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Who am I?

14 Nov

Here’s the honest truth: I hate being a grown-up. Hate it. I mean, sure, it’s cool eating cake whenever you want, and staying up past your bedtime watching inappropriate television shows and movies. And sometimes it’s fun to be in charge. “Because I said so” is a powerful phrase. But overall? Being a grown-up is overrated. And I hate it. Nay, loathe it. With the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Being in charge means being responsible. For everything. Suffering consequences when you get it wrong. Paying bills. Being judged for things outside of your control. Saying no when you want to say yes. Saying yes when you want to say no.

Lately it feels like my life is going a bit off the rails. I won’t go into specifics, but I’m a big control freak. I willingly admit it. A huge control freak. And control is something that is completely absent from my life right now. I’m flailing. And failing. And because I’m an adult, those failures matter. There is no final exam to raise my grade point average. There is no second, third, or fourth up to bat to raise my average. This is it. Life. Real life. Not childhood, where you were taken care of. Not even college, where mistakes were mostly made in a safe environment. But real life. Being a grown-up. Decisions have to be made. Consequences have to be weathered. Children have to be raised lovingly and mindfully. Houses have to be maintained and repaired skillfully. Mortgages have to be re-financed shrewedly. Dogs have to be trained effectively. Yet, somehow, along the way, you aren’t supposed to lose yourself. You aren’t supposed to forget who you are, even in the face of walking the dog, packing lunches, signing field trip permission slips, paying the handyman, making sure everyone is wearing the right outfit for school Spirit Week, making sure the right outfit for Spirit Week is clean and available even though the only t-shirt that will possibly do was worn just two days ago and/or was left at Dad’s house, keeping full toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms, remembering shoe sizes, changing the bedding in the hamster habitat, RSVPing to parties, buying and wrapping birthday presents, soliciting and accounting for Boosterthon pledges, making waffles, helping with long division, reading aloud at bedtime, making nutritious dinners that will only be picked at, picking up dog poop in the yard,  trimming fingernails, having the proper school supplies on hand, sorting Legos, loading and unloading the dishwasher x10, cleaning and folding laundry x20, soothing skinned knees, soothing hurt feelings, mediating sibling disputes, standing firm on discipline even when the consequence ends up shooting you in the foot, grocery shopping so there is always microwave popcorn, cereal, and milk on hand, making sure the classroom stock of allergen-free snacks is kept up so your child is never left out of a birthday celebration at school, buying teacher gifts, reading teachers’ e-mails, attending school events, chaperoning field trips, vacuuming, dealing with the stress of being a tactile person who is affection-starved, cleaning up after a kid wets the bed, telling the children to stop shouting I’m only inches away from you, and approximately 800 million other things that must be done on a daily basis. In the face of all that. Who am I? Who the hell knows. A mom, I guess. That’s what I am. And some days that feels like all I am.

But I know that’s not true. And I chafe against it. But please don’t misconstrue. I’m not whining. I hate sounding, or being perceived as whiny. Almost as much as I hate being a grown-up. After all, on the balance, I have a really good life. I have wonderful kids who are, other than a few allergy issues, really healthy and active. They are bright and funny, and when they remember their manners, respectful. They shine. Their dad is wonderful, fully involved, and a really good friend to me. So my complaints may sound trivial. But they’re not. Because “Who am I?” is a pretty fundamental question. Am I just a mom? If that’s my only marker for identity, then I feel like I am failing miserably. Sure, I have my good days. And some times, like when I am rocking out in the minivan with my 8 year old, singing Taylor Swift songs at the top of my voice, and dancing in my seat without giving a single thought to how crazy I look to the other drivers, that’s a time when I’m getting it exactly right. But I raise my voice. A lot. I lose my patience. Often. I am sarcastic. I am strict. I am hard on my children because I know they are exceptional, and I expect them to live up to that potential. Sometimes I forget that they are just kids. Kids who need to make mistakes and learn things the hard way. Kids who need to be treated not as the young adults I would like them to become, but the awesome kids they are now. Am I a writer? Hardly. This is it. Right here, right now, the sum total of everything I’ve written in the past four months or so. Do I still hear the voices of characters in my head? Yes. Absolutely. Am I doing anything at all to give them their freedom? I’d say that’s a resounding yes, but that sounds like effort, and clearly I’m too lazy for that. I no longer run because my knee pain is too pervasive. I don’t see my family as often as I should considering we all live in the same city. My house is an absolute wreck, and there is really no excuse for that considering I only substitute teach 1-3 days a week. I feel like I am constantly spinning my wheels, but getting absolutely nowhere at all. It’s hard for someone like me. Someone who likes to check things off the list. Someone who likes to see tangible forward progress. Someone who is desperate to be in control.

Phew! I actually feel a little better. Just for having said the words. For naming my disappointment. My challenge. Besides, I don’t have any more time to complain. I have to gather my kids’ things for the weekend, transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and give the hypoallergenic dog that absurdly has allergies his Benadryl.

I may not be any closer to figuring out who I am, but I’d like it noted for the record that I still hate being a grown-up…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim