The other night, as I was tucking Sonny into bed just after we’d read about teeth (adults have 32 of the things, apparently!) in one of our favourite books, ‘How Will I Grow?‘, and the difference between baby ones and grown up ones, and Sonny had launched in to an anecdote about why baby ones are “cooler” (how a 3 year old knows the word “cool” is totally beyond me) than “grown up” ones and how he’s convinced that he’s lost a tooth (he definitely hasn’t), I was instinctively triggered to ask him one of my all time favourite questions, and it goes 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!”. 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 the least romantic, sort of weirdest thing ever), 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.
This led me to explore 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, 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. 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 pop 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