It always strikes hardest at the beginning of summer when the kids are out of school and they haven’t started summer camp yet. The heat is rising, the sweat is running down my arms and the cherries and watermelon are red and sweet. The house gets that summer smell of damp swimwear and coconut suntan lotion, and the mosquitos find new purpose in existing.
I get that feeling of wanting to ditch it all and be a kid again. Even now at 38, I hear myself say: ‘I don’t want to grow up!’
I see my kids tumbling on the couches and my memories snap back to the days when that was me and my sister doing the tumbling. I remember the games we used to invent to keep ourselves busy and the whining of “Mom! I’m bored!” we would subject my mother to whenever she ran past on her way to work or between dropping groceries off and running to teach her classes.
Today I long for those days of being a kid on summer break again. I don’t want to be an adult. I really don’t.
I want to stay in my pajama shirt and underwear all day long and have the luxury of reading fiction and tumbling on the couch and having a breakfast of cookies and milk at 11. And of being bored.
We All Have Some Growing Up To Do
I think this struggle between childhood and adulthood is a universal one, this age-independent moment that has us desperately grabbing onto what we have now because we can see that what’s ahead is a little harder.
Who is it that said life is a series of horizons? Ugh, they were so right.
Growing up is the hard part of life we have to deal with, whatever it entails. When you’re 13, growing up means dealing with a crush that ignores you, when you’re 21, maybe it’s finding a job that will bring you income and experience, when you’re 30 it might mean becoming a parent for the first time and when you’re 40, maybe you’re dealing with illness or loss of a loved on.
Since having kids, I’ve felt an undeniable responsibility to step into those adult shoes and I could no longer stand at the periphery of being an adult and shyly say, ‘no thanks, I’m not ready yet’. There are those moments where you have to step up. No choice. No alternative.
And yes, it’s ugly and it’s tiring and I really hate it when I’m up at 3 am worrying about my career or my 6 year old tells me, “Mom, you’re not fun anymore.”
How did I get here? I had promised myself to be the most fun mom on earth! What happened?
Growing Down is Required Too
But just because we’re always working on growing up, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t focus some of our energy on growing down as well. It stands to reason that learning to deal with difficult situations is a must, and re-learning to enjoy the small things in life (and maybe letting some magic in too) is a must as well.
Growing down is about reconnecting with that kid inside you, figuring out how to enjoy details despite the madness in your midst, remembering to play with your husband and not just your kids, laughing uncontrollably and yes, maybe it also means spending a summer day at home in your pajama shirt and underwear, reading fiction, tumbling on the couches with your kids, eating cookies and milk at 11 and allowing a little boredom to seep in.
Where That Leaves You
The big thing I’m learning from life right now is this: it’s not about the situation, it’s not about the age and it’s not about the wrinkles or the laughter, it’s about how you approach a situation, how you deal with it and how you let it go.
Surprisingly, the more you handle things like a grown up, the more head space you’ll be left with to be a kid again.
By letting go of what you want most, you develop the strength to grasp it again later.
And that’s really how you hold on to childhood.