I bought a car this week. It was both exhilarating and considerably scarier than I feel it ought to be. That, of course, is because in my head I’m still not a real grownup.
Those ideas you have as a teenager don’t match adulthood at all – more in the way you feel than the way people treat you. I fully acknowledge that other people think I’m an adult (or have the good manners to keep it to themselves if they don’t), but I don’t.
That’s right; I’m a teenager in my head still. Maybe that’s the point at which my brain stored developing new and awesome pathways, Or maybe getting pregnant at nineteen stopped something, but either way I haven’t made any significant mental changes since those days.
The obvious downside there is that I have a person depending on me; surely that ought to spur some kind of maturity? Well, no. I do things for him because I have to, but there’s no sudden compulsion to provide for my child. Take on any aggressor for him? Absolutely. Spend all my time thinking about him? Not so much.
That may make me a bad person, but honestly I don’t think it does. My examples of parenting have been contrasting; my mother throws herself into her children’s activities with such vigour she didn’t have her own, and my father remains committed to enjoying his time to himself.
I don’t think either of these is a terrible example of parenting, but neither is quite what I aim for. The fact that I come much closer to dad’s style is less relevant than that I understand my shortcomings. Luckily for me, my other half is the kind of father who’s very good at daddy things (that he got an early start on dad dancing and happily refers to himself as an eighty year old despite being under thirty are especially helpful in this endeavour).
All this points to what I think is the pinnacle of growing up: putting someone else’s needs first without a trace of resentment. Once I get there, I’ll be a real grownup, even if it takes me to my sixties.