Daniel has informed me that he wants to be more like a grown-up. This is equally hilarious and endearing, though it has on occasion led to some arguments. For example, the other day he was really bossing his little sister around, and when I told him to back off, he put up his hand and said, "Mom, we can discuss this in my office." I would have cracked up if I hadn't been so irritated with him at that moment.
But this is only the beginning. The other night, he announced that he wanted to be "more like a grown-up," which meant 1) wearing socks to bed, 2) brushing his teeth without being told (win!) and 3) working on a sudoku puzzle in the evening. He has also requested that I not ask him how his day at school was, because, as he said, "Grown-ups go to work, mom, so ask me how my day at work was." I oblige, "OK, how was your day at work?" I say. "Pretty good," he answers, before tossing his shoes and snow pants in the middle of the floor and heading to the kitchen where he roots in the snack cupboard for cheddar bunny crackers and fruit leather. Good thing he hasn't grown up completely yet, eh?
I don't have the heart to tell my little boy, who will be all of six years old in just a couple of weeks, that being all grown up isn't all it's cracked up to be. I know that from his vantage point, it's so hard to wait to be tall enough to reach the highest shelves and use permanent markers without asking permission and stay up late, he can hardly stand it. I feel like I was a kid a long, long time ago, but I remember fantasizing about the mystical world of adulthood. If someone had told me it was mostly about being disappointed in other grown-ups (like the ones elected to public office, for example) and cleaning up after your family, I wouldn't have listened anyway. I had big dreams, you know. They were pretty unrealistic, but I didn't know any better, and of course, that is the magic of childhood.
A little over a year ago, when I was in Kansas for a performance, I had a conversation with someone I knew in college. We were barely acquaintances back then as now, but something about our conversation stuck with me. He's roughly my age, married, father of three young children, and was in the middle of a career change, living in the smallish town he'd grown up in, and he said, "You reach a point where you're like, 'Is this it? Really? Is this where I've settled, and my best years are behind me already?' But then of course you have a family to take care of, so what choice do you have?"
I didn't really mean for this post to get so sad and cynical. Believe it or not, I'm not sad and cynical. Well, I'm not sad. (I've always been a touch cynical.) In fact, the last few weeks I have made peace with where I am, career-wise. As much noise as I've made about starting over and trying something new (like accounting or education or something totally wild and out there like computer programming, which I would probably suck mightily at), the fact is, there is a damn good reason I spent almost the whole of my 20s studying music performance and teaching. It's what I love best. It's what I'm best at. Not THE best at, but whatever. I get by, and it turns out there are a few people out there who believe in me.
I may never be famous. I may never get an academic job. I may never feel completely and totally confident about my work. But at least I'm doing what I always loved best. I suppose there are some grown-ups out there still figuring that out.