The Reality of Adulthood Doesn’t Live Up to Childhood Dreams

I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up, when I could do whatever I wanted. The future was a blank page, waiting for me to fill it with dreams, goals, and, more importantly, my own set of rules. I couldn’t wait to be my own boss and not have someone telling me to eat that despicable broccoli. The only way that tree with its overcooked stalk was going down was if I smothered it in cheese. As a grown-up? I wouldn’t even put it on my plate. Forget that, I didn’t even have to buy it.

My kids and I have the same battles: I tire of repeating myself. The kids act like I don’t know anything. Oh, I know a thing or two.

Then. When I was a kid, being a grown-up looked so cool. Grown-ups can wear whatever they want. No one raises their eyebrows when your shorts inch higher every year. No one makes you zip your coat when it’s cold out. You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re wearing eye shadow without permission because all the other seventh-grade girls’ eyelids and capris share the same pastel colors.

Now. I could wear whatever I want, but “mom clothes” was coined for a reason. Plunging necklines mean kids get a sneak peek at mom’s bra, a thickly padded curiosity.

Then. Having to go to bed when everyone else was still up just wasn’t fair. I could hear dishes clattering, voices chattering, and my God, the TV! What did they do at night, throw a party? Adults could do anything. Stuck in my twin bed with only a teddy bear as company, I dreamed of the day I could stay up all night. I would never be tired.

Now. I wish I were the one being read a story and tucked in every night, but clothes need to be washed and dried. Permission slips need to be signed. I fall onto the couch in exhaustion and just hope I can make it through one favorite TV show. Not exactly the all-nighters I dreamed about.

Then. I could fill my future with catalog dreams. I’d buy whatever I wanted: the coolest toys, the fastest car, a thousand Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

Now.The coolest toys happen to be a vacuum that works and an immersion blender. A van covered in crumbs and goo gets me here and there. And savings in the bank means more than any collection.

green food, yikes

Who put this green stuff in my food?

Then. Meat loaf, pork chops, green beans, peas. Blech. Why couldn’t we just eat ice cream and potato chips and brownies for dinner anyway? I swore I’d never, ever make meat loaf.

Now. Guess what? I make meat loaf. My kids hate it. It’s the circle of life or something. I even like mushrooms and avocado and other slimy things I gagged at as a child. My six-year-old self is watching and sticking out her tongue. Traitor.

Little did I know then that when you become a grown-up, you sometimes like vegetables. You pay for all that junk food with something called indigestion. Those clothes your mom wouldn’t let you wear? You gain the sense that no respectable girl would wear them. Staying up late? All day all you want to do is go to sleep for lack of energy. Little did I know when I was a kid that I had it good then.

My kids often say, “I don’t care.” They don’t care that they’ll be tired in the morning. They don’t care that vegetables will make them big and strong. They don’t care what anything costs because Christmas or grandparents will come soon enough. They don’t care that they’ll be cold when it’s 40 degrees out and they insisted on wearing shorts to school.

Some things need to be learned the hard way. I smile. I remember the way I saw the world too. And I know one day, they’ll see it the way I do.

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “The Reality of Adulthood Doesn’t Live Up to Childhood Dreams

  1. All I ever wanted was to grow up. Grow up. Grow up. And, what for? To have an endless line of bills and troubles. I would have savored by youth a lot more if I knew this!!

    • All those nights I spent thinking this was such a great party. Yeah, I was wrong. Four years of college. There’s your party. Certainly wish I could have relaxed and enjoyed the carefree days of my childhood more.

      • Momma Be Thy Name

        Yes. Exactly. The only time I really ‘lived my dreams’, if you will, was college. After that, party’s over, literally and figuratively.

  2. Yeah. I wanted the coffee, and the coffee cake, and the staying up late, and the…

    Sure, I get some coffee. And I technically could have the coffee cake if I don’t care whether or not I fit into anything besides sweatpants. And stay up late? I feel like the luckiest girl alive when I can go to bed before my 15 year old.

  3. Love it! I’m trading places with my kids for the rest of the day. Make that week. Or month.

  4. K. Eley

    I remember wishing my childhood away, just dreaming of becoming a grown-up. I couldn’t wait. I would even pretend to be a grown-up.

  5. I still don’t want to grow up. But I do crash at 8:30p flat, in bed, TRYING to watch my favorite TV show, after my husband takes off my glasses (’cause my eyes are obviously closed) and turns out the lights. I think I grew up in between and just missed it somehow.

    PS – Oooo…that picture looks like the makings of pico de gallo. Must go get me some…with a slimy avacado slice…and a whole wheat tortilla…with hummus…

  6. J:)

    I thought life began again at 40? I still have a hard time with some veggies, but girl…it is NOT all down hill from college! life is good! (hard and different, but good!) the party hours and reasons have changed, but there is still a party! J:)

    • Yes, if you invite me so I’ll be home in time for a reasonable bedtime, there is still a party. 😉 But since I’m not 40 yet, maybe I just haven’t really found out?

  7. Wait until you get the role reversal and your kids start treating you like the kid – haha!

  8. I’m with you on everything. Except meatloaf. I will NEVER make meatloaf. My huband and son love it. Too damn bad. Go to a diner. I will die before I make meatloaf. Not that I have strong feelings about it or anything …

    • Oh that made me laugh. I love diner food. I guess that explains it. I used to shrink in my seat when my mom brought the meat loaf out as a kid. Anything named “loaf” just can’t be good, right? But I only make it occasionally.

  9. I remember starting middle school and thinking “I have to get up at six now, and then the same in high school, and college [yeah, right], and then I’ll have to get up early for work for the rest of my life!” And now, sometimes I wake up at six even when the kids are still asleep so I can have a cup of coffee all alone, in the peace and quiet. Sigh.

  10. Strangely, I did not want to grow up. I think I felt like I was forced to grow up too soon. A bit like Wendy in Peter Pan, I guess. Sigh.

  11. Right now all my envy is reserved for my college kids…that looks like fun. They get all the benefits of being adults but none of the responsibilities. Guess that’s why it is only four years…

  12. Oh I loved this post! And I could relate to so much of it. I really thought I would be much cooler by now. 🙂

  13. Jonesingafter40

    Ahh.. you said it, MM. I so wish someone would tell me to go get a warm bath and lay out clean jammies and send me to bed early these days. Great post! 🙂

  14. Our battles are epic, broccoli and all.

  15. miiu

    i’ve always wondered: what’s up with the stereotypical american “kids don’t eat meatloaf and broccoli”? how come they don’t?

    • Well, stereotypes aren’t always true. My son loves broccoli. And I ate it as a kid. What I learned was that I never really loved ground beef as a kid and still don’t. I make my meat loaf with ground turkey. Can’t answer for the rest of America. Maybe they need my recipe. 😉

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