I have a confession to make: I thoroughly enjoy watching the kid’s movie Frozen (okay, I enjoyed it the first 3 times at least). The movie has extremely catchy music, awesome visual effects, likable characters, and is a super adorable story altogether. There is no shame in the fact that I am a college-graduated adult with a child of my own, I will always be a sucker for a cute story that gives me happy tears, even if it is a movie targeted at ten year old girls. The same goes for The Lion King, which is my absolute favorite children’s movie- or maybe just my absolute favorite movie ever? Like I said, no shame. The Lion King has everything a great film needs; love, friendship, a boy who runs from his past to escape his pain but then grows up and realizes his true potential, and an evil, power-hungry uncle who gets what he deserves in the end. Seriously, what is not to love about that story?
My point in explaining my love for animated children’s films is to say that even though I look like an adult, sound like an adult, and (sometimes?) act like an adult, I still feel like a kid to a great extent. I remember my childhood and teenage years so vividly, and while my interests and aspirations have changed and evolved (thank God), there are still a few main themes that remain central to my life and my passions. It is difficult sometimes to see the change in myself because I am lucky to have so many life-long passions, friendships, and interests, as well as a city that I have always called home. I struggled greatly with these feelings when I learned I was going to be a parent; I wondered how on earth I was supposed to raise a child when I very much still felt like a child deep down. At the time, as a recent college graduate, I knew how to act and appear and speak as an adult, but I felt like a mediocre impostor. Even now, I can boast of several accomplishments that would signify that I have reached adulthood, but I still feel too close to the green years of my youth to feel like an actual grown-up.
This is certainly not a case of “Peter-Pan Syndrome,” of wishing that I could be a child forever; in fact, my whole life has been filled with events that have caused me to grow up before I was ready. I have accepted that about my life, and learned to grow and adapt quickly. A friend told me recently that I have always been a little bit “older” than the rest of my peers. It’s funny then, that I feel so inadequately equipped for the responsibilities that I have been given. Lately, I feel as though God, in his infinite wisdom and subtle sense of humor, keeps saying to me, “Let’s see how you handle this next fast ball”. My latest fast ball has been this beautiful, challenging adventure called parenthood. When I feel as though I am a child who has been tasked with the challenge of raising my own child, there are a few things I tell myself.
1. Fake it till you make it
This has become my life philosophy, tested and proven time and again when I find myself thrown into unfamiliar territory. It involves more than simply faking success; you must work at trial and error to find a solution or at least a place to begin conquering the obstacle or resolving the issue. Despite how I may feel about being a parent and an adult, I still need to try and fail and try again to keep growing. I am thankful I have the opportunity to grow as a parent with my daughter as she grows into a child and an adult herself. I do not have all the answers, and I do not feel like I know everything my own mom knew when she was raising me. But maybe she also was “faking it” until she found the right path, learning along the way. I really do think this is the secret parents’ motto; fake it till you make it, and eventually you will find success, or at least you will learn from your failures.
2. It’s okay to be childlike at heart
It can be a good thing to have a youthful spirit! As long as you can meet the demands of your parenting and adult responsibilities, and as long as the needs of your children are met so they can thrive, there is no reason to feel the need to fit some preconceived notion of “adult” or “parent”. Just do it the best way that you can; you do not need to feel like an adult to take care of business. In fact, use the energy you have to infuse a little bit of lighthearted youthfulness into your mundane tasks. It is quite refreshing to look at the world through a child’s eyes, and I think it is something us adults should try more often. Don’t let the curiosity and wonder die; moms really don’t know everything, even if we like to pretend we do ;)
3. Adults need help too
Whatever your age, there will probably be a time when you feel that your parents could handle a situation way better than you can. Or maybe you need advice from your mom, or tips from your dad, or wisdom from your grandparents. Whatever your age, it is good to remember that you never grow out of your need for discovery or your ability to learn like a child. Just because you reach “adulthood” does not excuse you from the lifelong process of growth and development. In realizing that you actually know very little about the world, you open yourself up to a wealth of new knowledge and experiences. I look at parenthood as an opportunity to re-learn everything I learned as a child, but with a different, more experienced, perspective.
4. Know the difference between being a young spirit and being immature
There is a huge difference, and it is worth mentioning. When I say “young spirit” or “childlike” I refer to a certain youthful quality and way of thinking about the world: hopeful, enthusiastic, curious, amused. What I do not condone, is immaturity. The two qualities are starkly different. Immaturity often is the cause of selfishness, naivety, disrespect, and failure to take care of responsibilities. The goal is to be the parent my child needs, and she needs an adult who can teach her how to interact with people, feed her intuitive curiosity, provide healthy food, and love, and discipline. She does not, however, need me to be her best friend at all times. She needs me to take care of her and her environment so she can thrive, yet, I can do all these adult things with a childlike sense of hope, enthusiasm, curiosity, and amusement. Take control like the boss, but explore like a kid.
With time, I have realized it does not benefit me to try to fit into a clear-cut idea of an adult, or a parent. I have decided that I will still do everything I can to take care of Coco, but I will still secretly enjoy playing with play dough, blowing bubbles, coloring with crayons, and sneaking cookies during nap time.
I know I’m not the only child at heart! Do you ever feel as though you shouldn’t be old enough to be an adult?
…maybe I am the only one…yikes…