The other night, as I was tucking Sonny into bed just after we’d read about teeth in one of our favourite books, ‘How Will I Grow?‘ – adults have thirty-two, in case you were wondering – we started discussing the difference between baby teeth and grown up teeth. Sonny promptly launched into an anecdote about why baby ones are “cooler” than “grown up” ones (note to self: how the heck does our 3 year old know the word “cool”?) and how he’s convinced that he’s lost a tooth (he definitely hasn’t). Anyway, I was instinctively triggered in that moment to ask him one of my all time favourite questions, and it goes something like this:
“Am I a grown up, Sonny?”
And the response is always just the sweetest.
Ever so slightly bashfully, but with absolute certainty, the answer is of course, “YESSSSS mummy!”. His big brown doe eyes stare in to mine, and in that moment I know that I am unquestionably his everything; I am his mother, his teacher, his protecter, his feeder. I am a grown up; I am his grown up. And there is no seed of doubt that he and I are on different planes.
Ever so slightly bashfully, but with absolute certainty, the answer is, of course, “YESSSSS!”.
I maybe pose this question a few times a year to him or Jack (more than that and I feel like it might start to worry their little souls) and it never gets old. You see, I might feel like I don’t have my sh*t together, I might day dream of days spent hitchhiking around Italy (best.holiday.ever) or lying in fields in Oxford or in London (I once made my 16 year old boyfriend and I camp overnight in our local park. It was so cold and damp and the least romantic, sort of weirdest thing ever. We trudged back to my house the next morning, sleeping bag slunk over his shoulders, smelling slightly I’m sure of dog poo), and I might ultimately feel like I’m a 16 year old trapped in a 34 year old’s body, but I am not this to my children.
Recently, I’ve been exploring the definition of adulthood. According to research, despite technically becoming an adult at 18, the average Brit does not feel like they have become a ‘grown-up’ until they reach the age of 29. In an article in The Atlantic, Jensen Arnett, focuses on what he calls “the Big Three” criteria for becoming an adult, the things people rank as what they most need to be a grown-up:
1.Taking responsibility for yourself
2.Making independent decisions
3.Becoming financially independent.
Interestingly though, some cultures also add their own values to the list. In China, for example, people highly valued being able to financially support their parents, and in India people valued the ability to keep their family physically safe. What about being a parent? Does this automatically make you a grown up? Isn’t being a grown up more about milestones* than age?
Jensen Arnett, a research professor of psychology at Clark University, has focused on what he calls “the Big Three” criteria for becoming an adult, the things people rank as what they most need to be a grown-up: taking responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent.
Anyway, this question – and their answer – always makes me think, and grounds me in so many ways. That and the fact that I have to go clean the toilet – living with 4 boys is no joke, bath little boy after he wet the bed (hubby forgot to “do the lift”), change the bedsheets after a random nose bleed from big boy in the middle of the night and bake a cake and prep for an important person’s birthday tomorrow (big big boy.)
What’s your favourite question to pose to your little one? Have you ever asked them if they think you’re a grown up?
P.S Definitely want to rewatch this movie asap.
*you know, like being entirely responsible for little peoples’ lives
Interesting article! I am 42, mother of two, and I feel like I’m still waiting to feel like an adult! Young at heart I guess 😉 My favourite question for my 6 year old son is “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?” The answer is always interesting and insightful! Last time I checked the answer was “Fireman Sam – because he’s a hero”. Bless!!
this is the cutest. im definitely going to ask this question ! x
On the little humans part of Mindvalley, one speaker asked her child every bedtime if they felt loved today and if mummy could have done something different ot better. Maybe they say, I felt upset when you didnt listen or something. But I loved the checking in, conversation and growth it could create.
This is just the sweetest, i love it. What’s Mindvalley, if you don’t mind explaining?
Grown up by 29?!
I’m going to be 40 next year and I’m still waiting to feel like a grown up! 🤣
I can definitely relate to feeling like a 16 year old trapped in an older body. I love how you kids say of course you’re a grown up, I just asked one of mine (14 years old, always risky to ask these types of questions!) and was told I was past grown up and on the way down to being ancient! Told you it was risky!