The essay question was: When Did You First Realize That You Had Become a Grown Up?
It wasn’t the day I said “I do” to my husband of 9 years. It wasn’t the day I became a mother for the first time. It wasn’t a particular birthday that woke me up with an exciting epiphany. I kept waiting for the day I would in fact wake up and feel like an adult who would make all the right decisions, knowing for certain that everything I did or said proved that I was indeed a grown up. I kept waiting for that day.
What I soon discovered was that adulthood didn’t come in such recognizable ways. Epiphanies did not wake me up. Prying little fingers lifting my eyelids one after the other checking to see if I am indeed awake-that’s what woke me up. My little alarm clocks, all 3 of them, climb into bed, one right after the other and take their spots in bed next to me. When I no longer pretend to sleep, I clumsily find my way to the kitchen to meet the hunger demands for the day. Then come lunches to pack, teeth to brush, clothes to pick out, sun block to apply, fights to break up, tears to wipe, hugs to dole out, and somewhere along the way, I admit to myself that I am no longer sleeping. The day races by without much thought to being a grown up. There are uber important tasks that need to get done, like wiping noses and behinds, school drop-offs and pick-ups, princess dress-ups and tea parties, sword fighting and pirate voyages, kissing scrapes and backyard picnics. These things just didn’t scream ADULT. In fact, it screamed CHILD. JUVENILE. MUNDANE. But I felt like a grown up. What had happened?
It wasn’t an age or an accomplishment. There was certainly no epiphany. Was it the day I had to make the decision that my two year old would undergo surgery? Was it the day I had to hold it together so that my son would know his broken arm would heal? Was it the time the doctor showed me how to relocate my one year old daughter’s elbow if it ever dislocated again? Or maybe it was the day I started my own business? When I discovered my passion for photography? How about the day I made the hardest decision to give my oldest one more year of childhood before starting kindergarten? None of these momentous moments, (traumatic, some wonderful), seemed right.
It was not a day or moment, but it was a period in my life that brought me this realization. The realization that I was no longer a child. The coming of my second son, Sawyer. He can only be described as anything but average. Here I thought I was an experienced mom of already one child, knowing just the right way to raise a child. How wrong I was. It was Sawyer who showed me just how little I knew. It was he who made me research and read and explore how different children are, how no two are ever the same.
There is no guidebook, no rules, no right and wrong-only what is best for each child. For about 2 years after he was born, I scoured literature and message boards. I wanted answers. Why was my son so different? Why was life so hard for him? Why all the tears and struggles?
I received a million different answers. There were recommendations and suggestions, how-tos and don’t-dos. I read books and articles. Through my research I learned there was not one thing wrong with my son. He is what I have come to realize as spirited. And however hard I try, I cannot come up with a better adjective for my son. He has so much life, spirit, joy, anger, happiness, so many tears, so much laughter. I learned that I could not treat him the same way I treated his brother.
I discovered that it was okay if he spilled a drop of water on his shirt and had to immediately strip off the shirt so that it could dry in the middle of a crowded restaurant. I realized that it was pretty fantastic to wear rain boots in the dead of summer. I realized that it’s a nice habit to count how many socks are in the sock drawer before we put on a pair. Why can’t we stand in the rain without an umbrella? Why can’t letters printed on shirts and buttons and zippers be pronounced evil? Why can’t 3 year olds read and do math and scream when grass touches our bare feet?
This period of my life was a challenge unlike anything I have ever experienced. Everything I knew or thought I understood didn’t mean a thing. I was going to have to start all over and learn life through Sawyer’s eyes. Looking through this little man’s eyes meant seeing so many good things I had missed the first time. It meant counting all the beauty marks on his brother’s face. It meant finding shoes that made you jump higher, run faster. It meant screaming with delight and laughter at getting just the right color balloon at the grocery store.
I was a grown up because I finally realized how little I really knew. It was my children who now were going to teach me about joy and sadness. I didn’t become a grown up through knowledge or facts, and it wasn’t about age or experience. I realized that being a grown up is understanding how little we really know and how much there is to learn. I realized that I was a grown up when I found out that my children would become my teachers.