Saturday, July 14, 2012

Growing Up

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be older. That might have been because I had older brothers and ended up doing all the things they were doing anyway - like leaving the house to go explore the woods unsupervised for hours at a time, or watching fantastically inappropriate movies like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. At holiday dinners I always felt awkward with my similarly aged step-cousins, so I without fail ended up sitting with the adults. I was more at ease there. Yet if an elder was ever talking about something I didn't understand, when I asked what it meant I was always told "I'll explain it when you're older."

As I did get older, into my early teens, I was desperate to then get into my twenties. I was always told that I acted older, and looked older. Most of my friends were in college already. After high school I bought six-packs of Woodchuck Cider from Munchie Mart without ever having to even consider that most teenagers have to procure a fake ID for such antics. The bartenders at Club Soda knew my drink and had it ready for me when they saw  me coming through door - the guys checking ID's always just waved me past. I was 18 years old.

This is something that carried over into adulthood. I've always had older friends, though they almost never realized the age difference. On girls' night out the other women would invariably say "wait, how old are you?" and when I told them, they'd shriek, "oh my god! You're just a baby!" They never would have guessed it if I hadn't given myself away, dammit!

I never really felt comfortable in my own skin.  I only began to feel like I was settling into my own age when I was around 28 or so. Once I turned 32 I finally felt at ease, and ready to move forward in life at a normal pace. But now, instead of hearing that I look older, I am often told that I look much younger than my 35 years. In fact, people tend to take a good 10 - 16 years off of me. Perhaps this is because I dress like an awkward teenage boy, and obviously have not yet mastered the art of hair and makeup artistry. Either way, I find the full-circle amusing.

The bad news is, I've often found myself  transferring this desire for a fast-forward momentum onto my children. I used to joke with people, back in my "psh, I'm never having kids!" stage, that I didn't want kids because of the whole 'baby' thing. "If they just popped out and were, say, eight years old, then I might consider it," I'd say. Then, you know, I got pregnant.

I was surprised to love my son's babyhood. He was so beautiful and happy, everything about him was sunny and delightful. Each new milestone he achieved made me weep from having witnessed it's passage. By the time my daughter came around, however, I was pretty tired. For a little while, I'd still get misty-eyed at her important occasions as well, for the fact that this was the last time I'd be witnessing such things. Then I realized, "holy shit, this is the last time I have to witness these things!"

As soon as that sunk into my cabeza, I started getting antsy. Once a new juncture happened, I'd take a moment to acknowledge it with praise and pride, and then I'd think, 'okay, next!'  I wanted all of these little kid things over and done with! Hurry up and crawl! Walk already! Speak! Okay, okay, just try to use the potty...maybe it's early, but I know you can do it! Learn to swim. Get those training wheels off. Addition, Multiplication, Division, Algebra! First crush. First fight. First sex. Go to College. Travel Somewhere. Come visit for Holidays, bring the grandkids...

Why am I so eager for them to grow up? Why was I so eager to grow up myself? I don't wish my dis-ease with the slow movement of time on them - it was, and is, a setup for frustration and constant dissatisfaction. Luckily they don't seem to be taking on my urgency. In fact, if anything they seem to move slower than the pace of a normal small human being, often tripping me in my rush to move things along. I'm thankful for this, because once I've fallen over them and am down there, still for a minute, I realize that taking that time to look around and appreciate the moment is kind of...awesome.

I'm so lucky that I'm learning from them instead of the other way around. And man, so are they.

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