Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When I Grow Up

On Saturday, after Peter's soccer game, we watched Sam play with some of his friends from school on the playground. They were in Sam's class last year, but still see each other and get to play together at recess this year.

At one point, Elise needed to tell Sam something and she called for him. Sam was on the other side of the playground and didn't hear her, but one of Sam's friends yelled at him, "Sam! Your mom is calling for you!"

Sometimes, I find it interesting to see how I'm perceived by others. In this instance, as Sam's dad, because it makes me think back to when I was Sam's age and how I perceived my own parents, my friend's parents, and adults in general.

I'm forty-four now. Firmly planted in the terra firma of middle-age. It's not something that happened over night, but through a serious of small steps--when taken in isolation of each other--could lead nowhere. For me, they lead here. I went to college. I moved back home. I moved to Colorado. I went to grad school. I joined my dad's company. I met Elise. Got married. We had a baby. I started a new job. We had another baby. Then another. We moved to Brazil. Then India. Then Washington, D.C. Not necessarily in that order.

And here I am. I don't feel old. I think that once someone settles and stops achieving or wanting to achieve, is content with their lot in life, then the aging sets in. But I'm still driven, competitive, and I think that can keep one young at heart. Maybe I get tired more easily, and if I get up before the kids do and go for a long run, part of my body is screaming for a nap the rest of my body won't let it have. But I think the fact that I get up before the kids do at all must be worth something, right?

When I was a kid, I perceived adults as infallible and omniscient. Now, I am an adult filled with my own disquietude and doubt and know how fallible and earthbound most adults really are. Elise and I don't have all the answers. We fumble along through this thing called parenthood, mostly faking it, generally clueless, and yet we are looked to as having all the answers. When the kids ask me questions, I find myself mostly making up answers as I go along, hoping I don't do irreparable damage. These thoughts aren't driven so much by what seem to be pervasive trends in helicopter parenting and I don't feel inadequate because of my disinterest in helicopter parenting. Even if I wanted to be a helicopter parent, most days I've run hard in the morning and don't have the legs left for it anyway.  

Sometimes, I don't feel grown up. I know I am. I have a career, a family, car payments, life insurance. But the things I think about aren't all that different than what I might have thought about when I was Sam's age: Why hasn't the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced Namor, the Sub-Mariner yet, for instance.

In the end, it's all relative. I'm wiser now than when I was eight, but not as wise as an eight year-old thinks I am.

Pete was sitting at the dining room table one evening doing his homework. He was supposed to draw a small yellow circle, but instead he drew a big yellow circle. He thought he messed up and was disappointed in himself. I told him he hadn't done anything wrong. Size was relative. If he drew an even bigger yellow circle, then the big yellow circle that was supposed to be small would be.

Being an adult is like being the big yellow circle to a bunch of little yellow circles.  

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