There are a number of things that have surprised me about adulthood, but the most unexpected has been the lingering suspicion that I totally suck at it. Surely other adults, particularly fellow parents, don’t experience that niggling feeling that they are merely imposters? Sure, we manage to keep our household running smoothly, and our kids don’t seem to be turning out to be assholes-in-training, but sometimes I feel that I’ve severely missed the mark. When I look back at my first models of adulthood—my parents—I feel confident that they did a hell of a lot better job than I am doing. In fact, it’s quite possible that I could be considered an actual failure as an adult. I’ve broken down my incompetence as follows:
1. I rarely dust, and when I do, I do a half-assed job. I don’t move stuff around, I just dust what’s visible so that when my parents visit, it looks like I dusted.
2. I don’t change my sheets often enough, or those of my children. Gross, I know.
3. There is a pile of boxed food from Costco sitting on the dining room floor at all times. It’s not in the pantry because we don’t have one. Someday we’ll have someone build us one, but right now we’re too tired and don’t give a shit.
4. I don’t plan out different, nutritious snacks for my kids to eat in the afternoon. In fact, I usually forget to feed them any snacks at all, until my seven-year-old asks me if she can have a granola bar. Then I tell her to go get one from the Costco box on the floor of the dining room.
5. I can’t change a tire. I am utterly inept at spatial skills and mechanical reasoning, which has nothing to do with my age or maturity, so I kind of don’t care about this one.
6. I don’t wash my windows. Hardly ever. Ditto for bathroom mirrors.
7. I don’t have any curtains. Don’t real grown-ups have curtains, even cheap ones purchased from Kmart or a thrift store? We just have the blinds that came with our house.
8. I don’t clean out the leftovers in the fridge nearly often enough. Which is likely due to a bigger problem, the fact that I don’t promptly eat said leftovers, thereby wasting food.
9. I often forget to clip my children’s fingernails and toenails promptly.
10. I never remember to clean the oven. Or the microwave.
When I look back on the efficient, well-oiled machine that was my childhood household, I don’t remember as much chaos, scrambling, and disorder. Were my parents ever exhausted or irritable? Was at least one person sick all the f*cking time like my family is now? (Don’t you dare blame our persistent colds on our streaked windows or soup-splattered microwave.) Were swear words uttered, and too many TV shows viewed? I don’t believe my brother or I ever had fingernails (or toenails) that would’ve been considered an unfair advantage in The Hunger Games.
Have my husband and I totally failed at adulthood? Is there some sort of remedial class we need to take? During the most hectic of mornings, when my house looks like it threw itself up and we haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days, I often beat myself up for not having it all together. I might have been patting myself on the back for not having missed the school bus, but then I remember that I haven’t scrubbed that tile area behind the kitchen faucet… ever.
But maybe when my brother and I were little, our bedroom floors were littered with puzzle pieces and Happy Meal toy parts. Maybe we’d eaten hot dogs three times already in one week. Maybe the kitchen trash was overflowing.
And perhaps 20 years from now, my children won’t remember the fact that the bathtub toys were never put away. Perhaps they’ll have forgotten the kitchen chair backs that were constantly streaked with squeezy-yogurt. I hope they remember the snuggling, the laughing, and the “I love you so much”s instead.
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