I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but he was not an adult yet and therefore, he was not old enough to decide when his bedtime should be. That is because his brain is not fully engaged yet and I don’t anticipate that happening anytime soon.
How to explain this to him without sounding condescending? If you are not an adult by the age of ten, when would he be considered an adult?
One thing I was sure of: Age has nothing to do with it. I have met young people who are very mature for their age and I have met older people who act like 2-year olds.
“When I have a license to drive, I’ll be an adult, right?” my boy asked.
“Um, not necessarily. In fact, if you don’t act like an adult, you will lose your driver’s license.”
“Act” is the operative word here, I think. There isn’t an adult on the planet who doesn’t want to jump on the bed or splash through a puddle now and then. All of us want to be selfish and not share our cookies from time to time. But at some point in our lives, we realized that “acting” like an adult would be more beneficial in the long run. We might only jump on the bed when we can no longer restrain ourselves. Splashing through a puddle is reserved for those days when you happen to be wearing flip flops rather than your new tennis shoes.
At this point, we have begun to accept that if you jump on the bed every day, you’re going to have a broken bed. We have learned to think of the consequences. Jumping on the bed means either paying for a new bed or sleeping on the floor. As a child, you may have thought that sounded pretty cool. At that time, you wouldn’t have felt as much of your mass pressing against the hard floor.
So, maybe adulthood is about how much mass you have?
Nope. I have seen people with an obscene amount of mass who still hadn’t matured. In fact, if they had shared their cookies, they might not be so massive. I still can’t say no to a piece of chocolate cake, so perhaps I still have some maturing to do.
So restraint may be part of being an adult.
I thought about all the things I still needed to teach my boy before I could, in good conscience, turn him loose on the rest of the world. I told him that he had to “act” like an adult before he would be granted the privileges of an adult.
“But I do!” he whined.
“In your opinion, what does an adult act like?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing, they get to choose what time they go to bed. They get to eat whatever they want to eat and go wherever they want to go.”
“If I can do all those things, why don’t I go to bed at 4:00 in the morning and sleep till noon? Why don’t I eat cupcakes for dinner and lollipops for breakfast? If I can go wherever I want, why aren’t I anywhere but here right now?”
“I guess it’s because you shouldn’t do those things,” my little genius said.
Bingo! We have a winner!
“So,” I said slowly, “An adult is someone who knows what he should do and does it without anyone having to tell him.”
“I do that!” he insisted.
I looked at him skeptically and asked, “Are you wearing underwear?”
Yeah, it’ll be a while for this one.
Laura is a syndicated columnist, author, & speaker. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit her website <a
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