I dropped the kid off at a friend’s house yesterday and stayed a few minutes to chat with the mom, my friend L. It’s one of those fortunate instances where the mom and I became friends when our daughters were about 10 months old but our children actually grew up to like each other. Granted, we threw them together on a regular basis so we could hang out and they had no choice in the matter, but giving toddlers narrow choices is part of the fun of parenthood. The girls parallel played for a few years and then discovered they enjoyed playing together. They’re both quieter, thoughtful kids who like a lot of the same things, so it’s not surprising they’ve chosen to be friends, but it’s nice all the same.
While L. and I stood on her driveway chatting, a couple of the neighbor kids came over and said hello before all of the kids–mine, hers, the neighbors–went off to play together. Just for an instant, I had this sudden flash of seeing myself as these kids must see me: as somebody’s mom, as just another adult.
After the kids had all gone off, leaving the two mothers alone on the driveway, I said to L. “They think we’re grown-ups.”
“I know. I feel like I’m pretending,” she replied.
“Me too. All the time.”
I’ve had similar conversations with other friends at various times (those moments when you think, “We’re sitting around talking about mortgages and our dental health while our kids play–has it really come to this?”). Most of the parents–heck, most of the chronological adults I know–have had similar moments of feeling that they’re totally faking this whole responsible adult thing. I remember my mom visiting with the mom of the kids who lived behind us (they really would chat over the back fence). They seemed so together, so responsible, and so comfortable with themselves as, well, grown-ups. It astonishes me that I might possibly come off the same way to my kid and her friends.
But I guess I do.
I”m a grownup. I’m still the mom who jumps in the pool along with the kids, climbs the monkey bars, and stood on her head at a Girl Scout meeting. It’s a different take on adulthood than my mom had, but it seems to be working. Maybe this is what adulthood is supposed to feel like: You feel the same as you did when you were younger only with an overlay of shock that a bank would loan you enough money to buy a house or people at the grocery store call you “Ma’am.” We’re faking it, but we’re making it.
–by Susan Petrone