“I want be big and go to work!”
That declaration was made by my sweet little boy the other morning. I was on the deck working on an assignment for one of my classes. My husband was in the yard yet again trying to get one of our geriatric lawnmowers to run. Apparently to a soon to be 3 year old, what we were doing seemed grown-up and glamorous. His innocent exclamation made me think of how often I had wished for adulthood as a child. Who among us didn’t? When you’re 3, 7, 12, or 16, adulthood seems like the greatest thing ever. When you’re 37, childhood seems like the greatest thing ever.
I find myself looking at my reflection in the mirror lately. It’s not vanity. Well, maybe a little. I’ve always looked younger than I am, but time is catching up with me. Gray is threading through my hair. Lines are settling around my eyes and mouth. I’m not young, and I’m not old. When did I become middle-aged? Am I middle-aged yet? I don’t feel like it.
Strangely enough, in some ways, I feel younger than ever before. I’ve always behaved older than my years. I grew up too fast and too soon when I lost my mom at 16. I married at 18. I had my first daughter just before I turned 21, and my dad died later that year. I’ve always been the responsible one, the adult one. I’ve always taken care of everyone. I’ve always done what was expected of me even when every fiber of my being rebelled. I did it.
And now? Now I mourn for the things I didn’t do when I was younger. I mourn for the parties that I didn’t go to. I mourn for the summer that I never spent following 4 Irishmen across the country. I mourn for the places that I have not and may never see. I mourn for the youth that I lost and didn’t miss until it was too late. I mourn for the girl who is trapped inside and desperately wants to escape. Her time has come and gone.
My children’s time is just beginning. I want them to experience everything life has to offer. I want them to see the world. Spend a summer sleeping in a GA line. Do something crazy. Get a tattoo. I want them to have no regrets when they have finally settled down. I want them to live like I didn’t have the chance to live. Above all, I want them to be happy.
After my little guy made his big announcement, I picked him and kissed him silly. And then I told him he didn’t want to be big and go to work just yet.