Old and Free: the Confusing Art of Growing Up

Yesterday my 4-year-old and I had a little conversation about jobs. What is a job? Why do people have jobs? What is daddy’s job?

“What is YOUR job, mommy??”

This is an interesting question, what with posts like this out there. (Go ahead and read it, maybe we’ll talk about it later, but I’m not up for that debate today. ;-))

“My job is to take care of you. I make sure you have everything you need and are safe and healthy.”

Then he asked, “What is my job?”

“Your job is to play and learn! Part of what you’re learning is how to honor Daddy and me. Your job is to grow up.”

“When will I grow up?”

*sigh* “Sooner than you think, buddy.”

Do you remember dreaming about growing up when you were a child? Did you wonder what you would look like, what career you would have, what your family would be like? For some reason, my 6-year-old self really thought I would defy genetics and reality and turn out looking strikingly like Midge, Barbie’s freckled, green-eyed, redheaded friend. I was short and blonde with blue eyes and a great tan but no freckles. Kids, huh?

Pretty much exactly what I expected my life to look like.

Pretty much exactly what I expected my life to look like.

Recently I have spent a lot of time on the phone with our insurance company. (Yay for high-risk pregnancies!) My daughter cried last week because I bought some Girl Scout cookies, which reminded her that I “lost” the flyer she supposedly brought home last fall about joining Girl Scouts. (I remember nothing of the sort.) This morning I took 7 bags of trash and like a zillion empty cartons of milk and juice to the dump today, then felt like a jerk because I didn’t want to walk to the recycling section in the rain so I put the plastics in the “household trash” dumpster.

This is adulthood.

Not what we expected, is it? Growing up is so strange how it happens so gradually but you never see it coming. You get glimpses here and there – you catch yourself more excited about going to Home Depot than the mall, or when you run into an old friend who asks what’s new with you, and the only response you can think of is, “Well, I got a new washing machine this week. It is soooo much nicer than the old one, and it’s front-loading so clothes don’t get caught on the agitator!” Did I even know what an agitator was 5 years ago? When did I learn that term?

But it comes. So swiftly and unexpectedly but exactly like it should and like you knew it would. It just always seems to come sooner than we expect.

Growing up can seem like a depressing shift from “young and free” to “old and responsible and physically can’t sleep past 9 am on a Saturday.” What I’m learning from my 4-year-old is that growing up is a shift in perspective, but it also invites us back to the places we have lost in the process. My job is more than to keep my kids safe and prevent premature wear on their clothing by purchasing an agitator-free washing machine. I get to help them see the world by participating in it with them. My job is to climb trees and run races and color and make Play-Doh creations and cartwheel and ride children’s toys at dangerous speeds down my parents’ driveway. Growing up means understanding the consequences, but it doesn’t mean giving up on the risks.

We’re just old and free. 🙂

Go ahead and eat that raw cookie dough, baby. Yeah, it has eggs in it. Risk taker over here!

Go ahead and eat that raw cookie dough, baby. Yeah, it has eggs in it. Risk taker over here!

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