This weekend, my daughter and I were playing outside when two neighborhood boys stopped by to chat. My neighborhood happens to be filled with under-supervised, overly social children just wanting someone to talk to. Although I appreciate the sentiment of locking children outside instead of letting them sit in front of a TV screen for hours, the parents in my neighborhood don’t seem to care that the burden of making sure these children don’t get kidnapped or break any bones falls squarely on whatever responsible adult is in immediate proximity to their child.
Isaiah is young. About to turn six, and he always has the most ridiculous things to say about everything and because I’m an adult who will actually converse with him, he loves to come and play on our porch. Jonah is about to be twelve, and is one of the more popular kids in the neighborhood. Mostly because he’s always available to come over to anyone’s house or light off fireworks or poke whatever dead thing someone has found with a stick because his parents seem to either never be home or to have completely forgotten that he exists. On this particular day, I had just listened to a This American Life episode about growing up, and was feeling particularly curious about what these children thought about being a grown up. So I asked them a straightforward question, “Do you guys feel excited about being a grownup one day?”
“NO WAY!” Isaiah yelled, which wasn’t really indicative of his reaction, he just always yells, “When you’re a grownup, you have to worry about getting stabbed! And swords! And people breaking in and you have to worry about protecting your FAMILY! And people always stealing things like guns! You have to pay for guns!”
“That’s right,” I responded, wondering what the hell was going on inside his home. Isaiah then started kicking the air, spinning in circles, showing me his super awesome ninja moves he hopes to one day use to “break out of jail.”
Jonah had a pensive look on his face. He was really considering how to respond to my question. He finally spoke, “I’m excited. I mean. . .grownups get to do whatever they want.” Then he hopped on his bike, and rode away while Isaiah was still kicking at the air.
Jonah had a point. In fact, he had a really good point. When you’re a grownup, you really can do whatever you want. You can have candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can wear a tutu or pajamas or whatever you want whenever you want, and all you have to worry about is someone thinking you’re nuts. You can take a sick day, you can drive far, far away when something in your life sucks, you can de-friend or avoid anyone you want to, and you can generally live life in a bubble where the only things that exist are E! News, red wine, and Twitter. That’s actually REAL! You don’t have to eat vegetables, you don’t have to work out, and you certainly don’t have to show up to work every day. No one is physically standing over you making you do these things.
Yet, the vast majority of us do. We get up every morning, brush our teeth, and do grownup things for hours on end. We work, we eat at our desk, we run errands, maybe we even work out. Sure, we may end the day with a grownup beverage to dull the grownup anxiety, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s nothing stopping us from just giving up, walking away, and moving home or into a tent in the woods somewhere; nothing but the motivating desire to push on and succeed. We do so because we’re truly compelled to. Although I had seen Jonah climb into a dumpster three days earlier to retrieve what he thought was a full pack of gum, he managed to isolate something that has changed the way I view adulthood.
In conclusion, I just want to say that I think we all deserve a round of applause. We wake every single day with the ability to give into that “I don’t wanna adult today” feeling, but we don’t. Sure, we’ll call in “sick” here and there, maybe skip a dentist appointment or pretend we’ve had a tetanus shot when we know we definitely have not (who steps on rusty nails anymore?). But by and large, we get out of bed every day and choose to do the grownup things we need to do in order to keep our jobs, keep our kids alive, and keep food on the table. Sure, we have to do these things, but we don’t have to do these things, now do we?
So today, maybe take a second to give in just a little bit. Spin around in your office chair, make a bracelet out of paperclips, take a long lunch, or just dance around your living room in your underwear. And hey, if you happen to do something that gets you arrested, just give me a call. I know a kid with sweet moves who can have you out of the slammer in a jiffy.
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