Adulthood: Being One vs. Feeling Like One


“Will I be an adult when I’m 18?”

My seven-year-old son sat across from me carefully and deliberately savoring every morsel of a chocolate chip cookie dough cake pop. It was our sweet tradition each week when his older brother took a 30-minute drum lesson across the street.

I tried to imagine my baby boy at 18, still a teenager, but legally old enough to vote, establish credit, apply for a loan, pay taxes, join the military, serve on a jury, and get married. I thought about how invincible I felt when I was 18 and about how excited and ready I felt for adulthood nearly 23 years ago.

Was I an adult when went to college a thousand miles away from home?

Was I an adult when I decided to pursue a career in dance instead of getting a “real” job? Was I an adult when I eventually got a “real” job?

Was I an adult when I stood on West 13th Street in New York City on September 11, 2001 and watched flames engulf the Twin Towers? Was I an adult when I waited hours to find my fiancé covered in dust?

Was I an adult when I got married?

Was I an adult when I miscarried and ended up with cancer in my uterus? Was I an adult when I plodded through the depression that followed?

Was I an adult when I eventually became a mother?

Was I an adult when I left my career to be a stay-at-home mom?

Was I an adult when discovered my first-born son had sensory processing disorder?

Was I an adult when I held my sick dog in my arms while he was put down? Was I an adult when I had to explain his death to my young children?

Was I an adult when I had two rounds of Mohs surgery on my face to remove a basal cell carcinoma?

Was I an adult when I packed up my family and moved away from everyone and everything we knew for a fresh start?

Was I an adult when my watched my husband lose his parents (and my kids lose their grandparents) to unjust battles with dementia and lung cancer within eight months of each other?

On the cusp of 41 – with a husband, two adolescent children, aging parents, a mortgage to pay, and a colonoscopy on the calendar – I often twist my neck looking for the adult in the room. The older I get, the less invincible, excited, or ready I feel for the responsibilities that come with the freedoms to adulthood.

I’ve lived through some profoundly grownup experiences – some idyllic and thrilling and some less so – since I turned 18, but if I’m being honest, I’ve never felt very much like an adult during any of them. Then again, that wasn’t my son’s question. He didn’t ask if he would feel like an adult when turned 18. Rather, he asked if he would be an adult when he turned 18.

“Yes, you’ll be an adult when you’re 18.” He smiled. He certainly had a lot to look forward to, including eating chocolate chip cookie dough cake pops whenever he wanted. When he finished the last bite, we walked hand in hand back to the car to pick up his brother.




Filed under conversations to remember, motherhood

4 responses to “Adulthood: Being One vs. Feeling Like One

  1. Maybe I'll Shower Today

    If being an adult means having all the answers, I am not sure I’ll ever be one. Loved this!


  2. OOF. My heart broke reading this and I SO related. It reminded me – and this is helpful for me having a kid on the spectrukm who is developing at his own pace – that life happens and we contend with it as best we can.
    Love – really,
    Full Spectrum Mama


    • I didn’t mean for it to be sad, but it sort of is, isn’t it? I look at my kids with so much life to live, and even though I’m deep in thought about the crapy and hard stuff we go through, I’m excited for them. Their future is bright. They’ll figure out the hard bits when it’s time.


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