Lately, Daniel has been curious about whether he is bigger than us. He’ll ask when he’s standing on the floor and once again when he’s on his stool at the kitchen counter. He’ll ask about his hands or his mouth or his head, and each time we answer some variation of, “No, sweet pea, you aren’t. You will be one day, but please don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Please enjoy being little while you can.”
I tweeted earlier in the week, “being an adult is bullshit.”
I don’t really think being an adult is bullshit. Not really. Mostly. But I contrast how much I chafed at the endless restrictions and how eager to grow up I was as a child with the anxiety, stress and responsibility I have now as an adult. My mind is never quiet. It is always thinking about what comes next: planning dinner, getting out clothes, do we have clean uniforms which means someone needs to do laundry if we don’t, is tonight a bath night, is it time to get the bedroom prepared, do we have homework, what are we sending back to school, is tomorrow hot lunch or do I need to pack lunch, each thought a staccato beat in my head, drumming relentlessly.
I think the holidays are where I see the biggest difference between a carefree childhood and care-heavy adulthood. As a child, I basked in the magic of the season. I dreamed about gifts and Santa. When it was time to eat, I sat down at the table. I performed in chorale performances, musicals, plays, blase about the audience. What I wore for the holidays was a priority: velvet, lace, satin, something festive and adorable, hair rolled, a living doll. On Christmas Day, the focus was on me and my reaction to gifts, keenly watched to observe a gasp of delight or grin.
As the adult, I am the maker of magic. A festive holiday dinner means that I must cook it if I want it to happen. I research and identify gift ideas, doling them out to family requesting them. Christmas Eve means long hours of assembling gifts and putting them out after Daniel is in dream land. We are the bleary-eyed ones in the morning when he pops up, rested and raring to go. We are the ones hoping for the delighted gasp or a grin as he sees what Santa brought him.
Then there are the other holiday tasks: making cards, addressing them, mailing them. Deciding whether we schedule a family portrait. Putting up decorations. Buying more decorations when the ones you bought last year no longer work. Trying to make memories via watching holiday specials, going to see light displays, attending special performances. Baking cookies. Listening to holiday music.
No wonder I feel so exhausted and stressed.
I love being the maker of magic for Daniel. Truly. I want him to feel and experience the magic of the season. I want to fire his imagination and see him become excited as he counts down to Christmas. I love seeing his face as he notices his gifts for the first time, and I want him to feel that he is special and that this is a special time of year. But there is no denying that it is a lot of work!
I don’t think I realized until recently how you shift to the periphery as an adult. You’re backstage, the director. Pulling the strings, choreographing the steps and routines while the child is the star. If my work is good, it’s invisible.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
I spent so much time wanting to grow up that it came as a surprise to realize I was grown up.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
I think I always thought I’d get a memo or something: KeAnne, you’re an adult now. This is your life. Your one life. You’re living it, doing it. There are no do-overs.
So it comes as a shock to realize that I am in the middle of the only life I’m ever going to have. What I want to do is hit pause. Imagine having the ability to freeze your life, to stop the world from spinning. You could take a breath and assess, catch up, regain equilibrium and make plans. I could feel in control of my life instead of feeling like my life is either out of control or in control of me.
To live deliberately.
It’s funny because I only now truly understand what that phrase means. Bad English major!
To live deliberately, something that seems impossible to do when all the responsibilities and must-dos and should-dos are hammering away inside my brain.
Or maybe I’m a weirdo. Are there people out there who have it together, have no worries or anxieties and blithely live their lives, confident that they are living the best life they can?
So my darling boy, please stay young as long as you can. I want your thoughts to be only on playing and having fun. On how many sleeps there are until Santa comes and whether Mommy and Daddy bought a special treat for you. On the love you have for your cuddlies. Enjoy it. Because one day, all to quickly, the world will be too much with you.
Yes! I feel like I was waiting for the same memo… But from whom, I don’t know. I still don’t feel 100% grown up yet, and I’m turning 38 in march.
And making the magic happen is a mighty chore indeed. I’m glad Matthew still doesn’t get the whole Santa thing! One more Christmas of being a slacker mom!
I LOVE being an adult. LOVE it. I’m not saying you’re a weirdo, but I do think you’ve bought into the cultural ethos that says moms have to be stressed out all the time or they’re not doing it right and their children will suffer. (It isn’t true.) We blame the patriarchy on that one.
I don’t find the holiday season to be particularly stressful once the semester is over and grades are in and we’ve had that last faculty meeting. (My sister and I have long since given up trying to force my parents to have any but last minute plans, so they show up when they show up to whichever of our houses they show up at. We tell then when the in-laws are coming or when we’re visiting the in-laws and they come and go around those dates. We no longer plan around them. Letting go of that got rid of the last holiday stress.)
I’m pretty sure my oldest still thinks Christmas is magical. Anything involving candy and extended family is magical. He’s also enjoying playing Christmas music for piano. Our youngest doesn’t know it’s coming. I don’t think there’s anything less magical about a low-key Christmas, and there’s something nice about it not being a stressful time for anybody.
Caring about living intentionally = welcome to middle age! I went through something similar when I was 35. Lots of life changes and feeling like I live the life I want to live.