Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered when you suddenly became the grownup gazing back at you? When did you become this responsible person when you still feel like a kid inside?
I live in an all-Americana neighborhood town. Kids ride their bikes freely, flocking to the central ice cream shop after school. The local police report often cites cell phones being stolen from people’s cars — and unlocked cars at that. People don’t necessarily lock their houses during the day. It’s hard not to feel safe and comfortable here.
However, all of those years living in Chicago where even in the best of neighborhoods one has to always be on their guard, came rushing back in an instant.
I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items early this morning. Just as I placed the car in park, a tall teenage boy ran up to my passenger door and tried to open it. Was I getting carjacked? I must have looked absolutely shocked and horrified because he quickly backed away. Even through the window glass I could see how scared he was, mouthing the words ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’
In that instant, the street-smart girl returned, and my body turned on an ingrained fight or flight response. I’m guessing my face said fight while my body said flight. Either way, I had scared the bejesus out of this boy.
An instant later, I saw before me a man old enough to be a physical threat and a boy frightened by his own actions. I gently got out of the car and asked if his mom was around. He said she was coming back to pick him up. Not wanting to leave him in the parking lot, I told him it was an honest mistake and offered to walk him back to the grocery store where he could wait for his mom. I could see his body physically relax and relief wash over him.
What must have that experience been like for him. Did I appear to be the posing threat rather than the other way around? Even though I have a six year old and am in my 40s, I still think of myself as some young 20 year old. When did the world begin to view me as a grownup? It seems to have happened overnight even though it has been creeping up slowly. I just wasn’t paying attention.
Just as the imposing teenager was still a young boy who wanted his mom when scared, I’m an older mom who doesn’t want to be some settled-down woman. Even though the world may view me as a responsible adult, I plan on keeping the young girl inside of me nearby. And yes, some days I just want my mom.
EVOLVE: When did you first feel like an official grownup?