When Do You Know You're an Adult?

Expert Author Susan Leigh
The age when you become an adult is open to interpretation in many households. There are those 12-year old's who think they're 17 and then 28 year old's who prefer to stay at home, being looked after and avoiding the personal and financial responsibilities of being independent.
Astrologically, late 20's are deemed to be the age when young people enter adulthood and this often equates to the time when they start settling into making responsible lifestyle choices, committing to a career, home, relationship and perhaps even starting a family.
This time can be delayed by years spent at university, taking a gap year, the impact of student debt, establishing a career, saving the deposit to buy a first home - any of these can defer leaving home and becoming independent. So when do you know you're an adult?
When I asked several people about the time when they first realised they were an adult the answers ranged from when they moved out of the family home or passed their driving test and set off alone with sole responsibility for a car, to suddenly catching themselves sounding like their parents. I remember chatting to a group of girls who worked for me when it occurred to me that I was the same age as their mothers. It was a serious wake-up call!
There can be times of mixed emotions when we're faced with adulthood. The times when we're faced with the reality that we need to be serious and provide a voice of authority or reason. Our children may have said or done something wrong, naughty or dangerous and as much as we'd love to laugh along with them we really ought to act as a responsible adult and chastise them for their behaviour.
Neither do we want to pass on unfortunate habit patterns to our children, like an extreme over-reaction to spiders, or have them witness negative traits and characteristics. Being a good role model is important when we're an adult.
Or may be that our parents are becoming increasingly frail and reliant on us, so that we have to be the responsible adult who determines what happens to support their care, maybe by taking out a power of attorney or signing a DNR (a do not resuscitate order) in case they become infirm or when they're gravely ill. Parenting our parents pushes us into serious adult mode.
What about our personal relationships? Often they evolve with each person acquiring their own regular tasks. One may tend the garden, balance their finances, look after the car whilst the other attends to the more domestic chores. But what happens if one person goes on strike or for some reason fails to undertake their agreed duties. Sometimes, when things don't go our way, we may see our inner child emerging, by way of sulking, temper tantrums, retaliation, tears - hardly an adult response!
Discussing how we feel about what's happened or gone wrong and then negotiating a way forward can be a better response. Maybe it's a good time to redefine our roles, delegate several tasks or buy in additional help, so bringing communications back onto a more adult footing.
And don't forget the childlike joy in life that we may never want to lose, the excitement at visiting a funfair, hearing an ice cream van, seeing the first snowfall of the year, running along a beach. Nurturing our sense of innocence and treasuring it adds another dimension to being an adult. That sense of fun, elation, the joy of being alive is a very special part of finding balance in being an adult.
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