I will never forget the day I sat in my father’s car and I asked him how he defined being an adult. My dad looked at me and after a moment’s consideration said to me the following words. “Adults have the exact same impulses as teenagers, the same instinctual desire to take the easy route. The difference is that adults pause, feel that feeling, and then make the responsible decision.”
When we are children we are taught to listen and follow direction from those older than us. Many of the decisions we make, despite often believing them to be of our own volition, are actually skillfully crafted by adults who are steering us towards the “right” choice while not wanting to inflict that all crushing blow of realizing that we are in fact too stupid to figure it out on our own. Secretly I think that parents love to see how the “tricked” the child into doing as is socially appropriate. Overall, its one large win for society.
At some point this veil of secrecy is shredded and replaced with a loathing disdain at the thought of being controlled by anyone. This usually happens in our teenage years, or in my case, late teenage to early twenties, since I always seemed to take my sweet old-time in everything I did. This rebellious phase leads to direct opposition to all direction imposed upon us. Despite feeling as though the decisions we are making are counter-culture or unique, they are in fact often illogical and grounded in teenage angst. Needless to say the resulting effects of most of these decisions are regret and a resounding need to save face when ones parents and their “lame controlling opinion” were actually right.
Once you get to college and life throws some big girl problems your way, you suddenly find yourself screaming internally “I WANT MY MOMMY!!” You face situations you didn’t even fathom as possible, and are thrown into various types of conflict. If you are lucky enough to have a strong relationship with your parents, you turn to them for guidance during this time. You often get frustrated with their opinions because you know that they are right, and ultimately you will follow their advice despite the fact that it is not the flashy, easy route you were hoping they would suggest.
As you get older, you begin to make these adult decisions all on your own. You begin to pause and instead of running to Dad so that he can make the decision for you, you begin to make that decision for yourself. You show your ability to take responsibility and with that develop mutual trust between yourself and the parents that once had to make those tough decisions for you. Yet, with this maturity also comes the sweet right you have earned to make up your mind as to what your priorities are. You may take stock of your life and decide that what truly matters to you is building a family of your own, or perhaps what you value is to live a life free of obligation and spinning wildly in the sweet sensation of new experiences. Whatever your philosophy, it is bound to conflict with that of your parents at least to some extent. While you will spend most of your days not bothered with the fact that you chose not have children until you are older, there will always be that moment when your parent calls you and reminds you that this decision is incredibly counter to the life path they believe you should be on. In that moment, that split second, with that phone pressed to your ear, you will take a deep breath in and doubt yourself. You will go back through all of the phases you once experienced. You will become a child and think that you came up with that doubt on your own, that it was you that wasn’t sure about the decision rather than your parent. Then you will become the teenager, angry and stubborn, insisting that you are going to do the opposite because well, you just don’t want to be anything like your parents. This will quickly subside into desperation because self-doubt promises to deliver a feeling of being lost and incapable of making such a serious and important decision. You will listen to your parent and feel trapped as though whatever they say is what you must do.
Yet, at the end of all of this, after this breath passes, or maybe a few breaths pass, you will find yourself going through the same reasoning that supported your decision in the first place. You will debate all the same arguments you originally went through and conclude that this was in fact the correct choice for you. You will smile and listen to your parent, compassionately explaining your reasoning. You will find yourself saying “well, now that you mention it, I would like to talk to you about this” and then proceed to explain who you are through the key decisions that you make about your life and how you make those decisions. Essentially, you will do exactly what my father said you would. You will have the same impulse, pause, and then make the responsible decision.