I was sitting with an younger friend a while back when she looked at me and asked me when I first began to think of myself as grown up.
I thought about it for a couple minutes and then answered, “I’m not sure I ever thought about that before.”
“Well, I was the last born of four children, who all happened to be boys, so I was called “The Baby” which I didn’t especially like to be called. Some people think of the baby as spoiled but in actuality the youngest child must put up with usually being the littlest kid and wearing nothing but hand-me-down clothes and always compromising and being pushed around and always coming last. Therefore my theory is, as the youngest, you have to always be ready to not get your way and you have to learn how to compromise at an early age. Whereas the older children are bigger, stronger and always putting you in your place and they get used to having their way so who are the spoiled ones?”
She laughed and said, “I was the oldest child in my family so I guess I thought of myself as grown up fairly young since I often had to take care of my three younger siblings.”
“Yeah I can see how that would grow you up. For some reason I usually seem to wind up with first born women.” I said.
“Guess they like you or you like them, huh?”
“Well, I guess so cause I married two of them.” I said.
“Yeah, and looking back, I’ve been with a few other first born women that I didn’t marry but maybe I should have.”
“That right?” she asked.
“I think maybe first born people are used to getting their way and last born people are used to letting them have their way, as in letting them decide what we’re going to do, where we’re going and that sort of thing, so even though it’s not by choice, I usually just say, ‘Whatever you want to do, honey, is fine with me.’ And they usually like that but it can get much after a while and I might say something about it and then they can’t understand what the problem is.”
“I imagine so.” she said with a chuckle.
“Yeah and flash forward 30 years and 2 divorces from 2 first born women later and I found myself a single father with three young children who needed to be clothed, fed, educated and prepared to go out into the world to slay dragons and again my needs did not come first. Of course, I was used to it by then but this time I was happy to be able to make all the compromises necessary for other family members, as they were my children.”
“Oh, yeah, raising children is a full time job.”
“Yes, it is. It’s a full time job just in itself. I had to work a full time job to be able to pay the bills and I had to shop, cook, clean, and get my kids to school and pay the bills. Did I already say that? And I had to help the kids with their homework and buy them clothes and everything else they needed in all aspects of their lives. I had to get them to their soccer games and soccer practices and friends houses and to school and to their mother’s house where they lived half time, which at first was every three days when we would switch, which meant that for three days I didn’t know what to do with myself because I was so used to running from here to there for the kids. But then when the kids came back, I had to rev up again and get back on the too much to do treadmill.
After a year or so of that, the kids decided they wanted to stay at each parent’s home longer so we switched back and forth every week. A year of so of that and it became every 2 weeks, then every 3 weeks and then every month and then it was full time with me because their mother moved out of the state. Which, believe it or not, actually made it easier because the kids were with me full time so there was no longer an adjustment period required of going back and forth.”
“Did that give you much time to have a life of your own?”
“Well, I had a business, which required a lot of time and work, but I still had to be there for my kids so I was trying to do too much but I did it with a smile and when the kids began to turn 16 years old, that meant they needed cars. My ex married someone else and had 2 more kids so she couldn’t help pay for the kids’ cars which meant if I wanted the kids to have cars, I had to pay for the cars which I did, one after the other as they turned 16 as they are only a year apart.
But what I found out was once kids have cars, they’re not home as much anymore but that doesn’t mean they required less money. They required more money. Trying to find a job in a college town like Chico as a kid is not easy and the jobs don’t pay much but the kids did find jobs in fast food joints and at big box stores but naturally those jobs don’t pay enough for all the requirements of car ownership like auto insurance and high school expenses, not to mention paying for college which all the kids went to. And let’s not forget cell phones.”
“Yeah, it gets expensive.” she said.
“Oh, yeah and by the time all the kids were finished with college and had jobs, I looked at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t believe I was in my 50’s and I didn’t know where all the time went and I definitely felt grown up. But honestly, raising kids was the most meaningful time of my life.”