The Joys and Sorrows of Adulting
Even though it’s a stupid word, it tells us a lot about ourselves in this moment and how we parent
I have no idea how to choose wine. You would think at 32, having been legally able to drink for 14 years, I would have an inkling. That after many hazy hens afternoons spent carousing from vineyard to vineyard I would at least remember a name or two.
Maybe we were too busy taking selfies.
I walk into the bottle-O acting vaguely confident. I peruse the aisles hoping to emulate a French sommelier pulling out random bottles and nodding. I really don’t have the foggiest.
Do I need help? No siree! I’m an adult!
The other day I walked into the bottle shop clutching a tin of formula. I was so self-conscious about this blaring message: tired Mum needs wine, I grabbed the first bottle I saw that was half price and walked out, head down to my car. It was terrible.
I was too proud to ask for help, which often happens in my parenting too.
My thought process is: OK, red, I like red. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Merlot…um..I think I had Merlot at dinner out last time. That was nice. I must have liked it, I had three glasses. That label has birds on it. Pretty. I like birds. That one’s half price. Sold.
I assumed one day I would reach an age where I just had a nose for these things. I could explain the difference between Pinot Noir and Merlot (and not just, ‘one’s darker’).
But on the verge of turning 33, I feel like an impostor.
Adulting is such a terrible word and yet the fact that it’s usage has proliferated reveals a lot about the 21st century adult.
We feel stuck in developmental limbo. Not an adult, in the way we understood our parents to be, but not a child and possibly trying to raise children of our own.
“The dirty secret about adulthood is the sameness of it, its tireless adherence to routines and customs and norms,” All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior
My twenties were this lovely stretch of time which meandered along, leading from one diversion to the next. One day was pottery class, the next, researching a trip to Japan.
Life ambled along pleasantly, I had full autonomy over my time and my whims. Like Lady No-Kids in Will McPhail’s New Yorker comic: ‘Anyway, I’m gonna follow this goose for a while and see where I end up.’
Yesterday was bright and blue, the sun was out and people were flocking to the beach. We had planned to take our 10-month old down for a swim and her favourite pastime: crunching on sand.
But she woke grizzly and soiled. She’d eaten something bad and had a sore stomach. The nappy-changing and crying continued well into the day. She sat forlornly with me on the couch watching Play School.
I was plagued with visions of what I would otherwise be doing on this glorious day: swimming at the beach, eating lunch by the water, walking into town for the Festival of Colours.
I told my husband to go for a surf, one of us should be making the most of the beautiful weather.
If this is adulting, I thought, it sucks.
And then I was struck with another thought: there’s no where else I’d rather be. Caring for a sick child certainly limits your choices.
But I feel useful.
Anyone who’s been a carer can attest to the feeling of satisfaction despite occasional burnout.
“Children are the last binding obligation in a culture that asks for almost no other permanent commitments” Jennifer Senior
I may not know much about wine, or the stock market, or real estate, or all these things I thought I would and should know by now, but I know about sacrifice.
I have substantial ammo for guilt-tripping my child later in life (‘the things we did for you kids!’)
You don’t even need to have a child to understand sacrifice.
Rather than seeing my child as a hindrance, blocking the view of endless, open skies, she’s the frame by which I see everything.
She gives my life a context, a purpose beyond my own desires.
My life may not be as wide as it was for a time but it will certainly be deep.
And maybe coming to peace with that is the essence of adulting.
Anyway, there’s always wine.
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