Let me begin by saying that my four year old little daughter, the princess of our hearts and the joy and pride of our being, can’t wait to grow up. For she can’t do all the interesting things that us grown ups can (yeah, being a grown up seems glamorous to her!)
She can’t reach the amusing things on the kitchen counter as she’s not tall enough.
She isn’t allowed to plug-in her favorite ‘Cinderella castle’ night-light as she’s not old enough.
She has to use a plastic ‘toy’ shovel while gardening instead of the ‘real’ one.
She can’t carry a real phone yet.
She can’t wear heels yet.
She can’t drive yet.
She can’t go to work yet ….
…. and on and on and on goes the list of things that she really wants to do; but she’s been told that she can do all of them only after she becomes a ‘grown-up’.
So you see, and now you know why she can’t wait to grow up. For her, all excitement lies ahead. Such innocence! Moments to treasure.
And those cute questions, they just keep coming! The whys and the whats and the hows!
‘Why is the sky blue, mommy?’
‘Why can’t our car fly?’
‘Where do dreams come from, mommy?’
‘Daddy, what does a promise mean?’
‘Why is the sun yellow, mommy?’
‘Do trees have kids?’
Beautiful questions. They just make you stop in your tracks, and think. They make you weigh your words.
One of her questions that has made me think the most is, ‘When did you become a grown up, mommy?’
Honestly, didn’t see that one coming. Out of the blue! I think I was in the kitchen, cooking. She was watching her favorite show on TV. She just walked over to me, and posed this question. And went back to watching the show again! I guess she wasn’t expecting a response. Good, coz I didn’t have one ready.
So, when does anybody become a grown-up, anyway? When did I grow up, really?
It’s been a few days. I still don’t know the moment that defines my growing up. Soul searching.
So I’ve concluded, it must not have been a single moment, but a process – this growing up business. But, somethings do trigger that process, intermittently. Some moments that nudge the trajectory. Ever slightly. But they do.
For me, I think, I must have started on this ‘glamorous’ path of growing up when my younger brother was born. My memories of those days are a faded blur as I was merely four back then. But I do remember a few details. I remember the day my older sister and I went to see him at the hospital, with my dad. I was usually a rowdy kid, but I remember being quiet and better behaved that day (my parents can correct me if I’m wrong, LOL!). After all, I was an older sister for someone now! Maybe, it’s just a false memory, a whim. But, there was this ‘feeling’ that had descended over me. Maybe that’s how a nudge feels? Maybe I did grow up a little that day?
I loved my childhood. In the midst of all those crying tantrums, sibling fights and unreasonable demands, was emerging a happy kid. A very content innocent young girl in the making, that resulted in a confident, competitive, but still innocent, teenager. I think the second nudge came when I left my home to pursue college.
Retrospectively thinking, I think at that time I didn’t have the faintest of ideas what I was going to do in life. But, at that moment, when I wasn’t even still eighteen, technically not an adult, I knew I was the luckiest girl on the planet. As if I had conquered the world. Call it the excitement of leaving home for the first time, on my own; or a hidden satisfaction of being considered responsible enough to do so; or a mixture of joy and pride of making it to the college of my choice! Call it whatever or call it nothing … I know my trajectory was certainly being changed when I left home back then.
Careless and carefree. That’s how I remember college. Those five years, a cocktail of fun, lots of hard work (yes, it’s true!), awkward hairstyles, late nights, crappy movies, and of course, cocktails! Friendships that still go strong. Promises that still have meanings. An independent life (sort of) but with added responsibility of taking care of myself, on my own. An emotional roller coaster of sorts: a dream, yet so real.
But still, I think, maybe, it wasn’t that particular college or those people, per say; it was that age- that was the nudger. The time frame – late teens to early twenties – whose ripples always manage to reach the edge of calm waters. Whatever I would have done at that time, whoever I’d have met, wherever I’d have stayed- would have swept me forward to an unknown future!
There are many incidents worthy of description, from those college years. I can go on and on … yet, those years seem to have flown by, just like that. It was a long time, yet very short. Why is it so? You enter college … poof … you graduate! And what next? I tried to gather that ‘poof’, for it had scattered its magical dust all over my dorm room. And I came back home. With all my ‘stuff’ and a lifetime worth of memories, I returned. A graduate. A grown-up?
Higher education was my choice of next step forward. I wanted to study abroad. Didn’t know, at that time, that this would define the rest of my life (but don’t these nudgers always do?). This time, I was REALLY leaving home. There wouldn’t be any visits from my dad or me visiting home every month anymore. I’d sure miss that. It’s been over a decade (or is it eons?), and I still do.
It was a cold and dark, but a starry New Year’s Eve, when I was to fly out. My parents must have gathered all the courage they could muster to see me go so far where their days would be my nights. Courage that maybe they didn’t even know they had, for I know they love me. I can say this now as I can’t imagine my own daughter leaving home someday, like a bird. But she will. Just like I did. Just like my parents did. I remember that day very vividly, not only because it’s a comparatively recent memory, but also because that ‘feeling’ had descended again. I was afraid that its heaviness won’t allow me to take-off. I sincerely, truly, felt alone for a moment, as the plane flew over the airport. But this fleeting desire to reach back was quickly subdued by the anticipated excitement that lied ahead (for it always lies ahead, doesn’t it?).
And time flew, as good times usually do. New friends, new memories, new culture … eventually a new job and new responsibilities. Now I’m married and have a four year old daughter. Is it FOUR years already? I still remember (I hope I always do) her newly born, tiny, twinkly, steady, non-blinking eyes gazing into mine, as if already framing all the questions that she would ask me some day. Priceless! What can I say? I love myself more that she’s in my world? Too cheesy, but true :P. No complaints, no regrets. My latest nudger, I’d say, is my daughter (you saw that coming, didn’t you?). She has changed me, as a person and as a being, and she doesn’t even know it! I’m sure I need not explain this any further ……. with her in my life, I’ve definitely grown up a little more.
And so I’ve noticed that every rung of my growing up ladder had ‘responsibility’ written all over it. So, being a wife and a mom and a full time wage earner, maybe, just maybe, now I can say that I’m a grown-up? I have sure been responsible toward the myriad roles that I’ve played so far. Haven’t I? Honestly, I still do have my moments where I behave not so ‘grown-uply’ and become as unreasonable as I was when once my brother wanted his turn to play with a toy and I had hidden it so well that it wasn’t to be found for years! I can still exhibit a tendency to be adamant over the color of curtains and that extra scoop of ice-cream! Being a working mom I have my own challenges but also a hidden chest of guilts and fears; and sometimes I let these emotions take control over me just like a toddler who throws a tantrum and can’t define what he needs! And during such times, I think of my parents, after I’ve calmed down enough. Do I have it as tough as they did? I’m sure not even a tenth. Am I as grown up as they are? May be not even a tenth?
So, here would be my answer to my princess. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll tell her, my dear, yes, I’m a grown-up. I became a grown-up when my mommy-daddy told me that I am. But, in my mind I’d be thinking, ‘My dear darling, we’re all in this together. Floating in this ephemeral world of subjective definitions. It’s a give and take, my dear, give and take. At least partly, you’ll be what you’ll be because of me and I am what I am because of you! We’ll never stop growing up. So, let’s grow up a little each day, together.’