years old for a bit longer and teach her how to make that perfectly bizarre silly face or dance crazy to rock n’ roll or pretend we’re fairies in a forest, or explain how to properly wear underwear on her head as we fold the laundry.
In all this trying, my main goal is to parent the best I can while still remaining me, which means nope, I’m not a “real adult.”
I am not perfect,. And yep, there will be a lot of immaturity, silliness, and messing up while I try with my best intentions.
And, hopefully, just hopefully, my daughter will learn how to honor that incredible childlike innocence and playfulness by bringing it through her entire life, too, so she also can feel free in non-adulting as she makes waves in her world.
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Sara Zimmerman is the creator of Unearthed Comics, and she keeps herself busy as a cartoonist, artist, mom, entrepreneur, web/graphic designer, climber, and drummer.