Wednesday, April 25, 2007

anyone want to be me a while?

Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.

Which is weird because when I was a kid I couldn't wait to grow up. It constantly irked me that I had to get my parents' permission to do anything. Especially when I was a teenager in high school. Twice my parents called the cops to report me missing because I didn't come home when I was "supposed to". The first time was when we lived in Austin. I was 15 and in the 10th grade. Texas required driver's ed if you wanted to get your license before 18. I couldn't get into the school's driver's ed course so I took a commercial one. One day a week instead of riding the bus home, I took a city bus downtown for the class. I would take the city bus back to the high school and my parents would pick me up from there. This particular time the school orchestra had a concert on the same night as my driver's ed class. I didn't want to carry my uniform and instrument to school on the bus one of my parents (I can't remember which) gave me a ride to school. After school, as usual, I went downtown for my lesson and when I got back to the school afterwards I changed into my uniform and played in the concert. After the concert I called home to get a ride and my mom was almost hysterical. What class? What concert? All they knew was that I didn't come home from school - and they had called the police to report me missing. I swore to them that I just knew I had told them about the concert - hadn't they given me a ride to school that day with my instrument and uniform? Didn't they remember I always had my driver's ed class that day? But it was a good chance that I didn't. I had made my own plans and the situation was covered.

The second time they called the cops on me it was totally my fault. I was 17, we were now living in Georgia, and I was a senior in high school. I was playing in the college symphony and had been invited to a frat party by one of the college students in the symphony. I told my parents I was going to the party, they told me to be home by 11:00. I was having a good time and didn't want to leave the party, so I called around 11:00 and told them I gave them some excuse why I couldn't leave immediately, so my folks told me by home by midnight and no later. I wanted to stay and knew I couldn't get them to agree, so I didn't call home again. The party broke up around 4:00 AM, I went to Denny's for breakfast with some friends and toodled on home at 6:00AM. Mom read me the riot act. Dad was out looking for me. He called home after a little and Mom told him I was home. When he got home, I got the riot act again. I got grounded for 6 weeks.

I have always had a really strong independent streak. (read stubborn here and you won't be far off of the mark). I wanted to make my own decisions. So I grew up. I make my own decisions. Little did I know what those decisions were really going to be. When we first got married we weren't making a whole lot and sometimes the decisions were - which bill were we going to pay this month and which could be put off a month? The baby hasn't eaten for over a day. Is he sick? No fever, no other signs of being sick. What to do? Should we rent a house when we move, or look to buy? I hate paying rent but what if we buy and I loose my job? 30 years is a long time. My job sometimes requires me to travel at the drop of a hat. Who will keep the babies when Laura has to go to work? She'll lose her job if she can't go to work. I'll lose my job if I don't travel when needed. I can't afford a car payment, but if I buy a used car will it wind up breaking down a lot and costing as much or more? How do I find someone to take care of the cats while we are on vacation - not just anyone would volunteer to scoop litter boxes. Do I look for another job while I have one or do I stay here where I am sorely needed - but don't know if we will be in business next year?

All of those decisions (and thousands more) were made. That's life, huh? But my teen-aged self had no concept of the no-good-choice, make-the-least-bad-choice decision. And my teen-aged self really had no concept of the level of responsibility I would be taking on. Not that I shirked it - even then I always accepted and bore the brunt of the results of my decision-making. But I had no real concept of how my choices would effect the others in my life. That they too would have to pay the consequences for my choices. I've learned that lesson the hard way. In terms of the two police episodes up above, I now know, being a parent, how terrifying it can be not knowing where your child is, hoping they are okay. My parents had to endure the consequences of my selfish decision to party. I have had to pay those same consequences once or twice when raising our kids.

There are larger consequences to the decisions I make now. I read about the problems the world is facing and I wonder. In driving my 20 year old car, am I damaging the environment by polluting and consuming more fossil fuels or saving resources by keeping the car out of a landfill? I don't volunteer a lot, so am I part of the problem because I'm not part of the solution? I donate what I can afford to local charities, but is that a suitable substitution for not being there? I give someone on the street a few bucks, will that money be used to buy crack or a sandwich? Am I a bad neighbor because I don't pick up that hitchhiker due to being afraid of being robbed or attacked, but I remember my car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and wishing someone would give me a ride. Which candidate do I vote for? Was this shirt I want made in a sweatshop? On and on and on.

In general, I accept that as an adult the decisions I make are made as well as I can make them. I can only do so much, the woes of the world are not my sole responsibility. But when it comes down to it, though, I sweat each one of them. I worry if I did the right thing. Every time.

Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.

20 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Bob, take a moment and just pat yourself on the back for all those decisions you've made.

Now another for all the ones you will make.

And some more for the ones your children make (right and wrong, because we all make mistakes), because you taught them how to.

We often forget to give ourselves enough credit. We take ourselves for granted.

The Atavist said...

The best way each of us can make a real and significant contribution to the rest of the world is to take care of ourselves and our families and to raise our kids in such a way that they won'r create problems for others when they leave home. We can only do so much, and if we each do our best, whatever that means to each of us, that is all that anyone should really expect of us. Above that, we can all contribute something of value: time, money, advice, anything that others can use to better themselves.

Maggie said...

Bob I do that too. Wondering if I'm perpetuating Giant Bad Guy Business by buying from them, but knowing that it's what keeps my budget working. Wondering if recycling is enough? Charitable donations? But I do figure this, before I give money and time to anyone I have a duty to give those to the raising of my children. I chose to bring them in the world, they deserve the firsts. But, after that, I try my best.
Grown up stuff is never what we thought it would be.

thailandchani said...

I admit that decision-making is not my strong point. I can mull for days, often to a point where a decision is never made.

In the long run, we just do the best with the information we have.



meno said...

Your third paragraph is such a great description of adult decision making.

I did not appreciate being a kid when i was one.

It's hard to keep up on all the decisions that there are to be made. I want a day off.

jen said...

bob, i think you've done just fine. and i think, no, i know, that if you keep trusting yourself you'll continue to make the world a better place, one decision at a time.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this again this morning.

Over the years, I've seen my husband change from a very easy-going person to a short-tempered grouch. There is a direct correlation between his temperament and his responsibilities in life and at work. I can certainly understand how some couples (not us, thankfully) find themselves at the end of a decade or two of marriage and ask, "who is this person and where is the one I married?"

I wish I knew a way to help him, besides my ineffectual observations, "you need to relax! You are way too stressed!"

We're planning to move over the summer. Financially, it's do-able. Stress-wise, I'm wondering if it's over the top. Morally, I ask myself why we need MORE, especially when it just tightens the ties that bind us to his stressful job. We've never seen eye-to-eye on this, and he simply thinks I'm cheap.

Bob said...

De - thanks - I needed that!

Sieg - Intellectually I agree with you, it's just I occasionally have a problem emotionally with it. I'm a worrier.

Maggie - yep - spot on.

Chani - that is all we can ever do - the best we can - but I still wonder occasionally if I could've done better.

Meno - YES - a day off!!!!

Jen - thanks, I hope to live up to your confidence in me!

De - When the kids were young and I was working 2 jobs, I wasn't always pleasant to be around.

Buying a bigger house w/bigger commitment is a huge step. I hope you and your husband can more fully understand your concerns. I too hope he doesn't become a slave to a house payment.

urban-urchin said...

This is so close to home today. I created our sorely needed budget last night and if anything will remind you how much it sucks to be a 'grown up' it's creating a sodding budget.


Bob said...

Urban-Urchin - *grumble* back atcha.

I mean, ditto.

Mother of Invention said...

A great post and reminder that we indeed can't do it al, nor can we make the perfect decision about everything. It makes us realize how wonderful and uncomplicated our childhood was, although at the time, we probably thought what to spend our 50 cent allowance on..candy or yo-yo? was a monumental decision of great import!!!!

Susanne said...

I think I know exactly how you feel. I too resent that I have to be grown-up all the time. "Why do I have to be the one who is responsible and sensible all the time?"

And then I remember how I felt when I was without responcibility and power and I gladly pick up my adult duties again.

Bob said...

MoI - yep, makes you think. I spent my childhood wanting to be an adult, now there are times I wish I weren't - kinda.

Susanne - yep - I want someone to take over for a little bit. not long, just a bit.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I also resented the lack of autonomy when I was a kid. And because I was not allowed to make even small decisions for myself, it was probably harder to deal with adult responsibilities when I became a parent.

You can't overprotect children and then expect them to emerge, fully mature, at age 18. They have to be trained to make decisions a little at a time.

This was a great post to which I think many of us could relate.

Mother of Invention said...

I'd rather be a kid any day! Our minds had so much space and wasn't cluttered at all with issues.

Bob said...

Hearts - my dad was BIG on responsibility. I was given it as he deemed me ready, but I always wanted more than he gave me. He knew what he was doing, though - looking back, I wasn't ready for more!

MoI - The flip-side of "be reasonable" is that we become hidebound in our thinking. I wonder how many life-changing ideas have been rejected because they were too much outside of our narrow view of what is possible.

Orhan Kahn said...

You're definitely not alone.

Bob said...

Mr. Kahn: good - I like company!

Thanks for coming by.

katrice said...

You said it! My son has always said that he never wants to get married. (He's only 11, but he's said this consistently.) About 2 years ago I asked him why. He said, "I never want to be responsible for another person."

However, he does want to adopt a bunch of kids and be a good dad. He has no clue that this contradicts his previous logic.

Oh, The Joys said...

It is a heavy weight to be "grown up."