Adulting often means doing mundane, responsible, grown-up things instead of the thing you probably really want to do.
For example, I don’t really love making dinner a lot of nights. Truth be told, I would probably make the kids scrambled eggs and toast or, gasp, cereal most nights if I didn’t have a voice in the back of my mind saying, “EMILY! Be a grown up; feed your children!”
Since I have yet to find a way to kill that voice, more nights than not, I will make my children a respectable meal with vegetables and a fruit and a protein and a grain… and they will hate it. They will look at me as though they are about to vomit in their mouths and, once they muster up the strength, they will say, with lower lip trembling and with wide eyes, “is this … ::gulp:: … dinner?”
Instead of saying, “OF COURSE THIS IS FLIPPING DINNER! WHAT ELSE COULD THIS POSSIBLY BE? IT IS DINNER TIME. FOOD IS ON THE TABLE. SWEET HEAVENS TO BETSY PEOPLE! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!” – I pull myself together and I advise them that their response is inappropriate and that this is dinner and they will try everything and sit in their seats.
And I will probably tell them another twenty times to sit in their seat. And one of my children, who I will not name here (Carrie) will likely take three meager bites and then run to the garbage to spit it out.
See why cereal would be so much easier?
But instead of cereal, most nights, I adult: I make a meal.
A lot of days adulting is fine. Sometimes even fun. Or good.
Even though I am in my mid-thirties, I am often still pleased with myself when I am adulting. I give myself an internal high five when I take the garbage to the curb early, thereby avoiding the morning race down the driveway in my pajamas with the always helpful garbage truck operators waiting to see if I fall this time.
I say “atta girl” to myself when I manage to get the kids to school, on time, with all the things they are supposed to have.
I stand proudly in the laundry room when both the washer and the dryer are empty, the clean clothes folded and put away. (This is an exceptionally brief moment)
And this one time, I had my minivan professionally cleaned out and nearly wept at the adultishness of it all.
But there are many days of adulting, especially with little people in the house, where I reach the end of my adulting capabilities. I am done adulting. Someone else needs to show up and adult. Que: husband.
Then there are other adulting times…
Like when Frank and I sat the girls down to tell them that their grandfather passed away last July.
It was such a vivid moment. Frank came home from the hospice, we walked upstairs with the twins and sat together on the floor of their bedroom. Frank started to tell them and I watched as all the things they thought they knew about life shifted. They knew sometimes that people died, but they never knew anyone that they loved who died. All of the feelings flickered across their face in rapid succession: shock, sadness, anger…
We helped them navigate their grief and questions as best we could.
Even months later, questions still arise. “How do we get to heaven? Is there a map? Will someone take me? What if I get lost?”
Truly, it reminds me of the hardest part of adulting. Harder than cooking a hated dinner. Harder than herding my children in the morning.
The hardest part of adulting is helping your children grow up to be adults.
Last summer, the girls shrugged off their preschool ways. They abandoned their smallish light up princess backpacks that contained finger-painted artwork for larger backpacks that carry lunch boxes and library books. They reached up on their tippy-toes in August and grasped the first rungs of the monkey bars on play equipment that had previously been too tall and too scary for them. They skipped through the double doors when the bell rang as though they had been doing it their entire lives.
And that’s the goal, right? To give your children the time to be children and the space and tools to grow up. But that needed space keeps growing. First it was sleeping in their cribs and now it’s a full day of school.
If I’m adulting correctly, then eventually these kids will strike out on their own. I am sure it will be terrifying and marvelous at the same time, as these moments often are.
The good news is, they will come back to visit (and do laundry and raid the pantry and bum our wi-fi). And hopefully when they come back they will pull up a chair to the dinner table and say, “Oh this! This is my favorite dinner! Thanks mom.”
Hey, a girl can dream.