My passport tells me I’m an adult, my birth certificate tells me I’m an adult, and when I look in the mirror I can definitely see that I’m an adult. I do grown-up things: I work, clean the house, tend my allotment, drive, drink (and because I’m an adult I don’t do the latter two at the same time), I have a house, a car, children, bills, responsibilities. So why don’t I feel grown-up? Why do I still feel like a child playing at being an adult, clunking down the street in her mother’s high heels and lipstick?
I remember being quite affronted when my mother, in her late-50s at the time, admitted feeling like she’d never grown up. I couldn’t believe it: my mature, sensible, responsible mother feeling like a child. That couldn’t be so. I was the child, not her. Now I know what she meant and I’ve been wondering whether we’re all walking around, looking like adults on the outside but feeling like kids within.
I guess the first time I realised that others saw me as an adult with an adult’s authority was when I took my daughter, who was probably around two, to the seaside for the first time. She was playing in the sand with a boy she’d made friends with when I suddenly heard her say “My mummy says you mustn’t throw sand”. I was shocked. I was a person that others would listen to and take notice of. I could have an impact on another person’s life.
Perhaps that was the day that I realised I was an adult – at least on the outside anyway.