28 October 2009

Oh Grow Up!

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.

I’m happy.


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.

This post was written for the Sleep is for the weak writing workshop. I chose writing prompts number 4: What did you want to be when you grew up? Or are you still deciding?!



  1. Gosh you sound like me.

    I have decided the best way to bring up kids is not to be grown up!

    I am lying on the floor having a tantrum as I type.

  2. Firstly....I love this post.
    Secondly....if you really want to know, although I've always felt 'too young' to deal with grown up things ( had son at 21) recently I had an epiphany and have come to recognise that having been with my husband since I was 17 I have NEVER had a chance to grow up. I've never had to fend for myself etc....in fact I was going to post about this one day, when I feel strong enough. I love that you have and continue to 'discover' surely that's what life is about. I don't think anyone will ever feel grown up enough to deal with our babies, whatever their age, being hurt in some way.

  3. Oh this is my most favourite post of yours I have ever read!

    I have so enjoyed getting to know you better through this - loads of stuff I didn't know!

    Love reading about people's journeys and stories - and yours is very special.


  4. I love this post, especially the part about your Dad. x

  5. I suspect that you never really feel grown up do you? As a child, I used to secretly giggle when an old lady I knew used to say she still felt like an 18 year old. Now I realise she was telling the truth.

  6. I love this post ... i wonder when i will grow up? xx

  7. And i think i must get involved in this writing workshop ..... xx

  8. It happens to us all sooner or later.

  9. Surprised and Excited Mum, oh a proper tantrum, brilliant! I sometimes wail in frustration, but this frightens the little one.

    Chic Mama, Firstly...thank you. secondly, I know exactly what you mean. I hope that by fending for yourself now you realise that you have that strength within you. x

    Josie, thank you, that means a lot. I wrote the post last night but didn't publish it until this morning as I wasn't sure if I wanted to give away that much. When I read it back I realised I left out a whole lot more that I actually put in. I'll save that for another day! x

    Fraught Mummy, thank you. I could write about him all day. x

    Victoria, yes, age is a strange thing. I hope I'm always young at heart.

    Then There Were Three, thank you. I think I'm beginning to realise that you don't have to grow up. I feel more comfortable in my own skin as I get older and I'm happy with that. Yes, if you get a minute(!), you should definitely have a go at the writing workshop x

    Gaelikaa, I try to keep one step ahead of it!

  10. Love the post, how strange that we both put that we grew up when our fathers died. It is like being part of a club that you dont want to be a member of.

  11. I love your post so much because you sound sooo much like me.
    All along I have been waiting to be a grown up and think now at 33 i probably am one...well I have 3 children am on my 3rd husband and have a mortgage to boot. But I'm not exactly sure when I crossed the line to adulthood,... either I did it at 26 when my mother died unexpectedly or more possibly I think I am straddling the line dipping a toe on either side when ever the fancy or need strikes me!! Here's to adulthood (said whilst blowing a big raspberry!!) xxx

  12. I loved that post. I felt the same 'playing at house' when I was first married, I was only 23 and I had my own little house, a little garden, a husband, car and mortgage. I never really felt 'grown up' compared to the real adults like my Mum and Dad.

    Its only really since we moved to a bigger house and had kids that I felt that I was now sometimes a kind of adult. I totally sympathise with wanting to stop being the adult in the house sometimes as well!

  13. I'm getting through some tissues tonight.What a lovely and moving post.Your dad should be proud

  14. Sandy I really loved your post, very open and honest and again it reminded me how alike I think we may be, cause it sounds a lot like me.

    And anyway being grown-up is over rated I want to be a kid, they have all the fun.xx

  15. I loved that post, Sandy and the fact that you kept going even when life did not turn out as expected, as it never does! I'm relieved to hear you didn't feel you grew up until your were in your thirties. Sometimes I wonder when I will grow up and I'm 36. So pleased it all has a happy ending.

  16. "I don't want to grow up, I wanna be a Toys R Us Kid...." I suppose you don't know that jingle... but we all feel that way. We never feel as old as we are. Which is good! Because you are "as only as old as you feel you are." Don't know who the quote is from (too lazy to look it up) BUT it's true!!

  17. Love this post Sandy. Life doesn't always go as planned, but it can take you to great places that you wouldn't have got to without the crappy bits!

  18. The Mad House, I'm sorry about your Dad. I think my loss is having a bigger effect on me now, three years on. Yes, it's a rubbish club. x

    Straw76berry, I'm sorry to hear about your Mum. Losing a parent is an enormous, life-changing event. It's good to be able to be grown up when it's required and young at heart too. x

    World of a Mummy, I'm relieved it's not just me that felt like that. I think having children turns you in to a grown up whether you like it or not! x

    Alybean, thank you x

    Lorraine, thanks. Are you going to the BMB meetup? It would be lovely to get together and be childish! x

    Rosie, thank you. Yes, there is a happy ending. I find the older I get the more comfortable I become with who I am. I don't know if that's growing up? x

    Gigi, no, I don't know the jingle! Sometimes my body feels old and tired, but in my mind I'm still young :-) x

    Kath, thank you. Andy and often say we wish we'd met ten years ago, but I'm not the person I was ten years ago. Life is random! x

  19. Sorry about your dad. I still have both my parents and am very grateful. I also wanted to be a vet, even applied to vet college, but didn't get enough A's at A level!
    I guess I felt pretty grown up when I moved here to San Francisco, by myself, when I was 25. But still, now I'm still here, married with kids but far away from my family, I sometimes want my mum, want someone to take care of me, and realize I don't have that.

  20. Geeky Mummy, I know exactly what you mean about wanting to be that child again, to have everything done for you. When my Mum comes to stay I get her to cook a roast dinner on a Sunday!


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