Thursday, March 10, 2016

Keeping it Real: On Turning 36

I have a husband. And two children. And a mortgage.  I sit on the board of a nonprofit, have started a freelance career doing writing and public relations consulting, and am working on a startup too. We own a car and lease another. We have wills, life insurance policies and various types of savings and checking accounts.
But if you ask me if I am an adult? If I look around at my life each day and feel equipped to lead it? The answer is emphatically no. I still feel like an insecure middle school girl who is just faking every move of every day to try and hopefully seem like the popular group. Despite creating a life for myself with which I am thoroughly in love, I often don't feel like it is mine.
I consistently call my parents for advice - or more accurately, to tell me what to do - on any number of issues. I Google everything. I can't wrap a present to save my life. I have no knowledge of how many teaspoons go into a tablespoon, which my husband asked me just the other night, and hardly ever make our bed. I routinely shrink clothes in the laundry accidentally and smell cartons of milk to see if they are still good. I live in an apartment that is constantly messy and has at least one light bulb that needs to be changed. (I actually think our electricity zaps bulbs quicker than any other place in the world, but that's for another day.)
Today I am 36 years old. At this point in her life, my mother had lived in the immaculately-kept home where I grew up for more than ten years. She had a seventh-grader and a second-grader, volunteered at the local hospital and cooked dinner for us every single night. I rack up more points than is healthy. When my now-husband and I first moved in together I would often joke that it felt like we were playing house. And it still does! Who am I to tell this guy to take out the garbage!? And parenting? Forget about it - I am the biggest pushover there is, because I don't feel like I command the respect that a real adult does. (In fact, I've started telling my daughter to only speak to me as she would her teacher. Sigh.)
More and more, there are occasions where I feel like another adult should be coming to handle them, only to realize that I am that person. I am the one advocating for my daughter in her school, attending PTO meetings and handling the parent-teacher conferences. Rewind to the day they let us take her home from the hospital - I was in shock that she was ours, that we were in charge of keeping her alive. But we did - and ourselves too! And even went on to have another, who is thriving as well. They are even usually - gasp - happy, well-adjusted, incredible girls.

Us. We're a real family. Apparently.
Perhaps it's because I am always with myself - you  know how if you see something every day you don't notice the subtle changes that have all added up to create massive shifts in a person? The tiny bits of growth that add to inches, the baby steps that combine to leaps and bounds?
But whatever the reason, just know that while I may seem confident, or on a random day come across like I have everything together, inside I feel like it's all capable of collapsing at any moment. There are times when that truth shows through - on the playground, when my older daughter collapses in an epic tantrum, and I drag her out by one arm - while also holding her shoeless baby sister who is laughing at the spectacle - or if you are a fly on the wall during our dinnertime, when pasta is more often than not the star of the meal.
It makes me wonder - and hope - that I'm not alone. That many others have decided to "fake it 'till they make it" at adult-ing too, and that we are all awaiting the handbook that leads you through things like deciding which school is best for your child, buying a whole entire house, or dealing with insurance companies, or - especially around the holidays - wrapping all those damn presents.

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