I’ve wondered if it was just a generational thing. Or maybe my parents learned it from their parents. Maybe it’s the way things have always been … until now. Or maybe it’s just that my friends and I talk about it.
The fact is: Being an adult is hard work.
Being a child is, too. But, when you’re young … especially a teen, you think
“When I grow up, I can do what I want and life won’t be so tough.”
Most of us find that nothing could be farther from the truth.
All people struggle. But it seems as though past generations didn’t talk about it. I know there were people in the past who did because philosophers, doctors, researchers, social scientists and the like are all thinkers. Hippocrates labeled personality types back 300-400 years before Christ. So, self-examination and studying life’s struggles, motivations and behaviors is not new.
Glory was the first one to talk to me about it. When she was young, she was chomping at the bit to “grow up.” I knew that meant “move out and do what I want.” She had a job working as a nanny/babysitter for 15-20 hours a week when she was 13. She was a swim team coach and also a life guard as soon as she was old enough. She bought a car within a month or two of turning 16 … and she had to pay for half. As she grew and got antsy to do adult things, I would reassure her that adulthood would come soon enough. Focus on “today.” Live, enjoy, learn, work, play … but don’t rush the big stuff.
Within just a few years, she would come back and say, “Man! This adult stuff is for the birds” or “I don’t want to be all-grown-up any more!”
I don’t really remember seeing my parents struggle. They have always been a strong team. My dad has always been amazing. He worked at work and then came home and he worked at home. He built, repaired and reinforced. He put family first. And he loved and supported my mom. While dad was at work or out-of-town, my mom took care of everything domestic. She cooked every meal, cleaned every dish, washed every stitch of clothing, drove my brother and I everywhere we needed to be and she loved my daddy like a treasure. I know things had to have been tough at times, but they never let me know they struggled.
Me? God knows I’m a mess. And I’ve been open with my kids. I have made huge mistakes and been quick to admit them, ask for forgiveness and work hard not to wreak that same havoc repeatedly. I struggle with obedience to this day. Just last week, I did something that would have seemed insignificant to anyone else … but I knew God didn’t want me to do it. Within a few hours, I was paying for it. And as I thrashed around the house, looking high and low for some lost item (that was directly linked to my foible), James came out to ask, “What in the world are you doing??” I quickly told the whole silly story and explained that this was all because of my silly little disobedience … that OBVIOUSLY mattered to God … because all disobedience matters to Him. James just laughed at me.
But, he gets it. And he knows that even adults make mistakes and it’s okay to struggle.
As James and I chatted in my room just before I went to bed the other night, I again said, “Being grown up is tough. I don’t know how Grandma and Grandpa made it look so easy.” He said, “They really do. They make it look effortless.” As we talked, we decided it must be, at least in part, due to their exceptional ability to be a supportive team. I know my dad would never walk out on my mom. He would never leave her stranded or unprotected. He is dependable. And my mom has my dad’s back. I have never.ever.ever heard my mom speak an unkind word about my dad.
They are stalwart and brawny for each other. I watched my parents gently care for their own parents right up until each one passed. Broken bones, dementia, cancer, Hospice …. all the way to the end. And ya know, my parents had that example set for them. I knew my great-grandmother well because she lived with my grandparents for years and years. If I ever have ever seen my folks struggle, it was the way of emotional and physical exhaustion that came from watching a loved one slowly die … and they knew they were helpless to stop the pains that came with that journey.
Yes, my folks made it look easy. They set a wonderful example.
And I am trying to do the same for my own kids.
My life is different.
My circumstances are different.
And I am built differently so I am a different sort of parent …
but when all is said and done,
my kids will know that I was there. I was honest.
And I was sure to warn them
that being an adult is not as easy as it looks.