A Grown-up Moment

20 Jun

In today’s American culture there is no longer a rite of passage that signifies you have entered the adult world. We experience extended adolescence that begins at puberty and stretches well into our twenties, and most of us know folks who have become permanent residents in the land quasi-adulthood. There are benchmark ages, of course, ceremonies and accomplishments that put us one step closer to being card-carrying members of the adult tribe, but none of those events universally signify that one has reached adulthood. For example, at 18 most young people are graduating from high school, and they are old enough to vote and enter the armed services; at 21 one can purchase alcohol; and finally, at 25, you can rent a car (certainly a milestone to celebrate). I doubt any of us would say that one of those events alone defined when we became an adult.

For Generation X and those following behind us – Generation Y and the Millennials – becoming an adult is defined personally according to one’s own life experiences. I think most of us end up leading adult lives and not knowing exactly the moment we baby stepped into a world of maturity. We find ourselves spending the weekend shopping at Costco, doing yard work and playing board games, rather than recovering from the previous night out. Someone’s drunk antics at a wedding aren’t funny anymore, they are concerning; the person who can’t seem to stay in a job or career isn’t still trying to find their way, they are officially lost; and the guy who is still playing the field is probably a confirmed bachelor.

I eased into adulthood too, but I have a moment, when I realized – like it or not – I was there. I had just turned 35 (yes, I am a late bloomer), and my first son was a little over a month old. I was feeding him in the middle of the night. In the glow of the nightlight and to the hum of the bugs outside, I felt that he and I were the only people on the planet. It’s an intimate and lonely feeling all at once. At that moment I was struck by the magnitude of being responsible for another life. The buck stopped with me, the mom. Dads can’t breastfeed, extended family visit and go back to their lives, grandparents provide wonderful support, but they are not Mom and Dad. Everyone else could sign off but me.  And surprisingly, that was okay. I was ready. This was not the opening act of being a teenager, or a 20-something, or a newlywed. I wasn’t preparing for anything or waiting for anything to happen as we all do when we are young. This was the main attraction. This was – without a doubt – real life.

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