Playing at Being Grown-Up

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! This year, I’m just writing about whatever is currently on my mind. And if you would like to chime in and contribute a guest post about your own journey, please drop me a line and we’ll chat.

My husband Jon and I went away overnight this weekend. It was only one night, but it was our first kid-free night in a hotel since before our daughter Hannah was born in 2005. It also happened to be our first night away from Jacob, ever, in the nearly three years of his life. We were belatedly celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary and twentieth dating anniversary, and as you may have been able to deduce, this trip was a Big Deal.

We opted to buy a package, which included a fancy-schmancy room, a couples massage, dinner and dancing, a bottle of champagne and a buffet breakfast. (Aside – buffet breakfast is one of my most favourite things in the world.) Plus, the resort we stayed at has this great pool filled with water from the local hot springs to soak in. It was all very lovely, indeed.

View from our hotel balcony
View from our hotel room balcony

As we sat down for dinner, all dressed up and looking our best, Jon told me that he felt that this was a very grown-up thing to be doing. That is, wearing fancy clothes for a four course meal and an evening of dancing. I replied that it felt as if we were playing at being grown-ups. We were putting on a slightly contrived role along with our nice shoes.

When I thought about it, I decided that maybe this is really what I’m doing all the time. When I moved away from home I played at being independent, until I got so good at pretending that it became second nature to me. When I got married, I played at being a wife, until the game of make-believe became part of who I am. And when I had kids I played at being a parent, until I couldn’t stop playing at being a parent even if I wanted to. I also played at being a university student, an engineer and a blogger. Maybe life is just a series of role-playing games that never really end, and tend towards the mundane.

I feel the least grown-up when I fall short in my little game of make-believe. I forget to leave a tip for the hotel cleaning staff, or I let my kids eat too much junk food, or I don’t wash my dishes promptly and end up having to scrape off crusted-on crud. In short, I fail to act in the way that I expect a person in my adopted role would act. I am lifting the curtain on all the pretending I’m doing, and I let everyone (and especially myself) see that maybe I don’t really have it together after all.

I suspect I’m not the only one who feels as if they’re playing a role. I bet that we all feel this way from time to time. After all, it’s not as if anyone wakes up one morning and suddenly feels like a grown-up. It’s only time and practice and lots of playing at being grown-up that makes us so. In short, we need to fake it ’til we make it. Sometimes less faking it is required than others, but somewhere inside we’re all still the little kids who feel like intruders in the adult world. When I realize this, I feel less alone, and maybe even a little bit vindicated.

So, this weekend Jon and I played at being grown-ups. We played at being a couple who can eat dinner with two hands while it’s still hot. We played at being able to get up whenever we feel like it, and at taking a walk without stopping to look at every rock, flower and car. It was fun. And sometimes, we almost forgot that we were pretending.

Do you ever feel like you’re just playing at being a grown-up? Tell me all about it!

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  1. I definitely feel like I played at being a parent for a long time. In fact, I don’t think I really felt like a grown-up, real parent until my second child was born. Now that I have three children, I look forward to the (few) times when I get to play at just being a grown-up.
    Holly’s last post … Not summer vacation!My Profile

  2. I’ve been to Harrison Hotsprings and had that dinner and dance thing. Anything where I have to dress up and not feel like myself makes me feel like a big phony. Those kind of things make me simultanously want to burp and be super suave.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … CapturedMy Profile

    • I just finished teaching “The Catcher and the Rye” to my College Writing class. Your comment reminded me of Holden…and I mean that in a GOOD way because that is my favorite book.

  3. (LOL – laughing at Harriet’s burp comment)

    there was a great article on imposter syndrome in Scientific American March 2011 if you want a read (PoMo library carries a subscription, i have a personal subscription cos i’m pretending to be a scientist again!)

    my thoughts? give it another 10 years and you might experience a slight panic that it’s all for reals, it’s called mid-life and it at times sucks
    pomomama’s last post … studio tuesday- the beach seriesMy Profile

  4. Getting away for an overnight without the kids sounds wonderful. I’m glad you got a chance to get away.

    It would be very grown up for me to actually dance cheek to cheek with my husband…lol….we haven’t done that in public since our wedding. I assume that’s the dancing you are talking about? Not the get your groove on dancing? Cause I do that with my girlfriends at least twice a year. 🙂 The cheek to cheek kind of dancing would make me feel like I was playing grown up. And dressing up? I dress up everyday for work and I love it.

  5. We went to the same place to celebrate our 5th anniversary but we skipped out on the dancing because we prefer dancing at DJ shows. We did enjoy the old-timey band (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and the cheesiness of it all. It was our first and only night away from our kids ever too (before or since). And you know what was the strangest thing – we held hands when we walked on the beach. No one was chasing a kid or carrying one on their shoulders or had their arms full of kid crap. We both had free hands. It was amazing.

  6. I often find it amazing that I am not so very far away from 40, which means, I assume, that I should be fully grown up and doing grown up things. But I don’t feel so very different in my head from what I did at 20. So I suppose, I’m pretending most of my life.
    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … 13 Hours in the MakingMy Profile

  7. So glad you got away – one of the best things about BEING a grown-up, in my opinion, is getting to do whatever you want on vacation, instead of what your parents make you do. Also, I’ve often thought that heaven might be a huge library with a twenty-four-hour buffet breakfast.

  8. Every once in awhile I’m hit with this bizarre notion that everything up to now has been a dream and I’m going to wake up as a five year old in the white canopy bed in my parents’ house and have to do it all again….which I would happily…except for junior high.

    I think the time when I felt most like I was pretending to be an adult was when The Mister and I were leaving the hospital with our first child five years ago. We put her in her car seat, and as we drove away I couldn’t believe that they let us leave with her. How could they let a woman who is over-educated yet lacks common sense and usually lets her emotions cloud her decision making drive away with a helpless baby?

  9. Amber, this is a fantastic post. I feel the exact same way. I constantly feel like I am playing a giant game of make-believe. I think to myself “I’m not really married this is not real..wait, it is! I have two kids! What?! How did that happen?” It’s so insane to think about. I feel like just yesterday I was in 2nd grade, and now I’m 31 going on 32.

  10. Yes, definitely. It’s been useful though – pretending to be a parent who knows what she’s doing led to me being a little less clueless. Pretending to be someone comfortable speaking to strangers at work led to actually feeling more comfortable. I’m sure there’s a limit to this somewhere!
    Lady M’s last post … Someone at This School is BrilliantMy Profile

  11. Almost every day. And often it completely catches me off-guard.
    Christine’s last post … Feels like homeMy Profile

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  1. […] Playing at Being Grown-Up  {} I feel this way every day, especially when I’m around other women (I feel that I’m not really a “woman”…) […]

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