When I grew up I wanted to be a grown up.
When I was 22 and married and finding my first grey hair, I thought is this it? Is this my life? I had to question it because I wasn’t sure. It felt strange. It felt like this life belonged to someone else.
I had a lovely little house. It was a teeny tiny two-up two-down semi with a postage stamp garden. It never felt real. I always felt as if I was playing house. I cleaned it, constantly rearranged the ornaments and planted daffodil bulbs in the garden . My mum nagged me to choose a dinner service to collect. I never did this, I was only playing at being grown up after all.
It wasn’t always like this. At middle school I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals and I enjoyed science. I was well-behaved and studious at school. Then I got to the upper school and found that physics, chemistry and biology were not streamed by ability. Take chemistry for instance, instead of studying the periodic table and mixing potions in test tubes, a girl called Tracey Pope used to thump me and give me a dead arm every five minutes. The teacher spent half the lesson making, then drinking a cup of coffee.
Then I decided I would be an actress – who said Drama Queen? My skeletal, chain-smoking drama teacher asked me if I would sell my grandmother for a role. I said I wouldn’t, so that was that.
After that I had run out of career ideas.
I left school at 18 and was planning to study English at university, but I didn’t get the expected A grade at A level, so I didn’t get in. I re-applied for the following year, to study history (I did get an A in that).
To earn some money I took a job at a local building company. I was a wages clerk with a desk, a calculator and a dumb computer terminal connected to the mainframe computer. I was allowed to make coffee whenever I wanted and I drank it as I stuck stamps on holiday cards. I was at work, I was an adult.
After a few months someone Spotted My Potential. I was offered the job of trainee accountant. By this point my childhood sweetheart had proposed. He said if we got engaged I couldn’t go to university.
We got engaged and I started to study accountancy. I thought that accountants earned loadsamoney so I decided to give it a go. If I failed any of the exams I would give up.
Five years later I qualified. I had letters after my name, but I still didn’t feel like a grown up.
When I was 30, newly divorced, I took a gap year. I worked and travelled in Australia and New Zealand. I broadened my horizons and gained confidence, but I also met people who seemed far more self-aware and self-assured than I was.
I realised the world was my oyster.
So I came home to live with my Dad, who had been ill while I was away, and got another job in finance.
I did more grown up things. I bought a house. I had boyfriends (not all at once you understand). I had cats. I started doing yoga. All the while I felt like a child when I compared myself with anyone older than myself.
If anything ever went wrong in my house I rang Dad’s Handyman Service. He would ask me to describe the problem and get annoyed that I didn’t know which tools would be required for the job. He would turn up half an hour later with an old ice-cream tub containing the right tools for the job and some others besides and always a dirty rag. In the ice-cream tub would also be a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. I would put the kettle on and Dad would fix whatever was wrong. My Dad could fix anything. Then we could have a cup of tea and a natter.
I guess I only grew up when he died.
I grew up when I was 36.
I’m now 39 and a bona fide adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband. I gave birth to two amazing children. I write a lively and popular parenting blog (you know my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write this sentence). I’m a member of a writing group. I go to live literature events on my own and have made friends there. That’s what grown ups do.
Today I didn’t act like a grown up when Presley stomped up and down wearing my shoes. I crawled around on the floor chasing him, pulling faces and laughing.
Presley later held Cash, round the neck, in a half-nelson. I screamed at him to stop. When he didn’t I prised his arm away and threw him in the playpen. As I was comforting a screaming Cash and trying to ignore a crying Presley I blinked back tears and wished I could hide under the duvet.
Sometimes I hate being a grown up.