petite anglaise

December 30, 2005

grown up

Filed under: navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:22 pm

I am thirty three years old, and a mother. The lady in the local boulangerie stopped calling me “Mademoiselle” quite some time ago.

Why is it then that most of the time I feel like I’m only pretending to be a grown up? Putting on a front. Going through the motions of what seems to be expected of someone my age, unsure whether my heart is really in what I’m doing. From the vantage point of childhood, grown ups seemed so different, so complete, so together. The phrase “one day, when you are grown up…” held such tantalising promise.

But here I am, with three decades already behind me, and I’m not quite sure I belong here. Underneath the play acting, there is a girl who often wonders why adulthood doesn’t feel like she thought it would.

I ceased to grow upwards at the ripe old age of eleven, when I watched, in helpless despair, as the other girls in my class at school overtook me. That same year, I became a woman in the childbearing (as a theoretical possibility) sense, prompting my mother’s gift of a rather chaste paperback about love and sex, with a cover photograph of a young man (German porn star moustache) and woman (flicked back Abba fringe) perpetually trapped in the late Seventies, unaware that oral sex existed.

My first physical relationship, at seventeen, was a landmark, but I wouldn’t describe it as a coming of age. I look back fondly at the young girl I was at the time, enthusiastic about the new pastime I had discovered, and fiercely possessive of my boyfriend in the manner of a small child with an exciting new toy.

I took control of my life and finances when I left home for university, aged nineteen, but I wasn’t yet a fully formed person. More a mass of contradictions: obsessed with grades, ferociously competitive, but also a thrill seeker who spared little thought for her own personal safety. It was a time for exploration, for defining my own boundaries away from the constraints of the parental home.

Somewhere in my twenties, I think I started to grow into my own personality. There was the slow, painful realisation of the fact that being top of the class at school does not automatically equip a person for a brilliant future, if that person has no particular ambition in life. Dreams were diluted with a dose of pragmatism; sacrifices were made in order to remain in the country I decided to call my home.

In my first “proper” job, once the elation at finally having money had abated, and I tired of spending every single Saturday afternoon on a spending spree, “adult” concerns started to insinuate themselves into my brain. Peers were buying flats and houses. Suddenly, amassing savings and acquiring property became a major obsession. Panic: was I missing the boat? Saturdays were a whirlwind of estate agent’s, apartment visits and mounting frustration.

Friends began to marry. I wondered whether that was something I wanted, or felt I should want. Practical reasons aside, I found myself incapable of answering this question. Somewhere along the line, I seemed to have mislaid my romantic, girlish fantasy involving a princess dress, possibly because circumstances dictated that I would be footing the bill. Mr Frog and I had moved in together out of sheer pragmatism, not as a result of some conscious decision to take things to another, more serious level.

We dithered, disagreed, and never made it as far as marriage, but the decision to try for a baby was a conscious one, not taken lightly, even though we could not help, once more, but be influenced by our circle of friends, many of whom were embarking on the same adventure at that time.

I suppose I thought that as an adult I would feel more certainty. Know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted certain things out of life. Not just allow myself to be swept along like driftwood, falling into step with everyone else, mixing my metaphors, unsure of my destination.

After all the changes that 2005 wrought on my life (and Tadpole’s, and Mr Frog’s), I have clearer plans for the future than ever before. I dream of moving to the country with my Lover, renovating a house, learning to drive again. The possibility of having another child. I’m almost certain that these are the things my heart desires. But sometimes I am still haunted by the feeling that I am just a child pretending to be a grown up, yearning to play in a Wendy house, with new toys, a new doll.

Cooking lunch for my Lover on Boxing Day, I couldn’t chase away a mental image of my daughter playing with her toy cooker, with its (pink) plastic pans. Watching myself at play, pretending to cook dinner like a grown up; like my own mother.

Does being a grown up just mean playing an extended game of mummies and daddies, with bigger toys, and real genitalia?


  1. I have to say that you touched on a lot of the same feelings that i have had/am having. I feel a lot of the time I am pretending at being an adult, when in actual fact that I am still just a big kid. I wonder how people perceive me. Do they see me as someone who had no real direction or plans? Do they see me as someone who has achieved so much – buying a house, having a proper job, a car etc?

    In a strange way it is comforting to know that someone else has similar questions, feelings, experiences.

    For me I think your last sentence sums it up. I think that we do just play an extended game.

    Thanks for writing such a nice post that really spoke to me

    Comment by moomin — December 30, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

  2. I do not have answers, but I can say that I’ve shared, and do share your feelings. Also in my thirties, married with children… I don’t feel “grown up” like I imagined I would.

    Comment by Dawn — December 30, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

  3. *sighs*

    Comment by Greavsie — December 30, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

  4. I have felt better about this very issue ever since, while teaching English in Japan, one of my 80-year-old students told me that in terms of maturity and knowledge, he feels like exactly the same person at 80 as he did at 30.

    Comment by Sarah — December 30, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

  5. I think we all still yearn to play – and maybe get back to the days when we weren’t bothered about living up to other peoples expectations.

    Comment by US — December 30, 2005 @ 5:15 pm

  6. Ah, truly navel-gazing; wonderment at that little button there, ‘ce truc’, smack in the middle of le corps, knotted in finality to break bond to the grown-up parent…….what is that, what does it mean, that? Is parent forever the vessel, bairn forever the knotted-one? Which is child/which is grown-up?
    That attachment, that similarity, ‘grown-up’ solidarity, can it be finally attained?

    I think there are many signs of being a grown-up: foremost is the mere ability to pose the question.

    Becoming a parent not necessarily proof of it, either. Too easy to become a parent, far harder to be a grown up. And it comes when it will, not when we say. There may be some wisdom in knowing when NOT to be overly grown-up, as well.

    Another is to befriend someone elderly, to really find friendship there. (As Sarah learned in Japan, that eighty-year old woman was only masquerading in an 80-year old body, within was a 30-year old child/grown-up, certainly not an ‘old person’.)

    If the rare gift of befriending your own parent falls into your lap, (especially with your mother) the looking-glass view is amazing. To see that she was(is) an adventurer, a free spirit, a dreamer—and not just a ‘mom’—shouldn’t be a revelation, but always seems to be one. Seeing your 81 year old mum play a prank or hearing her espouse some bold idea, you think, ‘wow’, she’s just as hip as my school chums ever were. So what does that make me?

    “what seems to be expected of someone my age” as p. says, there’s the crux, perhaps. There are age-specific functions and milestones, but need we pencil them in so finally? The more society abandons rigid expectations of age-appropriate roles, the more interesting things get.

    The secret all the grown-ups are keeping, is that they all feel they are playing at that ‘extended game’. And p. has let out the secret.

    Comment by millie — December 30, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  7. meant to say ‘eighty-year old MAN’, not woman. (ref. to Japanese person Sarah mentioned)

    Comment by millie — December 30, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

  8. Petite, it sounds as though you have gone through what most of us do at one point or anotehr, even as a guy, there are things I recognize. (Sans the thought that one might be capable of bearing a child.)

    When I went away to university, it was the breakaway point for me from, as you put it, the “constraints of my parental home.” Thrill seeking? Oh yes indeed. The hardest thing to do was to come home after graduation and be under my parents roof again. Even with a full-time proper job, I needed to stay at home as my father became seriously ill. I wanted to move out within a year of graduation, but that changed as my priorities shifted to taking care of my mother. (Along with my brother, who also changed his plans of moving out.) Adulthood was suddenly thrust upon me, and then my father died. I had become engaged before that, but would stay at home until my wedding, at which point my mother was sufficiently able to deal with being on her own for the first time in over 30 years.

    How do I keep that child alive in me? Several ways, most of which involve my being a part-time professional actor. I love being on stage, and in plays. It allows my inner child to come out.

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — December 30, 2005 @ 6:25 pm

  9. Question: Is there an age when the ‘angst’ stops? Some people seem so certain and ‘grown-up’, yet they tend to take life too seriously and miss out on the wonderment. I’m a responsible adult when I need to be, but hope never to lose the fun & wonderment. (Is that a word?)

    Comment by J — December 30, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

  10. My mom just turned 65, but she says she often still feels like a child trapped in a sagging, aging body. (No, she doesn’t have Alzheimers. She is a world traveller in top form).

    Comment by Anna — December 30, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  11. Wow. I must agree with many of the comments already recorded. Your entry today seems to have struck a chord because I think that many “adults” (and I use that term loosely) do take a step back and shake their heads with the same bemusement. Isn’t it amazing how, even when we have accomplished so much and grown into our own skins, we still feel almost feel somewhat out of sorts. I think that I’ve encountered that recently, especially with the ending of one year and beginning of a new one.

    I hope that someone can answer your question. I certainly want to know it myself ;-).

    Comment by H. (aka NC_State_gal) — December 30, 2005 @ 7:57 pm

  12. When I was a adolescent I couldn’t imagine wanting to live after 30. And then all of a sudden I realized that you are always the same person – I’m still the same little girl that I was when I was 6 years old. Stubborn,competitive,naive… I’m always suprized at others that seem to see me as an “adult”.

    Comment by ann — December 30, 2005 @ 8:05 pm

  13. Paris can play tricks on your mind. It has mine. But it has also saved me more than once. I guess that’s why I’m still here.

    My eight-year-old daughter has now lived three quarters of her life in the UK, and the Eurostar is not unknown to me. I smile slightly to myself every time, after having bought my ticket, they intone, without fail… “your ticket is not exchangable or reimbursable, and you have to get there a minimum of 30 minutes in advance…”. A bit like life, really, except that I often feel I’ve just missed the last call… or was that in the pub? I’m not very sure any more!

    It’s normal to wonder what the hell you’re doing here in France, in my experience, and having arrived, left, and come back I’m slowly starting to understand exactly why it is I’m here, and what I want to get out of it.

    France, and Paris, specifically, is a wonderful place in many ways, but it all depends on where you are coming from. An aged Parisian will look very differently upon this city to a young wannabe John Steinbeck or Henry James kipping down in Shakespeare and Company for the night…

    And a thirty-something young mum with Tadpole, Old Frog, Young Toad, Weblog and Long Road to supporter will see it another way again…

    Paris infiltrates you, and you can’t leave it behind… but you can live elsewhere – it is possible. There are many benefits to be had from NOT living in Paris! It all depends on how you look at things and why you are in Paris in the first place.

    When you make your decision, it will be the right one at that moment in time, for you, and that’s what counts.

    Comment by Sab — December 30, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  14. I used to think it was only the more introspective people who wonder such things, but as I get older I think that maybe most people do. I’m also 33, and tho I married (just from having taken that same sort of pragmatism one step further — there was no proposal or even engagement ring) my answer to those questions has been to stall for time. Once on my own after university, I’ve managed to push off motherhood and every other “serious” decision I’ve ever encountered. Now I’m at the inevitable point of wanting to leave, with my own L’Autre Homme in the picture, but I feel paralyzed by doubts of every variety. I guess I’m far worse at playacting at adulthood because I’m not even interested in learning the game.

    Comment by jin-ah — December 30, 2005 @ 9:15 pm

  15. Petite, I used to ask myself the very same question. But last year, at the grand old age of 34, I found the answer — and in my case at least — it was not a particularly happy one. I have long been estranged from my natural parents, but last year three dear friends suddenly died (entirely independently of one another) who had magnificently fulfilled many of the quasi-parenting needs that one still needs as an adult. One had been my closest colleague all my working life. So that is the secret to being a grown up: when there’s no-one else to protect you from life, or death. Unbelievably scary at first, but eighteen months along the way I’ve grown into it and learned to shoulder all sorts of new responsibiities. I still miss my three mentors enormously, but the challenge has been to not give up and wimp out, but to live up to their ideals and expections, and in that way they live on. I might even go so far as to say that I enjoy being a grown up now — it’s actually rather liberating!

    Comment by er — December 30, 2005 @ 9:41 pm

  16. The husband always says that he feels like he’s always been 60, even when he was 10. That’s disturbing as well.

    Comment by nardac — December 30, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

  17. oops, that’s my husband… the “le” just slipped out.

    Comment by nardac — December 30, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

  18. Oh how true to all of the above! I sometimes raise my (nearly 40 y.o.) head above the brood and wonder ‘What happened?’ I’m sure that only last week I could sit sipping coffee over the saturday papers with significant other, and had all morning do do it – where’d these kids come from anyway??
    Sometimes the only way to combat it is to bow your head – and join in….which is why I ended up playing ‘Purple Shark’ with my 6 year old twins this afternoon instead of doing the laundry (and, no – I still don’t know the rules to ‘Purple Shark’ …)
    Long live growing old disgracefully ;-)

    Comment by MorbihanPrincess — December 30, 2005 @ 10:46 pm

  19. i have a former boss who is about two to three years older than me (he is about 32?) his new wife is in her early fourties and i feel that their roles are reversed. where you would thing she was the stuffy “adult” he is, and she the unruly funloving youth. which to me this was always odd about him, as he talks and acts as if he has SO much more life experience than i or any of our peers. He would attempt to teach me life lessons about business and “detaching from your work” to be more objective (this was a design firm), though when faced with criticism he would turn the brightest shade of fuschia and would clam up and be very short with people for the rest of the day. i find that the juxtaposition of him and his wife is really amazing, though he the younger person in age he “plays” at being the adult much more than she.

    i suppose the rambling is all to say what my father always told me: Grow up, but never let your inner child die. :D

    Comment by Doll — December 30, 2005 @ 11:33 pm

  20. What is grown up? I still don’t know. Unless it’s grateful I’m not 20 or 30 any more – even though wishing I wasn’t 60(+…). Yet I guess there is a change somewhere. Or can be. My sister works with the very old. She says behaviour that’s usually excused as ‘poor old thing, can’t help it’, is not that, is nothing to do with being old, it’s the real person – usually the ungrown child – re-emerging. The truly grown-up ones exist too. They would still say, maybe, I feel like a child still. The difference is they don’t behave like one. But how that change takes place?? I wish I knew. Grannies certainly can feel like they’re playing houses – and grannies – too. Why not? It’s fun. Maybe it’s accepting that – that one can always feel like that – is what being grown-up is about. Or maybe it’s not.

    Interesting post anyway, Petite. Likely to chime with most of us, old and young.

    Comment by grannyp — December 30, 2005 @ 11:34 pm

  21. This is a simply beautiful and very thought-provoking post. It also chimes with the way I’ve been thinking for many years, probably since I turned 30. But in case I sound self-centred, it’s not the fact that it echoes a lot of my thoughts that makes it a beautiful post. Thank you.

    Comment by Vaughan — December 30, 2005 @ 11:48 pm

  22. Timely topic… seems we are both reflecting on variations of what it means to be a grown-up. Must be that time of year… the end-of-old-year-start-of-new where-is-my-life-going reflections. Read my post from today and you’ll see what I mean. Bonne année, tout le monde!

    Comment by The Bold Soul — December 31, 2005 @ 2:19 am

  23. I look at my two grown sons (ages 29 and 23) and wonder when I became old enough to be the mother of grown men (I will be 46 in February). It doesn’t seem possible (or fair) that I should be this “old” when I still feel like a teenager (except for the cracking and popping of my knees when I get out of bed in the morning)!

    Comment by Crystal — December 31, 2005 @ 3:45 am

  24. Ah oui on se sent souvent comme ça hein ! on a l’impression de jouer un rôle de “grande” et au fond on se sent toute petite et on a envie de sortir avec son cerf-volant les jours de grand vent.

    Comment by Papotine — December 31, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  25. ah! this sounds just like the fight that I have going on inside…now do I want to be some free living girl, with some imaginary artist lover, or do I want to jump on the house + family boat ? No side seems to be winning the argument ! and it’s terribly frustrating. Remember when you are little and you get up on your birthday and look for signs of having grown ? well this is obviously the same; we all expect to have morphed into an ‘adult’ one day, rather than just being ourselves.

    Ah don’t I just know the pains as well, when the woman in the boulangerie stops calling you ‘madamoiselle’……and it was a long time ago !

    Comment by Juju — December 31, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  26. Oh que c’est beau !! je le veux aussi !

    Comment by Papotine — December 31, 2005 @ 11:39 am

  27. The phrase which resonates most with me is:

    “There was the slow, painful realisation of the fact that being top of the class at school does not automatically equip a person for a brilliant future, if that person has no particular ambition in life”

    Like Vaughan, I’ve been feeling this way since I turned thirty too. My phrase of the moment is “I’m not there yet…”

    Comment by anxious — December 31, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  28. I feel that way all the time.

    I was at a party once where the “when does one finally feel grown up” subject came up, and a friend of my mother’s assured us all that it happens at 36.

    I’m 42 and she was dead wrong.

    Comment by christina — December 31, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  29. The main thing which makes you grown up, as they say, is to lose your parents. I grew up “by proxy” watching my wife lose her father to cancer. Changed my life. Having a son changed things too.

    But whatever happens, never let your childhood go. Ever.


    Comment by fruey (Let's Have It) — December 31, 2005 @ 7:04 pm

  30. Fruey – I’d lost both parents by the age of 27 but I still don’t feel grown up…

    Comment by anxious — December 31, 2005 @ 8:00 pm

  31. I’ve just turned 49 and still feel like I’m playing at grown-up. I own my own home and vehicle, both parents (in fact, that whole generation of our family) are gone; I have no family within reach except my two daughters; no husband/partner; truly I am functioning as an independent adult, and yet… most days I feel like a little kid trying to keep up with the grown-ups. I suspect I always will. I’m not sure I mind…

    Comment by Dawn #2 — January 1, 2006 @ 3:59 am

  32. I am 45.

    I found this post interesting. It was just the other day that I realized that I finally felt grown up.

    For the longest time, as I aged, I’d think, “Certainly my dad was more grown up (mature) at this age.” I was certain the things that I thought were funny — maybe the things I thought in general — were not mature, grown-up things.

    I can’t say I feel old now. I’m honestly surprised at how young 45 feels.

    I don’t know if I’m actually grown up, or if I’ve just accepted the fact that very few men are actually Jack Bristow (Alias) types.

    Comment by delmer — January 1, 2006 @ 7:52 am

  33. None of your commenters feel grown-up, Petite!
    As a woman in her 50s, I felt I lived a truly retarded life, travelling fecklessly in my 20s, rearing kids in my 30s and 40s and going back into education in my 50s – swimming against the stream may have kept me young.
    One of my problems as a single woman is, that while I feel like a fledgling, men of my age seem ancient, or else are married to 30-year-old women. Am I to end up as a crazy old woman (who still feels young) with only a cat for company?

    Comment by Ruth — January 1, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

  34. simply, yes. ! you have summed it up. absolutely

    happy new year darlink.

    Comment by vitriolica (also not a growed-up) — January 1, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

  35. Being a child is all about learning about the world aroound you… and we never stop doing that do we? So I guess you are right… we are just all children with extensions on our bodies.

    Comment by Nicky — January 1, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

  36. ‘Cooking lunch for my lover on Boxing day’…….

    Yup, you’re a real grown-up woman, Petite, at her appointed place in the kitchen while lover makes (we hope!) a much better fist of choosing and opening the wines than the unfortnate Mr Frog.

    Happy New Year, Petite, and a thought-provoking post from you to commence it. It seems that none of your readers feel grown up either, whatever, their biological age. But, of course, that’s because they are all bloggers, whiling away hours creating or reading (or both) messages on blog sites. I imagine really grown-up, achieving people, wouldn’t have the time for this kind of trivial, superficial activity and introspection? Can you imagine Stephen Hawkins worrying about whether or not he is a grown-up? But its a wonderful human world of ‘individual differences’. Some people manage to acquire so much knowledge, maturity & skill in their early childhood days that they are able to be fountains of knowledge, information & experience for others, including their own children, from a very early age. Others never do. As a parent, I have often felt so ‘guilty’ on reading about fathers who taught crafts or names of flowers or whatever to their offspring…..I never did, never now will!

    I am often amazed by creative artists & musicians who not only demonstrate their own talents from an early age but also permeate them with a deep acquired knowledge that I will never accumulate in several lifetimes. Think of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner etc and their profound knowledge of scripture, classical allegory, literature & so on, which is woven into their music. How did they manage to acquire so much knowledge AND at the same time develop their own playing & composition skills to extraordinary high levels? ( And without bthe benefit of the internet or public libraries!) Same in the daVinci Code, whatever you think of the plot or ther book… how did Stephen Brown manage to acquire all the information and insights woven into his book?

    However, I can’t help thinking that your post, fascinating as it is, might tread on some potentially danagerous terrritory? How must your lover feel as he reads it? In your private, personal guise, you must offer him undying affection, true devotion and commitment. But then in your ‘public domain’ you wonder aloud about whether you are really grown-up, or perhaps just role-playing being an adult and, emphasising your age (biological clock), express a wish-fulfillment for marriage, another child, a career-change, a move to a less expensive domocile & life-style. So is it true love, the real thing, or more of a wish-fulfillment as you continue to perform your role in life? Which is the true you, Petite? Do you love lover for truly himself or as someone who can enable you to continue in your role? I hope your lover knows the answer and can provide you with all the assurance you may need.

    The other key to the question you pose is, of coure, Tadpole. We know enough about your little one to appreciate her charm and confidence, her super language and musical skills, her advanced development, independence and ability to move betwen countries and families, from actual reality to the virtual world. We know also from your posts of your absolute faith in her, your comlete commitment to her every need, that she is the absolute first priority in your life. Yes, Petite, that’s what it means to be really grown-up and you need only look across to Tadpole should you ever doubt it………. but as others have already said, do keep that inner candle of childish innocence ever-lit, if only in your posts.

    Comment by fella — January 1, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

  37. What’s weird about everyone here is how happy and supportive they are about people who aren’t grown up. Frankly, I don’t believe in coddling this kind of insecurity. Nobody wants to grow up, look old, be old… blah blah blah…

    Get over it. You may think you haven’t grown up, and you might not know any more than what you knew when you were a teenager, but what’s wrong with looking and acting your own age. That’s real class and courage.

    Comment by nardac — January 1, 2006 @ 11:56 pm

  38. Hmmm, somehow it almost sounds as if ‘fella’ makes a Peter Pan accusation, as if p. is actually refusing to grow up. I didn’t get that from the post. More that, the act of being a grown up (as indeed she is), just feels different than imagined in childhood days.

    And what is with the ‘dangerous territory’? I only heard petite wonder aloud about being that nebulous ‘grown-up’, I didn’t hear her express doubt that she loved her man? So why should ‘Lover’ fear the implications of the post? Isn’t the post for him to read as well as anyone else, for him to turn inward his own reflections of what it is to be a grown up in his own experience?

    “is it just wish fulfillment…… you love Lover for himself….” does fella mean to say that p. is ‘using’ Lover? I sense there is some context coming from fella that is irrelevant to petite……having perhaps more to do with fella’s own experiences? Turning much to the negative side. And curious, his ambivalence about being a ‘blogger’……as if that is a ‘bad’ thing? Giving the benefit of the doubt, I’ll guess fella was speaking tongue in cheek otherwise he has an odd conflict about his own activity……

    And yes, I can imagine Stephen Hawking (not Hawkins) being introspective about his own maturity, about being a grown-up. Why should being extraordinarily brilliant, as he is, necessarily rob him of human feeling and introspection? As if that is an immature thing to do? I would disagree with that assertion. Mr. Hawking shows his introspective nature in this quote: “Where do we come from? How did the universe begin? Why is the universe the way it is? How will it end?

    “All my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist……..” end quote.

    Now, I don’t think petite would lay claim to solving the mysteries of the universe, but it isn’t fair to think the thoughtful posts she writes are trivial in human experience……are they not portions of the rich side of life, the life examined, and made worth living, to paraphrase another famous writer?

    Comment by millie — January 2, 2006 @ 1:27 am

  39. Happy New Year Petite, Lover and Tadpole.

    I think you summed up the way many if not most feel.

    I got to 60 before I was comfortable with life, I still act and feel like a 20 something complete with big motorbike. I just don’t recognise the old geezer that I see in the mirror each morning! Having got to 60, I have absolutely no intention of “growing up”.

    Comment by Keith — January 2, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  40. I know that I’m a grown-up because I can :
    – eat a bag of salt & vinegar crisps for breakfast if I feel like it, or sneak in an After Eight ten minutes before lunchtime.
    – smoke a cigarette while leaning out of my living room window
    – use bad language without being told off.
    My daughters aren’t allowed to do any of these things as they’re not grown-ups.
    When I go back to stay at my Mum’s in England, I stop feeling like a grown-up and wouldn’t dare do any of these things.

    I know that I’m not really a grown-up because
    – I don’t own any property
    – I don’t own a car
    – I get nervous when I have to speak to French fonctionnaires on the phone
    – I’m scared of the women who work at my daughter’s halte-garderie (nursery)

    I know I have to pretend to be a grown-up when:
    – It’s Christmas time and the concierge is expecting her tip
    – I have to rush one of my children to casualty

    The older I get, the less I care about what other people think of me. For me, that’s a sure sign of being a grown-up.

    Comment by Mancunian lass — January 2, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  41. I think losing one of my parents in my teens also made me grow up. I sometimes feel the age I was shortly afterwards but never the child I was before.

    Very well observed point about the pain in accepting that just because you’re top of the class it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a brilliant life. I’ve excelled academically and my family thinks this entitles me to a fantastic job. I know that from here on in my academic qualifications have nothing to do with it.

    Comment by silverfish — January 2, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  42. On a more serious note, another sign of realising you’re a grown-up, whether you like it or not, is when your parents start to grow older and actually look to you for advice or to make decisions.
    For me, the real turning point was not when I became a mother, it was before then, when my dad died and I had to be there for my mum. Now my brother and I are, in a way, parents to my mum, providing emotional as well as practical support.

    Comment by Mancunian lass — January 2, 2006 @ 12:05 pm

  43. All your posts are extremely pleasant and very interesting to read!! Mancunian’s post,tough, made me laugh from deep inside!! OOh really funny!! Thank you for sharing!! And to everybody HAVE a WONDERFUL 2006!

    Comment by Eau — January 2, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

  44. Judging from the ever-increasing length of his comments, I think fella needs his own blog…


    Comment by anxious — January 2, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  45. Fella – Lover knows I think too much – about everything – and he knew that before we met! But he also knows that he won’t find out anything on this site that I haven’t discussed with him already.

    And as for cooking his lunch – I’ve never met a man who pampered me this much before, and after Christmas Day spent prostrate on the sofa with a heavy cold while he pandered to my every whim, I was just returning the favour…

    Comment by petite — January 2, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

  46. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is getting hold of pandas on Christmas Day.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — January 2, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

  47. “Does being a grown up just mean playing an extended game of mummies and daddies, with bigger toys, and real genitalia?”

    Oh Petite, if only…

    We spent Christmas Day discussing whether or not to put “Do not resuscitate” on the hospital notes of my husband’s elderly aunt (we’re her only family), after she was admitted on the 23rd with kidney failure. We’ve had lots of that kind of stuff ever since we married – my husband’s lost both his parents (his Mum after years of dementia), my Mum has Alzheimers, the aunt had a stroke two years ago, and we’re bringing up three children… so I guess it’s coloured my thinking about what it means to be adult: all those responsibilities and decision making, for the generation above AND the generation below you. With no support from the generation above.

    BUT (and it’s an enormous but) I totally agree with those who’ve written about the need to remain playful all through your life. That’s what stops us from losing the plot, sometimes. The psychologist Oliver James wrote about it in yesterday’s Observer, being playful as an essential part of good mental health. So although I’m 40 and despite my responsibilites, I grab any chance to go out dancing, play silly games like cocktail-fuelled Pictionary on New Year’s Eve, or sit around the table swapping fart jokes with my three boys. In my experience it’s only when you stop laughing that being truly adult can be almost too much to bear.

    Gosh, written too much as usual. Thank you, Petite, for a thought-provoking post. A very, very happy new year to you all. xx

    ps Did you get a Darth Tater? We’ve had a lot of fun with ours, and the matching Spud Trooper!

    Comment by Helen in beautiful Bath — January 2, 2006 @ 7:12 pm

  48. I think I may be the least philosophical in replying, but I hope being a grown-up means “real toys”, and “bigger genitalia” versus the inverse. Bonne année just the same. I do hope it’s a wonderful year for you!

    Comment by Eric at Paris Daily Photo — January 3, 2006 @ 7:54 am

  49. First of all I’d like to wish you, your other half and of course your precious little angel a very happy new year.

    I know where your coming from about the grown up bit. As the only child of a single irish ma(my dad passed away when I was 3), I was made to feel like I was the centre of the world, wrapped up in cotton wool and whatever I wanted I had. I was always treated like I was a kid and never had to grow up and face THE REAL WORLD. 2 years ago something big happened. My cotton wool was no longer there and I finally got thrown into the real world. My ma (my safe place)was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, she had the operations, the chemo. I suddenly had to grow up over night. I became the mother to my own mother. Before ma got ill, I was an undomestic goddess, I didnt have a clue how to do anything because my ma always did everything for me (the spoilt only child). In September of last year, we were told that after all the doctors best efforts to cure ma, it didnt work. Her cancer has come back, this time more aggressive than the last, and determined to do its job properly. It is!! The little bugger is travelling around her body, looking where to go next. Like I said, I have grown up alot in the last 2 years. I became the nurse, the career, the sholder to cry on. I went from having no cares in the world, to having everything put on my shoulders. Sometimes, I must admit that I do feel I wish I was that little terror, wrapped in the cooton wool again, but then I look at my ma, trying her hardest to fight this disease with a big smile on her face, trying to survive another day, and I think ‘how lucky I am to be able to do this for her, to have time to really get to know eachother, how lucky I am to be able to spend this precious time with her because some people are so unlucky, they dont get to spend time with there loved ones as they are taken so suddenly.

    Life is strange sometimes, you think the worse things are happening, then when you try to find the silver lining, you see that something good comes out the something bad.

    I wish you the best in 06.
    Keep up the good work, your blog is addictive ;-0

    Comment by kel — January 3, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

  50. I’m not thirty yet and sometimes i feel that i have lived life most of the time for other people and i just want to be five again and not have any worries and not have anybody relying on me.But its to late for that now.

    Comment by Growing Up — January 3, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  51. petite,

    I’m 35 and everytime someone tells me I am shocked and at the edge of despair. I still feel like a 23 year old or so, which was maybe the most formative and enjoyable year of my life. It helps that others are shocked when they find out my age too, I seem to act like a much younger person, look like one, dress like a youngster, I’m silly like a teenager, and generally seem stuck somewhere 10 -15 years ago. My previous, older, partner scared me in his very adult way and I had a strong feeling of incompatibility (howdoyouspellthat) and feel much better with a younger partner, not that he’s immature or anything.

    It feels ok to be a younger than I really am person, but I also know I must be grown up now as I watched my mum die, as my dad now needs me more than I need him, as my own lover asked me to marry him, a thought I had, at the time, seriously never contemplated. I said yes, because I love him and do want to be with him, but when he teased me by calling me an “Ehefrau” last night, the German word for a married woman, I had an out of body experience, and I swear it wasn’t the red wine blending with my blood. I also feel very childish when I’m scared big time about becoming a mother, and keep putting it off for yet just another month.

    At the end of the day, we’re probably neither adult nor children, just ourselves, that is complex individuals with ever changing emotions, fears and longings. We also live in a time where the borderline of life phases aren’t so defined anymore, where we can be friends with people from other generations, where some continue living a student life into their forties, while others have a family at 16. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? The best is to enjoy life and not think too much of tomorrow (if only) and make the best of the time that’s given to us. Oh dear, very philosophical. Sorry. And I’m shite at that anyway.
    Cheers! (she says raising a mug a mug of tea for a change, hangovers need to be pampered too)

    Comment by cartside — January 3, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

  52. Yes, I think it does.

    Comment by stressqueen — January 4, 2006 @ 2:59 am

  53. “Does being a grown up just mean playing an extended game of mummies and daddies, with bigger toys, and real genitalia?”

    Yes but don’t forget you get to wear much more negligent underwear. Or even none at all. If you want to. When you want to.

    Comment by miss tickle — January 4, 2006 @ 4:12 am

  54. Never grow up!

    I’m 32 going on 5. The world is far too serious and self absorbed for people to be worried about the rest of the world’s perception of them, and their feeling of their place in it.

    I hate giving advice, but this is one of those emergency times (in the same way that I have emergency chocolate in a tin at home)… go and read “Peter Pan”. Just do it. I’m not going to tell you why :)

    Comment by Wellybog — January 4, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  55. I don’t recall you being *that* possessive.

    Comment by YSFC — January 4, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

  56. That’s a very well written post! I feel ya.

    Comment by Brad — January 6, 2006 @ 12:08 am

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