What My Mom Taught Me About Gracefully Growing Up

Posted on: April 16, 2019, by :

What My Mom Taught Me About Gracefully Growing Up

Around this time three years ago, my family and I attended an Easter egg hunt at the local cider brewery. First prize (and biggest egg) was a $25 gift certificate for the brewery, and there were a lot of great, smaller prizes as well — some merchandise, chocolate, candy. The sun was shining, the stakes were high. My mom was ready.

I’ve always found that as I get older, it’s always slightly less cool to show that you care about things, or enjoy trying hard. At age five, you can ask someone to be your friend. By age ten, that’s not cool anymore. Effortless seems to be the look that most people, ironically, strive for.

When the brewery announced the start of the hunt, most adults jokingly started peering behind bushes, lifting up the odd rock. They didn’t want to try too hard — Easter egg hunts are for kids, after all, and they were big, serious grownups.

See, most times, adults let the kids have all the fun. They’ll put in some token participation, but the main point of most games is to let children run around, while the adults hang back and laugh at the kids getting all excited.

But at a brewery, there were no kids. Just us, the grownups. It took everyone except my mom slightly too long to get the fact that out here, on these grounds, there was nothing stopping us acting like kids.

She took off running.

Before most of the adults had shed their fancy Easter jackets and taken off their fancy Easter shoes, she’d already done a lap of the perimeter. Circling back to our group, she said, “Right, I think that clump of bushes, the top of that hill, and possibly those marshy ditches over there will be the most likely places to find eggs. I’ll take the hill.”

We saw she was serious about enjoying herself on this hunt, and we saw we had no choice but to be roped into the fun as well.

You know what happened when everyone else saw my mom racing around, getting all the best eggs, laughing and acting like a kid? They all started to, as well. Somehow we were all able to shed our shoes and our dignity in time to find some good eggs.

Some people shouted encouragement (or heckled shamelessly) from the sidelines while others did the actual egg-hunting. There were joking accusations of who’d stolen an egg. The hunt organizers were thrilled with the level of engagement. It ended up being a really fun afternoon. We all got a bit dustier than we’d intended, we all were a bit more out of breath than expected, but nearly everyone had an amazing time doing an actual Easter egg hunt.

(It should go without saying that we found the first prize egg.)

When I was younger, I always felt a bit worried at the prospect of growing up. It seemed like I was the only one. I was the last one to play on the monkey bars at school, I was one of the few remaining kids to still enjoy picking up rocks to see what was beneath them. (In Georgia, it was almost always just roly-poly bugs, but you’d find the odd exciting garter snake.) At sleepovers, I’d be playing Dance Dance Revolution while others talked about boys in mature voices.

Along parallel lines, kids started being embarrassed by displaying effort or interest. How many times did my friends say, “Oh that test, I didn’t even study for it,” or pretend they weren’t interested in math or science anymore, because it wasn’t cool to care?

If you struggled with something, you just had to say it wasn’t important to you, rather than reveal you cared enough to ask for help.

So while all these messages were being drummed into my head, my mom sat on the sidelines, telling me it was OK to want to have fun, to be interested in things, to care about doing well. She encouraged me to try new things even when I was bad at it — all I had to do was learn and ask questions.

My mom led by example. She was the first to admit she wasn’t great at math, naturally, but she refused to let it intimidate her like so many others do. She let me see it was worthwhile, to try, to care, to make an effort. She let me pursue my passions and showed me that even though she was a veritable grownup, she was still doing the same. Just like that Easter egg hunt, my mom would join in on any games of hide and seek, tag, basketball, or any other games we let her, and she wasn’t self-conscious about openly having fun.

She was still a responsible, mature adult — she still was my first port of call if I had any trouble or was needed advice on anything — but she never, ever, discounted my passions or told me not to try.

My mom never treated me like I was anything other than an adult, with reasonable views and an ability to think critically. She treated me and other children as real, full people rather than lesser beings just because of age. But she also never stopped me from indulging my childish side. Maybe it was because my mom didn’t really make it seem like it was all it was cracked up to be, but I was never in any hurry to grow up.

I watched, a bit sadly, as I was called childish and immature for being silly and preferring to play games than pretty much anything else.

Luckily, my mom was able to demonstrate that becoming a grown up is more or less optional. You do still have bills to pay, and you do have to worry about slightly more, but there’s literally nothing stopping you from diving into your passions with childish abandon. You can be a legal adult, and still love running around or causing havoc. I really think everyone, no matter how serious or business-like, genuinely wants to go back to the playground, and they would if they thought nobody was watching.

That was one of the most important lessons my mom taught me: grow up, yes, but never do anything because you want to appear grown up. Let your interests and keenness and passion shine through — people won’t think less of you for it.

At every step of my life, I’ve looked at the people slightly older than me and thought, yes, that’s them: the grownups. When I am that age, I too will have my life figured out.

Nobody told me (other than my mom) that they were all like ducks: calm, cool and serene on the surface, while madly paddling underwater, out of sight. And when I reached each consecutive “grown up” age, I found exactly what I’d found the time before: I hadn’t changed at all. I was still the same person, who panicked when contemplating bills, who didn’t really know how to make a doctor’s appointment on her own, who enjoyed playing tag and suspected everyone else did, too. Grownups just get better and better at hiding their interests and effort until many of them are a smooth facade of passionless efficiency. I’ve never wanted that.

This story goes out to my mom, who shows me every day that growing up is not as fantastic as it is cracked up to be, and who supports me every day to never bow to the cool kids, and always follow what I’m interested in. Grownup, or not.

What My Mom Taught Me About Gracefully Growing Up

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