Transitions

“My friend Erin’s mom is such a bitch!” XUP Jr. declared over lunch on Saturday, apropos to nothing at all.

“Oh? Why?” I ask, always eager to hear about the problems other parents have with their teenagers.

Erin is one of the many kids who lives one week at her mother’s and one week at her father’s. Friday was transition day and apparently Erin had left her mother’s house a bit of a mess that morning. So, Erin’s mother had left Erin a message on her cell phone telling her she had to come back to the house after school and clean up the crumbs and jam and stuff she left on the coffee table (where she wasn’t supposed to be eating anyway) and she had to return her mother’s t-shirt and make-up brush that she’d borrowed without asking.

So, this, according to XUP Jr. was petty and mean of Erin’s mom and just a little crazy because what’s the big deal about a few crumbs? Plus it would mean that instead of taking the bus to her dad’s after school Erin would have to go to her mom’s first and then WALK for 40 minutes to her dad’s.

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What a great opportunity for a long-winded lecture mother-daughter discussion.

As I commented to Dani the other day on her blog, it seems like almost overnight your kids become grown-up. Parents with young children, like Dani often feel that their lives seem like a never-ending round of getting them up, getting them dressed, hurrying them up, feeding them, cleaning them up, helping them with homework, ferrying them to soccer and music lessons and friends homes, attending their school events, reading them stories, playing with them, taking them on outings, wiping their tears, fixing their boo-boos, forcing them into the bath, putting them to bed, etc., etc. — all while trying to manage all the regular stuff a human being needs to do to conduct a life.

And when you’re in the middle of that cycle of chaos it often seems so endless and completely overwhelming, but in retrospect, it was over so quickly. Children claim their independence little by little without you really noticing until suddenly one day you realize that your entire parenting role has changed. Yes, you still have to set some rules and boundaries and they might even want you to wipe up a tear or two now and again or mollycoddle them when they’re not feeling well, but other than that all they really want you to do is:

  • Fork over money;
  • Keep the fridge stocked with food; and
  • Provide transportation occasionally

What they don’t want you to do, but which you really feel like you have to do is inundate them with advice because it dawns on you that there’s a lot of stuff you might not have yet managed to fully drill into their heads and soon they’ll be out in the big world all alone.

So what I talked to XUP Jr. about regarding Erin and her mother is this transition time. This weird time when everything changes quite rapidly for both parents and kids. Kids are demanding to be treated like adults…or at least their vision of what adults are – being allowed to come and go as they wish; making their own decisions without interference; indulging in adult vices, and so forth. And parents are delighted to have their own lives back; to come and go as they wish.

I told XUP Jr. that we would love to be able to treat our teenagers more like adults, except – they don’t behave like adults most of the time…or at least not the type of adults anyone would want to live with. 

A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has borrowed their clothing without asking and not returned it. A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has left the place a mess.

“So you see, “I said to XUP Jr., in conclusion “We really, really don’t like treating fully grown young women like toddlers. It would be good, for example, if we didn’t have to keep cleaning up after you.”

We’ve had variations on this discussion probably about a million times, but it just doesn’t seem to sink in. For instance, whenever I go grocery shopping I ask her if there’s anything in particular she wants me to get and she always brushes me off with an “how should I know” because, unlike a real adult,  she only thinks about food when she’s actually hungry. At which point, of course she complains that there’s nothing good to eat in the house.

Also, I always do laundry on Sunday morning and every Saturday  night I have to remind XUP Jr. to put her laundry in the hamper if she wants it done. This Saturday night I forgot to remind her, mainly because she wasn’t home, so her stuff didn’t get washed.

Boy, you’d think I’d sold one of her kidneys while she was asleep the way she carried on about having to do her own laundry and why didn’t I remind her and now she has to waste her day off on Monday doing laundry, boo hoo hoo.

And on that note, may I’d like to wish everyone in Ontario a happy Family Day. I hope you all get to spend it doing something really nice with your family — unless of course you’re  a federal government employee who — even though everyone else in the province gets the day off —  don’t get Family Day off because it’s not a federal holiday – boo hoo hoo.

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FAMILY DAY UPDATE: On my lunchtime run today I was really heartened and gruntled to see so many, many families, of every possible configuration, skating on the canal and careening down the various designated and non-designated snowy hills . I only wish (yes again) I’d had a pair of camera sunglasses so I could have captured all the family joy going on out there.

Grown-ups

One of the first jobs I ever applied for after I graduated university was as a copywriter for an ad agency. The woman who interviewed me (let’s call her Alice) was exceptionally nice and personable and started the interview with some friendly chat.

Alice mentioned my dimples and how when she was a child she was obsessed with wanting dimples. Alice pointed out that she was very tall and broad for a female, even as a child, and she used to think that dimples would make her cuter and more adorable.

I told her that I thought having dimples made it difficult for grown-ups to take me seriously sometimes because I always looked like I was smirking.

Alice smiled and said, “It’s funny that you said “grown-ups” because I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you’re a grown-up.

I must have looked completely stunned at this revelation because she burst out laughing. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I could be a grown-up. It was the first time that the idea that I might be a grown-up had ever entered my mind.

I didn’t feel grown up. I mostly still don’t feel grown up. Often, when I’m with older people or even people my own age or even sometimes people younger than me, I think of them as grown-ups. I usually do not feel like a grown-up. But, I don’t feel like a kid anymore either.

I feel too wise and comfortable and responsible and tired to be a kid; but I don’t feel serious or established or rich enough to be a grown-up. I’ve never done a lot of the things that most grown-ups have done.

I know lots of grown-ups and I wonder if they feel like grown-ups. Some of the people I grew up with are now grown-ups and sometimes that’s kind of a scary feeling – like a “left behind” feeling.  Most of the time I’m okay with it though.

What’s your definition of a grown-up? Do you feel you are a grown-up? When did you become a grown-up? If you’re not a grown-up, why not?

PS: I got that copywriting job and Alice said it was because I was so shocked that someone had called me a grown-up.  Alice was a great interviewer and maybe even a nice person in real life, but she was some kind of freaky nutbar of a boss. Her madcap antics drove me straight into the arms of the federal public service.