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When I was a child, my grandparents were the embodiment of successful adults. I marveled at their unruffled stability. They never seemed to raise their voices, in contrast to our noisy family of six. “Paw Paw” smoked a pipe, and carefully considered his words before speaking. He was the main driver of their sky-blue 1954 Buick Skylark, much more elegant than the maroon Nash our clan climbed into.

What impressed me the most was the oval Triple A sticker on their bumper. I asked what it meant. “Gam” explained they belonged to a club called AAA and if they ever had car trouble someone would come help them out. Wow. What perfect planning. They could handle any little problem that came their way with their usual aplomb, even a flat tire.

It became one of my goals in life to belong to AAA, maybe even own a Buick. Then I would be an adult.

“Adulting” is a new descriptor that we hear today. Young people use the word when they do something that feels very grown-up, like buying their first car or getting their first job.

“Adulting” might also be unclogging the toilet for the first time, and mommy or daddy isn’t around to do it for you. Or any number of “adult” chores like emptying the dishwasher every day or mopping the bathroom floor.

One of my grandsons just turned twenty-one and moved into his own studio apartment. It is his first time living on his own, with no roommates or family. His apartment is 300 square feet, with a microwave and small fridge. It must be sort of like the stateroom on a cruise ship. It will also be his first-time paying rent and being responsible for utilities. He is excited about it, but I wonder if he really knows what it will be like, to be alone in that small space at night? I hope he is in a safe building and that there aren’t a lot of scary noises at night. It’s a big step for a young person, “adulting.”

Another of my grandsons is a senior in high school, and he is “chomping at the bit” to be on his own and off to college. Freedom! One small step toward “adulting,” not realizing all the responsibilities that come with it.

When I was a child, I guess I wanted to be grown up, but I don’t really remember, other than aspiring to have a AAA bumper sticker. At age twenty, I felt I was ready for anything, including marriage, but didn’t even begin to comprehend the emotional responsibility toward another person, or even to myself. I was unformed, certainly not an adult, although you couldn’t have told me that.

“Adulting” is much more than knowing how to plunge the toilet or belonging to an auto “club.” Being a mature person means considering other’s needs and feelings, being careful about the words we say and how we say them. Perhaps that’s why Paw Paw smoked a pipe and chose his words thoughtfully. Adulting is being able to communicate in a straightforward manner, but with kindness. It means knowing ourselves well enough to say what we need.

Now, I know I am an adult, no two ways about it. I even belong to AAA.

But emotional maturity means more to me than that sticker. Adulthood is a lifetime journey, not something achieved on a particular day. And I have never owned a Buick, so I am not there yet!

How about you? Was there a time as a young person when you felt you were an adult? Or, did you have a specific goal that would mean you had “made it?” You can reply to my email to give me your comments!


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