They say having kids around keeps you young. Conversely, I actually find that having kids makes me feel older, but usually in a good way.

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Into my 20s I was still waiting for the day I would grow into my life like a new pair of shoes. Extended adolescence is a thing, and everyone I knew seemed afflicted. My generation was going in many directions and none of them were toward stability.

tired but fabulous
Screw your office dress code, I couldn’t face the world without my ribbon stilettos! 

Then I unexpectedly became a parent. Conscience demanded that I drag my hungover ass to the park every day, make real dinner and read baby books over and over. Sometimes Fake It Till You Make It is your only option.

Before I knew it the sense of responsibility began to bud into little sprouts of authority. Shared looks with other parents in the store. I found myself telling my own mother what to do, my child’s routine and preferences.

My life has been full of dead ends where I found myself backtracking. Development of myself as an authority has been fitful. I spent my 20s either in school or living with family while I raised my son. The world outside can get to looking very big and complicated.

TV
This is all the socialization I really need!

Then, once again, conscience demanded action. I found myself with two young teen girls who desperately needed a mother. Of course, they didn’t want me. As a child of divorce, I understood. I dug my heels in and worked hard to establish myself in the situation.

Parenting Teenagers: OMG We’re Surrounded!

It’s not something you can tell them, plans and promises are empty for children of liars. It’s something that you have to just do, again and again. You have to play the long game. You have to say no, and you better have good reasons because they can smell inconsistency like blood in the water.

They’re used to loose boundaries full of loopholes. They threatened mutiny when I instituted a bedtime on weekends. They bend and slant situations for their own benefit. Explanations for their mistakes always begin with someone else’s name.

destructive puppies
You two get each other into trouble!

And sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes you have to hide in your room and cry, you feel so small and lame. How are you ever going to make a difference for them if you can’t even keep yourself together?

Then you remind yourself of the time scale. You remind yourself that you’re what they’ve got. They’re counting on you whether they know it or not. You wipe your face, crack a bottle of wine and dive in again.

And slowly they begin to relax. Standing firm against their pushback gives them something to lean on. They call you during their little emergencies, yell at you when you don’t give them what they want, tell you they love you and hang up.

Later she apologized on her own. “And you were right, of course.”

hilda nostalgia
These are the little moments you live for!

Wait, When Did I Become The Adult?

At some point I got to be in my mid-30s. I wear a lot of below-the-knee skirts and flats. My eyes are tired and my hair is lightening around the edges. Perfume bottles stand like party guests on top of my dresser. I’m that lady.

I roll my eyes at a lot because I remember it from 20 years ago.

I’m not afraid of 40. I don’t feel insecure that I don’t get K-Pop or how exactly “joggers” are not sweat pants. Because I have more important things to worry about.

When my first son was little, wrenching myself out of bed every day was something I did because I knew it was the right thing. I wish every situation in life was so clear-cut! I did it because I wanted him to have memories of his mom playing with him, not avoiding him.

George-Elgar-Hicks-The-Happy-Mother-1886.jpg
You won’t remember any of this, but you’re building neurons of positivity!

My own parents played this fun game where they managed to avoid you without actually going anywhere.

I figured at least I could give the kid the impression someone cared.

Because I always did. But now with my second son it’s different. I rise with the question, “What are we doing today?” Every day is another refinement of a system that constantly evolves.

Some time in the last decade I became an Adult. I have begun to encounter the amazing effect of assumed authority. When I walk into a school, I let my attire and body language do a lot of the talking. I don’t have to justify my presence to anyone which is a weird, new thing for me.

game face
Do as I say or you’ll see what I can do!

The Don’t Wanna!

And at the age of 35 I think I’ve finally gotten over the hump of the Don’t Wanna!

Kids especially beat their heads against the wall of Fate, cursing existence for putting them in a position to do something against their will. The toddler screaming because he doesn’t want to sleep is like the teenager who won’t wear a coat. The sense of personal impulse is most important.

I think a lot of people never really get past this. Paying your bills is hard if you have to convince yourself that you want to every month. Dishes pile up fast and tend to stay there when energy is spent struggling with the Don’t Wanna instead of just getting things done.

phone in bed
She threw up? Okay, I’ll bring clothes. See you in a few. 

Because they need doing. So we can have clean dishes. It’s amazing how well you end up thinking things through when the kid won’t stop asking questions.

Because not every situation gets a grand explanation. Because a lot of life is tedious. It can’t all be important. And all those high-minded notions are probably just a work-around for the Don’t Wanna.

As I get older, my sense of identity is less dependent on the moment. I can change my presentation entirely for a new job in an unfamiliar environment and not hear the little voice say, “Is this what I am now?”

fire pole
I don’t think I’m gonna last in this gig!


And when I do express myself it’s easy because I have carefully curated my collection of stuff. Trial and error have taught me what works, what I like. The Self can’t be found, it must be created.

Basically, so much thought that becomes second nature around puberty is melting off like baby fat off a relay runner.

Situations that would have freaked me out in the past are handled with customary frenetic focus. Only later do I sometimes look back in amazement at how I have become.

hilda beach
Sometimes everything is just amazing. 

Seems like being a step-mom is finally grinding down the last of my Don’t Wanna, and I’m happy to see it go. The constant questioning of youth is answered by the honed execution of middle age. I’m existing in the brief moment when I have learned enough to get by and still have the energy to do something with it.

“You don’t know how badly I want to skip school tomorrow.”

As I watch my kids step through the stages unaware they aren’t the first, I enjoy the space between us. My extra perspective is a steadying force, insulating me from the crashing waves of sensation that can be so all-consuming.

Life is sometimes boring and disgusting. If you want one, you have to accept this.

only 2 hands
Don’t forget embarrassing
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4 Comments

  1. I had my son when I was 17, and had to grow up fast and be a responsible adult. Like you, I faked it until I learned how. My boy told me when he became an adult that he had many, many good memories from his childhood, so I guess I must have done something right.
    Sounds like you did too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The part about teens is so relatable, as I’m going through that stage now w/ my 14 y.o. daughter (that I lately refer to as she-devil) and 13 y.o. ADHD son. “…the teenager who won’t wear a coat.” made me LOL, because I don’t understand how my kids and other teens seem to rebuke coats, though it’s 30-something degrees outside! I’ve stopped insisting that they put on coats. You def gotta pick your battles as a parent, that’s for sure.
    I became a parent at 20, and I’m stuck on the idea that the proof of my parenting will be in the future pudding of my children via adulthood.

    Liked by 1 person

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