In the eyes of my son, I am the lady who knows what’s up. I feed us, both in the cooking sense and the buying groceries sense. I pump gas into the car that I bought with my own money. I make sure Oliver does his homework. I fix boo-boos.
To him, I am a responsible adult, and I know exactly what I’m doing at all times. But the truth is, even though I’m the captain of the ship, most of the time I feel frighteningly vulnerable.
This weekend I bought a Costco
membership. It felt like an affirmation of adulthood: YES, I am shelling out $20 for a giant package of toilet paper. Truth be told, I really only joined because you can buy a car through Costco, which Alison wrote about here
. But I have since been seduced by the promise of super-sized jars of Nutella.
It is comforting to know that a consumer can walk into a store and purchase a gallon of mayonnaise, you know? I mean, ew, but also, as I was standing in Costco deciding whether to purchase a 10-pound bag of brown rice, I thought, This is so wonderfully mundane that I almost feel as if nothing bad can happen.
Of course, bad things do happen. Kids get sick and require a trip to the emergency room, for example. When Oliver was a toddler, he had this horrible stomach bug while my ex was out of town. I had to take him to the ER twice that week. Do you have any idea how scary it is to be the only adult responsible for a tiny human who cannot even keep water down and is starting to become seriously dehydrated? It’s a helpless feeling, and it is terrible.
Or how about the time a couple of years ago that I had a bleeding stomach ulcer which caused me to become so anemic that I wound up in the hospital with a blood transfusion? I didn’t feel so in control then. I was downright scared. In fact, even at 34 years old, I wanted my mommy.
Oh, heck, I want my mom for all sorts of things -- anytime I have to make a phone call related to my health insurance, for example, or if I get a flat tire. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and at those times I want to press the rewind button on my life and just become a kid again.
I’m convinced this is why we partner with other adults in romantic relationships: so that we are not the only ones responsible for ourselves. Because being the one in charge can be scary. (Jeff, if you are reading this, I love you and not just because you always take out the garbage.)
When I was a kid, I thought my mother had all the answers. Now that I have some perspective I know that she was just winging it, too -- not just as a parent, but as an adult. After all, when I was Oliver’s age, my mom was just 29 years old. Let that sink in a moment.
And in fact, when my mom was the age I am now, she had a 15-year-old. When I was 15, she seemed downright old to me. Old enough, at least, to know exactly what she was doing.
It never occurred to me that my mom, at the young age of 36, might have felt really freaking scared sometimes, or that she might have felt unsure about some very basic “adult” things, like financial or medical decisions. But knowing what I know now, I am sure there were times when she, too, wanted her mom.
And that sort of lets me off the hook, too.