My dad recently came over to visit, and to check out our new house for the first time. I proudly showed him around, pointing out all the improvements we’ve made, and he smiled and said we were doing a great job. He offered to help with the landscaping, and I jumped at the chance; he’s an accomplished gardener, with a great eye for detail. As I thanked him, he smiled and said, “anything for my little girl”.
That sentence stuck with me; here I am, almost forty years old, with two young kids, bills coming out of my ears, and I’m still my dad’s little girl. I’m still the girl who scraped my knees, who made him glitter-filled birthday cards, and who broke my arm falling down the stairs. I hope he always sees me that way; I know I always see him as being in his mid-forties, with energy to burn and projects on-the-go. I remember him being out in the garden at six in the morning, working all day, and not coming in the house until the sun went down. I’m lucky if I’m not passed out on the couch like a beached walrus by eight p.m.
Is there a certain way I’m supposed to feel, now that I’m an “adult”? Am I supposed to sit in an uncomfortable wingback chair, reading the newspaper and frowning? Am I supposed to grumble about high taxes and low wages, and how the price of milk is simply too high? I still indulge in a lot of the things I did when I was a teenager. I eat chocolate every day, read trashy young adult novels, and sneakily buy packs of bubble-gum that I hide from my kids. Am I supposed to stop enjoying those things simply because they’re “immature”?
When I was eight years old, I remember watching my mother eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning for breakfast. She ate it plain, with sliced bananas on top – how utterly boring. “Mom, why don’t you eat some of this?” I asked, gesturing to my bowl of radioactively bright sugar cereal.
“Ugh,” she replied, “not a chance. I’d feel that sugar on my teeth all day”. I rolled my eyes and wondered how she could eat such boring food. Where was the fun in plain oatmeal? Today, the thought of eating a bowl of sugar cereal makes me cringe. All that processed sugar? All those empty calories? Are you kidding me? My guts would hate me for days! As lame as my mother’s diet was, she was right. She knew what her body needed, and it sure as heck didn’t need a bowl-full of sugar covered cardboard.
I wonder how my kids see me. Do they see me as a confident, self-assured woman? I hope they do, even just a little. I’m certainly not going to tell them about the time a robin flew into our condo, fluttering and pooping everywhere, and I panicked and ran down the fire escape – what a wimp! I also won’t tell them about the time Jeremy asked me to pick him up from the junkyard. He watched me drive back and forth three times because I forgot where the turn-off was. And I definitely won’t tell them about the time the coffee shop was out of my favorite kind of muffin, and I sat in my car crying and cursing (to be fair, I was eight months pregnant at the time).
I wonder when I’ll feel like I’ve reached adulthood. I wonder if anyone feels that way. Will I be ninety years old, and wake up one morning thinking “yep, I get it now, I’m an adult!” I’m going to keep enjoying my favorite childhood things, and my kids are doing a great job at keeping me child-like. With any luck, I’ll feel slightly immature for a while yet, because unlike my mother, I still have a few more years before I start reaching for plain oatmeal and bananas.