Real Live Grownup

“My outer child is holding my inner adult hostage.”
– Unknown

I have this problem.  Going home to see family.  Desperate for my family to think of me as a Real Live Grownup, before every visit I agonize over what to wear, debate whether or not I should get a more mature looking haircut to make me look older, and lecture myself very firmly to avoid bratty behavior, and so forth.

"Where's C.?" "Drat! We must have left her in Calais! Should we go back?" "Nah. We'll see her at Christmas."

See, a couple of weeks after I turned 18, my parents shot off to Belgium leaving me with my grandparents to fend largely for myself.  I got myself off to university in the States and all settled in needing only rides to and from airports.  I didn’t see my family for six months until Christmas.  And then not again until I went home to work for the summer.  Ditto the next year.  My junior year I stayed in the States for most of the summer except for a two week holiday home to England and didn’t go home for Christmas at all.

My point?  Lots of people, like J., leave near enough to their families that they grow up (fully) with them.  All the major milestones are covered and both child and parents can transition through the chrysalis stage and watch the child-butterfly emerge into adulthood pretty seamlessly.  (This is in ideal circumstances, I know it’s not as easy for everyone, but bear with me).

Alternatively, I go bumbling along more or less on my own gumption for huge stretches of time, growing up and developing into an adult, but largely out of view from my parents.  Then, when I do finally get to see them, I’ve none of the requisite adult child skills or abilities to interact maturely with them.  I slip into bad habits from six years ago, ones that (I could have sworn) I’d outgrown.

The real irony is that my parents do think of me as a Real Live Grownup, this inadequacy I feel is strictly in my head.  My parents are fantastic, they’ve never treated as if I were younger, stupider, or less capable than I am.  The problem is me.  When I go home, I’m seized with the desire to wrestle with my siblings, pout when I don’t get my way, and roll my eyes at individual family members.  An exact copy of me as a snotty 17 year old.  Because I literally don’t know how to act 24 around them.  It’s disgraceful.

I imagine there is some disconnect for them as well.  After all, in one year I graduated, got a job, and got engaged, and planned a wedding completely apart from them.  They were great sports about it all, but I wonder if they ever feel like they’re scrambling to catch up on me too?

Note: not six and eight anymore.

It’s getting better, but I’m really still an idiot in a lot of ways.  See, this disproportionate view of development goes in the opposite direction as well.  When I moved out, my sister was six, she’s now 13.  Gio is a freshman at university right now, both he and Buddy are several feet taller than me and eat acres of food just to keep alive.  When I moved out, my father was still in the midst of a nice, international career, my mum was mostly still raising kids.  Now Dad is retired and Mum is teaching Western Civilization at university.

Where my family is concerned, I will probably never be a Real Live Grownup.  The sense of constant vertigo is too strong.  In my head, my brothers are still shorter than me, my sister is practically an infant, and my parents are at very different places in their lives.  Coming home and looking two feet up into Buddy’s eyes or sharing clothes with my sister or visiting a new house (usually in a completely new country) is just too much to keep up with.

It’s just as well.  Being a kid in my family isn’t too bad!

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