It’s Hard to Be the Adult When You’re Also Still the Kid

Dearest Rachel –

So yesterday, as soon as we landed, I gave my folks a call to let them know I was back in town, safe and sound. But also because they had offered to pick me up at the airport and bring me home.

You’ll recall that I commented this weekend about how I am suddenly the oldest one in the room, and don’t feel like I fit the part, especially in terms of wisdom. I think part of that might be due to the fact that I’m not always the adult. Even at the age of fifty-three, I’m still somebody’s kid.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about how solicitous my folks can be. They want to help, and I’d be a fool not to let them. They get a blessing out of it, and I get help that I truly do need. Everybody wins here.

But that means that I’m not the one with my stuff together; I’m relying on them when I ought to be independent.

I noticed that as time went on over the weekend, some the stories that I would tell moved from my own experiences to those of my father. Part of that had to do with Barnabas being one of my dad’s role models (and therefore not a character that was not as obscure to me as Luke seemed to think he would be), but some of the stories he told about his educational and early work experiences also seemed appropriate for the topic that was at hand.

So in a way, I was still relying on him, even when he wasn’t there. What wisdom I was dispensing wasn’t mine, but rather his.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. You take your wisdom where you can find it, and offer it to those who might find it of use. It’s just that it still bothers me that very little of it is my own. I’m supposed to have some of my own at this point, darn it.

There is another thought that crosses my mind at this point, particularly thanks to listening to Pastor Seabaugh on our wedding video. A man is to leave his father and mother, and be joined to to his wife – you, in this case – and the two of us are to be one flesh. You and I were single unit, dealing with the world, for better or for worse (just as the vows say). But now that you’re gone… how does that change the dynamic? Is it appropriate to go back to my mother and father?

It’s true, that they have offered assistance and advice throughout this ordeal – as have many people, no mistake. But they are the ones closest to me, and they have the most to offer. and to be fair, they’ve suffered the loss of their daughter-in-law as well. So they share in the pain to a greater extent than just anybody I might know.

The question is whether I now rely on them too much – or maybe I should be relying upon them more, given the unusual circumstances. I just don’t know what’s appropriate here – and all I can guess is that however much I am relying on them, it’s not the right amount.

I also find it difficult to lead Daniel, because I don’t feel like I’m the adult in the room. And as long as I don’t, I probably don’t project the authority that would compel him to obey me. Then again, I’m not entirely certain that Meema and Poppa would necessarily have any more influence on him than I might.

By contrast, in your last couple of years, you were no longer the child – although you made an effort to be a childlike as possible when the situation allowed for it. You performed the eulogies for both of your parents – which, given what I’ve been told about people’s fears, means that you addressed the greatest of those before having to face the second greatest. You took responsibility in your service at church, particularly in the nursery and in Awana Clubs. The children loved and looked up to you, in a way that they would never have to me or Daniel.

And I’m thinking that part of his might’ve had to do with the fact that you were no longer someone’s child. You were the adult in the family. In fact, you were the family at that point, what with being an only child and orphaned. Of course, I doubt you ever looked at it that way.

Even before their passing, you were trying to address their needs, as opposed to letting them address yours. You were concerned for both of their salvations (and we still had questions about your dad, but there’s nothing to be done at this point), and your mom needed serious tending to – which you arranged, with Twofeathers’ help.

Like it or not, you were the adult.

And you were to an extant that I have never had to come to grips with. Oh, I set up my office in my parents’ basement in order to keep an eye on them, and help them out when they needed it, but I don’t think I’ve done that much for them in comparison to what you did for your parents. I simply haven’t had to.

But by not being ‘the adult,’ I’ve probably wound up keeping myself in the role of ‘the kid.’ And I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready to swap the one role for the other. But I do need to get ready for when that time comes, because it will.

And I can’t afford to get too comfortable with being the kid forever.

As always, honey, wish me luck.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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