Think You’re Done Growing Up? Think Again.
When it comes to raising someone for life, it’s not your kids I’m referring to—it’s you.
Dear Fellow Parents,
I have terrible, awful, no good, bad news. No matter if your kids are almost off to college, already flew the nest, or are raising demon spawn of their very own, you’re not done. The raising process is far from over. “Duh,” you might say. “My kids still call to borrow money, or for free childcare, or for advice they love to request, but hate to actually follow.”
Once you create another person, you’re pretty much signing up to continue raising them for life. OK, I get it. That does seem pretty obvious. But when it comes to raising someone for life, it’s not your kids I’m referring to. It’s you.
Now hear me out. It’s generally accepted that once you hit 18, you’re an adult. Or maybe it’s 21. Or 25? 30? Hang on a sec. When do you actually feel “grown up?” Certainly, by the time you have your own kids, you automatically begin taking your responsibilities a hell of a lot more seriously. It’s safe to say that, by the time you are able to not just create a child, but harness the empathy necessary to put your new, miraculous creation before all else, you qualify as a full-fledged adult.
Your initiation rituals include body parts that randomly hurt and ads for healthy, low-calorie, low-deliciousness “ice cream.” Congratulations! You’re a grownup! But are you really done growing up? Heck no. You’re just getting started.
The term growing up is a fascinating one. We seem to have this idea that “up” is a location—a final destination that will give us some sweet, sweet rest upon our arrival. “Aha!” we’ll say. “We’re here! We’ve grown UP. We can take a nap and crack open a cold one.” Sadly, “up” isn’t a location at all. It’s a direction. There really is no end point to “up,” which means something both amazing and terrifying: When we’re done growing up, it’s 100 percent by choice. We’re choosing our own endpoint. We’re saying, “Yeah, I could keep climbing, but I’m tired. I think I’ll stay here.”
In a way, that sucks. It means we can’t blame the world for not getting us where we want to go. It all rests on us. We can’t put our lives on autopilot and expect to like where we end up. Shoot. Laziness aside, knowing that getting stuck is a choice is EXCITING, because it means getting unstuck is a choice, too. You can decide to continue climbing up. Wow!
As parents, we’re used to focusing on the growth of our kids. We’re raising them, after all. The question is…what are we raising them to do? Are we raising them to reach adulthood, fully functional but done growing? Or, are we raising them to become ambitious, lifelong explorers, adventurers, question-askers, doers and go-getters? If the answer is the second, then we have to ask ourselves…why aren’t we setting a better example?
Parenting is a taxing, all-encompassing job. A beautiful one, but not an easy one. Whatever stage you’re at as a parent, or grandparent, even, it bears asking, “What can I do now to continue growing up?” Growth doesn’t have to be big. Epiphanies are all well and good, but baby steps are the real name of the game. Look at a day in the life of a toddler. Today doesn’t look much different from yesterday, but give that kid a month and they’re an entirely new person. Why? Aside from the explosive brain development going on, toddlers TRY. Every waking minute, kids make an effort to grow. Imagine what might happen if we did the same.
Imagine if we decided what the heck, why not run a marathon? Why not become fluent in Italian at 45? Why not take up the violin at 70? Better yet, why not ask ourselves the tough questions? What do we really want? How can we give more of ourselves to the world? How can we be kinder, more empathetic and more human? How can we raise up MORE people than just ourselves, just our kids? Imagine a world where we could become adults without losing our childlike drive to grow. Imagine what could be and remember: You are not done growing up. You’re just getting started.