Wednesday, May 31, 2006

On Adulthood

In our culture we have no real rite of passage that moves you from childhood to adulthood. No ceremony. No ritual piercing or trek into the wilderness. I suppose the closest we get is when we move from the Kids' Table to the Big Table with the other adults at family holiday dinners.

Some people say they felt like an adult when they got their first real job, got married or had their first child. Others have said they didn't feel like an adult until their parents died. For me, some days I feel more like an adult than others. Most days I just marvel at the fact that I, in fact, am the grown up. My parents are both still alive, although they live many hours away. While I know they are always there if I need them, they aren't immediately available. Maybe a day away available.... So I don't think that is the "moment" I'm waiting for, so to speak.

But then there are days that I wonder how it is that one can NOT be the adult. My oldest child was born an adult. She was pretty much ready to move out and get job at about age 3. Those of you who know her are sitting there saying "well.....yea...she was..." My youngest child is perfectly content playing the role of the baby of the family. She will freely admit to this as well. On occasion, she will play that as her trump card.

Even as the perfectly content baby of the family, that child shows a maturity and wisdom that makes my heart leap. She faces disappointment with a trembly lip and tears flowing, but without tantrum or rage. Such is life....sometimes one is disappointed. Sometimes one does not get what one wants when one wants it.

I see those over the age of majority time and time again acting very much NOT like the adults their birthdate says they are. Decisions are made and the consequences bite and they are shocked. Disappointments are met with rage and tantrums. Small difficulties are nearly insurmountable obstacles.

Perspective is offered and rebuffed as being unwanted and unasked for. Rant in private. Ask not for advice if none is wished.

Hallmarks of adulthood:
* The ability to communicate. This doesn't mean the ability to decide on which movie to see, but to speak of the difficult. To be able to speak and hear truth, most especially when the truth is difficult.

* The ability to face responsibility. Pay your bills. If you can't, do what it takes to do so. And when you can't, don't whine about it, fix it. Care for your children. (see: pay your bills) Equip your children to live as adults. Saddle them with chores and liberties. Make them wash the dishes and let them walk to a friend's house. It is your responsibility AS and adult to create NEW ones. Is it your fault? Suck it up and admit it. Did you make a poor decision? Deal with it and move on. Blame no one else but yourself.

* Mind your own business. You may think it's your business, but an adult knows when it is not. An adult can also discern when all that is heard is one loud point of view that there is probably, no... there is CERTAINLY another point of view. An adult also knows the difference between minding your own business and stepping in to right an injustice.

* When given a choice, take the high road. Sometimes the hardest thing to do as an adult is to take the high road. It is what I struggle to do. I struggle when the opposite of the high road is to right an injustice. But if I am to be the adult, I must let the injustice stand. I must let the slander, misconceptions and half (or less) truths stand.

* You are the only one who can make you happy. No other person can make you happy. Not your spouse. Not your friends. No other place can make you happy. If you are unhappy, you will be unhappy in a different place, with different friends, with a different spouse. These people and places didn't make you unhappy to begin with. Did you have a bad thing happen to you? Deal with it and move on. Children sulk. Adults deal.

I'm sure there are more, but those are mine for now.


Stacy said...

How completely weird that you blogged about this today. 'Cause at about 4:00 my time, I was on the phone with Ginger and we were talking about how sometimes we marvel that we're adults, even though we're approaching forty. I'm linking her to your blog in case she doesn't read it.

ginger said...

You are freaky. Stacy's right - it's as if you were listening in and then blogged on our conversation - from marveling that we are adults to discussions of some people's inability to deal with their own disappointments in an adultlike manner. You know what they say about great minds (even those that watch American Idol)!

Sarah said...

You're a frickin genious, Nancy D.

You should write a book. Like, seriously.. (and don't count off points because I used "like") I want to link to this post because it's ingenious in its simplicity.

Sometimes we need things broken down to a first-grade level. :)

LivingWilde said...

I love when Nancy gets on her soapbox. Or do only southerners have soapboxes? What a GREAT post.

Nancy D. said...

Uh, Stacy... UNIBRAIN! ;)

And Steph... my roots are very southern... Alabama roots even...