Waking up over the weekend to a broken computer and then spending too much money stocking up for back-to-school items, but secretly celebrating because “Hey, at least it’s tax-free shopping weekend” made me reflect back to this particular column. Truly, this is adulthood, right? I mean, I have obviously arrived, haven’t I? It made me think about all the ways I thought it would be different. How did you imagine life as a grown-up would be when you were playing house as a kid?
Remember back when you were a kid and you would fantasize about being a grown-up? What that would be like? How things would be in your world … when you were in charge?
For me, my first order of business would be no more damn Chicken McNuggets. My parents never allowed me to get anything other than Chicken McNuggets on a road trip because McDonald’s took so long making special orders, and I would not eat a hamburger with anything on it other than ketchup.
That’s right, I was the child version of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. So when I grew up, if I wanted a Quarter Pounder with no pickles or onions I would be able to wait while they made my special order, and I would be happy every time I got to hear “Please pull forward ma’am, we’ll bring your food out to you when it is ready.” It would be no problem, right? Except that in real adult life, when you have two hungry, tired, screaming and/or crying children in the backseat then, well, your order actually sounds something like this, “Two Happy Meals and an adult order of McNuggets, please, and make it quick!”
When I was growing up, sometimes I used to go to the office with my dad on a Saturday. While he did work, I did “work” too. Looking back, I realize his work probably involved like actual reports for real people and were less exciting to do than my fake charts in the full array of available rainbow markers on the totally awesome white board (hey, my future wedding to Kirk Cameron wasn’t going to plan itself, ok?) while turning my fingers orange from Doritos purchased from the vending machine in the break room.
The break room alone could keep me busy for at least half an hour. They not only had four different vending machines to choose from, but one of them was the kind that spins around like a carousel of snack heaven. I’d watch what seemed to be hundreds of food choices circle past, and think wow, there are so many choices, or these adults who work here are SO lucky.
Every single day they got to choose between delicious Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs or Beefaroni; and maybe they even got to throw caution to the wind and have a FULL-SIZED candy bar with their lunch!
The possibilities were endless. And this was before you even got to the drinks! I grew up in a time when kids used to drink full-sugared soda, so it was always tricky to decide with my fifty cents whether I was in a Coke kind of mood or wanted an Orange Crush to go with orange-themed Doritos fingers?
And I used to say that when I grew up I was just going to watch whatever I wanted on TV and stay up as late as I wanted … but I gotta say, this has pretty much turned out to be as good as I expected. Because even with all the episodes of The Jetsons I watched, who could have ever DREAMED of the invention of TiVo. It is, quite frankly, and don’t judge me too harshly, the best thing that has happened in my lifetime.
I have a feeling my mom probably would have been a lot nicer to us at bedtime if she could have paused her previously-recorded episode of Big Brother to give us that one last drink of water. Hmmm, though, now that I think of it, I can actually pause my previously-recorded episode of Big Brother to give Emma that water, and somehow I still don’t do it with a wink and a smile, so maybe bedtime sucks for moms no matter what the capability of the remote control.
What you don’t expect when you grow up is the actual STUFF that comes with being a “grown-up.” Like bills and laundry and grocery shopping with clipped out coupons and the constant list making, and cars breaking down or needing oil changes, and water pipes bursting and roofs needing to be replaced, and jobs being lost and parents dying and children, oh the children, how come no one prepares you for that part?
I played more than my fair share of The Game of Life back in the day, and I certainly don’t remember ever landing on the space that said “Husband forgets to turn off sprinkler overnight, water bill $300.00,” or “Pull over into a parking lot during a hail storm and runaway shopping cart crashes into back of your car, live with the dent or pay $500.00 to get it repaired.”
I remember spaces more along the lines of “Go on a game show, win $25,000,” or “Write a best-selling novel, make $500,000,” which is so totally typical of a child’s board game, reinforcing those fantasy expectations for the someday real life they will actually face. The Game of Life was totally fantastic, and I really expected mine to follow a similar path:
You went to college, you got a fabulous job, with a guaranteed salary, you got married, you had a few kids, they fit perfectly in the back of your car, nobody got a divorce, you hit a few bumps in the road, but eventually you still landed on retirement, counted up your remaining money and called it a day.
Or how about when you got a mansion in my other favorite game, MASH? I bet it never occurred to you that all those rooms would need to be vacuumed and decorated, right? But at this point, if I was replaying MASH, I would happily circle the “A” for apartment … less maintenance, less upkeep, less monthly spending. Let someone else hire the housekeeper and full-time chef for the Beverly Hills hacienda up the street … I hear Kirk Cameron has a pretty strict dietary routine these days, so I am certain that if I had been saddled with him, a chef would have needed to be the first thing on my bridal registry.
When I was young, I planned on having no fewer than 4 children. After all, I was a top-notch babysitter, and I thought kids were just the be all and end all of joy. I loved rocking babies, especially. I remember I would stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom when I babysat and shamelessly pretend they were mine. I was also excellent with the school-age set, because I loved playing Candyland, Sorry, or Go Fish, and when the toys came out with them, I could return for a brief period of time to my own childhood, but it was totally “okay” because I was doing it for the good of the children.
I was being a COOL babysitter.
What I didn’t realize about actually having the children is that they are so much more than Goldfish and a few games of Old Maid. No wonder those parents I babysat for were always in need of a night out. Children require not just your physical presence, but every ounce of your emotional energy, from the moment that they are born, until, well, the jury is out on that statement. Your heart literally hurts at the end of the day wondering if today is the day that you perhaps damaged them forever by something you said or did, or something you didn’t say or do. You watch them try to navigate their way through Life and all you want to do is make it so that they just have to spin a big wheel and land on the “good” spaces.
Playing grown-up is just so much easier than actually being one.