05 October, 2015

The moment you realise you're grown up

I’ve heard a number of parents say that they really realised they were grown up when they had children; a statement which of course makes me cringe. The thing is, I can’t imagine waiting until I had children – unless I had had them when I was still a teenager – to realise I was grown up, and I am sure my friends with and without kids would agree with me. So the last time I heard/read this, it got me wondering, “when did I realise I was grown up?”
  • It might have been when I was lost in Bangkok when I was 17, and knew that I had no choice but to find my own way to my destination, and back to my house across the city.
  • Or was it a year later, after my second term at university, when I was able to pay all my own bills, and never again needed to rely on my parents financially?
  • Or was it several years later, when my mother had cancer, and for the first time I felt the switch of the care-giving relationship?
  • Or maybe it was a few more years on (still not yet 30), when I first represented my country at an official international meeting in Vietnam, sitting behind the New Zealand flag (and between Netherlands and Norway – my friends Ron and Knut – ensuring we always had fun at those talks), reading a statement I had written on behalf of my government.

I understand that having children means you are wholly responsible for another human being, and that awareness of this can be overwhelming, but surely for most people, it isn’t the first time they realise they are grown up?


  1. Exactly!

    You were brave, being alone in Bangkok when 17.
    I was also brave as a teenager. When 17, I found (by writting by hand 55 letters - job applications for an Au-Pair position) an Irish family and went working for them for 3 months. I celebrated 17th birthday in Dublin.

    So yes. It is a silly (and very sad) statement, whoever states that they realise they had grown up when having children.

    have a lovely week, both of you.

  2. I understand the notion that having a child changes many different things in your life, but it seems logical that one would want to be (or at least feel) grown up long before bringing a tiny human into the world. Like you and Klara I've felt like I was a grown up since I was a young teenager, and still do despite the whole procreation thing not working out.

  3. At 18 i thought that studying in New Delhi for a year would be cool, but a bit too adult for me. (and I was probably right, then again, it might have helped growing up faster?)
    Early twenties, a Very Formal Dinner came up in the Queen's Palace and they were a lady short and I was to sit in. Then I felt like I had passed the exam for being brought up properly.
    Mhm, at 29 I lived in Australia, and my mother came to visit for a month. Showing her around made me feel adult.
    And just in case your next post is going to be 'the moment you realise you're still your parents child" every year around tax time I run to my daddy and cry for "HELP" ;-)
    Ha, imagine remaining non-grown up till my 40th....

  4. Yeah, I'm still wondering when I'll completely grow up. In some ways, I hope I never do.

    What plunked me into this category, though, was purchasing our condo. All the sudden, I was responsible for something that could easily impact others. And was making decisions that easily ranged in $10k expenses. The stress of having to manage this on top of living with others (specifically some who were extremely difficult to interact with) made me realize I had grown up.

    I agree with Klara and you about children = adulthood. For some this is absolutely true as it is the first time they have to focus on someone outside themselves. But I don't believe it is a universal truth. It's just one people conveniently attach to children.

  5. Hmmm...I've always felt that I had been living in a safe bubble to be honest (I still sometimes feel that way). I suppose it's because for many people like me and my peer, we only leave the nest after getting married. My husband was worried at first when we got married because I had never lived on my own prior to moving with him. Sometimes I get scared that he's going to die first and I will have to figure everything out on my own without him as I've never lived on my own at all in my entire life. So it's no wonder that every now and then I feel younger than an adult, though in some ways I'm adult enough to be responsible for the things in my life that I need to take care of.

  6. I love this post, because it is such an interesting thought to explore. (And I know an awful lot of people who had children younger who were most definitely NOT grown up, so that's just plain crazy that that would be the marker.) I think for me it's when I went through my divorce, and had to make hard decisions on my own and live with fear of the unknown at 30, while student teaching. That was incredibly hard, but I made myself into the person I am today and finally decided what I wanted in life and acted on it. I think knowing who you are as a person and being able to follow through on life decisions to get you to the place you want to be is a good benchmark for when you are an adult. (Although sometimes I question if I'm an adult even now, at nearly-40...ha.) I love your benchmark moments, because they all seem to fit that space of "I am in charge, I am taking care of myself, I am making the decisions." It's not altogether fun to be an adult though.

  7. This is an excellent question, and it made me ask myself. I became a grownup before I even met my husband, which was before I discovered the world if IF.

    Coincidentally, my moment is like one of yours. I got lost on my way home from my first day or work in Japan (near Kobe) and I had to figure it out all by myself. Help was an ocean away.

    Your 4th point is fascinating.

  8. I don't know if I could mark the moment. I also don't feel completely grown up. I mean, yes, I know logically that I am the age of a grown up. But I don't feel like a grown up.

  9. This is an interesting question. If I say that I considered myself grown up when I had my kid, it would mean I remained a kid until 30 years.

  10. Nope, I felt grown up when I moved out at the tender age of 27. I was always a late bloomer.

  11. I have to agree with Mel. I still don't feel entirely grown up. ;) But I know lots of parents who have said that too.

  12. I like how you listed more than one moment when you felt you grew up. It is kind of like the happiest moment post where a person keeps revisiting it and it feels very real.

    I remember on the eve of my tenth birthday thinking these were the last moments when I would be an age with a single digit and soon my next birthday and the ones following would be double-digit. There was a sadness and I felt the turning of the page of my childhood.

  13. I have to laugh at the "I don't feel entirely grown up" comments. I often say, "I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up." So I know what you mean.