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What it’s Like to Be a Grown-Up

“Dad, what’s it like to be a grown-up? What’s it like to be a parent?”

The question came out of nowhere this morning, as questions of this nature tend to. I was absent-mindedly getting ready to leave for work, the kids were lounging around the kitchen table. How to answer? My first instinct was to tell them to go ask a grown-up. Then I remembered that was supposed to be me. Right.

“Well,” I began, “being a grown up is like… um, it’s good” (well done, Ryan—great start!). “You have lots of responsibility, you have a job, you pay bills, you go to meetings, you run around to all kinds of activities for your kids…” I stopped rather abruptly, realizing that thus far this was turning into a decidedly lousy sales job for adulthood. “But it’s cool being a parent,” I said, scrambling to salvage something from what was beginning to feel like a truly abysmal answer. “It’s especially cool to be a parent of such awesome kids.” Whew. Smiles all around. Situation (kind of) rescued.

The kids’ question has stayed with me all day. Especially this day. Today has loomed ominously large on our family calendar for a while now. The kids are getting dental surgery today. Both of them have to get multiple extractions to address overcrowding in their mouths. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it’s pretty minor surgery, but I have been really nervous about this day ever since the appointment was made. More nervous than them, certainly. And, of course, I’ve been thinking about them all day—hoping the procedure goes OK, hoping it’s not too painful, hoping it’s not too miserable coming out of the anaesthetic, hoping they’re ok and their mouths heal properly. Today has been a day of praying and worrying and praying and worrying, and then praying and worrying some more.

What’s it like being a grown-up? A parent?

Well, it’s like loving two little people so much that you can’t even really understand or express it very well. It’s like your whole world revolving around them, like barely being able to remember what your life was like before they arrived and changed everything with their tiny little hands and feet and arms and legs and noses and giggles and smiles. It’s like the incredible feeling you get when they run up to you, smiles beaming, and give you a hug for no other reason than because you’re their dad. It’s like “love you, dad!” being the last words you hear from them nearly every night…

It’s like so very desperately wanting the absolute best for them in every area of life. It’s like agonizing over every mis-kick in soccer, every errant pass in volleyball, every wrong note in piano, every bruised ego and harsh word they ever encounter. It’s like blood boiling and temperatures rising when you hear of someone making fun of them or treating them poorly. It’s like wanting them to succeed so badly (and so instantaneously!) that you sometimes behave like a buffoon and forget to affirm and enjoy the many good steps along the long and winding journey of growth and learning…

It’s like wishing they would never, ever have to experience pain. It’s like wishing they would never have to go through hard times, even though you know that pain and struggle are some of the ways in which character is forged and that no one is immune from these things. It’s like wanting so badly for them to be happy that you sometimes misguidedly shelter them when you shouldn’t and unnecessarily interfere when they would be better served by being left alone…

It’s like hoping and praying that the seeds of faith that you and others have planted will grow strong and true, that they would grow to trust the friendship and kindness of God rather than imbibing the cynicism, bitterness, and self-centredness that is so prominent in the world they are growing up in. It’s like a deep desire that no matter how big and scary and complicated the world can and will seem to be, they would embrace the beauty and mystery of it as well, and have an unshakeable conviction that they have been created for purpose and meaning and joy and hope and love…

It’s like praying every day that God will give them strength and resolve to rise above your many mistakes as a parent, that they would see that no matter how often you screw up and clumsily misunderstand them, you still love them more than they will ever know. It’s like praying every day that anything good and helpful and true from your parenting would burrow into their character and be impossible to dislodge, and that anything and everything that is bad and harmful and false would vanish without a trace. It’s like a deep, deep longing that your kids would grow up to be better people than you are, that they would be courageous and curious and confident human beings who love and are loved well wherever they go…

It’s like wishing you could go and get all of your teeth pulled if it meant that they wouldn’t have to. It’s like completely losing perspective and overdramatizing a relatively ordinary event in the life of a child. It’s like writing a sappy, sentimental blog post because you’re really nervous for them and because you’re feeling nostalgic and anxious and ridiculously melodramatic…


That’s what it’s like to be a grown-up—at least this grown-up—today.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. jschmidty #

    Are there no other comments yet? Probably because everyone is crying. Too touching Ryan. Frame it. Remember it. Well said.

    September 19, 2012
    • Thanks, Jon.

      One of the benefits of blogging is that I now have pretty easy access to a lot of great conversations with my kids and the reflections they provoke. I suspect I will return often to these posts, in particular.

      September 20, 2012
  2. Tanya #

    Loved it Ryan. Loved it… I maybe cried. Just a little. I love your kids. You and Naomi are doing a great job and I am glad we get to journey this parent/grown-up thing together. I’ll pray over your mess ups if you’ll pray over mine. 🙂
    They looked like they were doing great tonight. I hope you all have a good sleep.

    September 19, 2012
    • It’s a deal :). Thanks, Tanya.

      (They both slept great last night.)

      September 20, 2012
  3. To paraphrase one of my favorite parenting quotes “to be a parent is to forever have your heart walking around outside of your body.” Nicely put, thanks for this.

    September 19, 2012
    • What a great quote.

      September 20, 2012
  4. Rod Parker #

    That’s the first thing i shared on facebook in months. Awesome.

    September 20, 2012
    • Thanks, Rod—good to hear from you!

      September 20, 2012
  5. Ryan, I can’t write any more because I can’t see through the tears after reading thoughts put so eloquently into words.

    September 20, 2012
    • Thank you, Joyce.

      September 20, 2012
  6. Ruth #

    Tears here too. Parenting is the one job (and priviledge of adulthood) that once started never ends. Your kids have a special place in my heart as well.

    September 21, 2012
    • Thanks, Ruth. It is truly a gift to have many people who love and support our kids.

      September 21, 2012
  7. I really great post….I don’t want to grow up

    September 25, 2012
    • Hear, hear. Is there ever a point of no return where growing up would be impossible? 🙂

      June 2, 2017
  8. Lovely, but the beginning had me hooting. 😀

    June 2, 2017

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