It’s not adulting, guys, it’s just living

By Lisa Sugarman

There’s a pop culture verb floating around out there that I’m wondering if you’ve heard of yet. Maybe you recognize the word. Maybe you don’t. I mean, it is still pretty new. But make no mistake, the word adulting is real and it’s out there. And it totally fascinates me.

This new word, which I guess you could call a concept, has fast become a major buzzword out there in the mainstream, especially among millennials. Or with anyone talking about millennials. So if, by some freak chance, you haven’t come across it yet, you will. And now, when you do, you won’t feel stupid.doneadulting46

Personally, I feel like I’m hearing or reading about adulting everywhere lately; so it felt worthy of a little extra attention. Because I love a good cultural phenomena.

Before we talk about the actual word in any detail, though, like what it really refers to or how it even came to be, I think it’s important to understand why the word refers exclusively to millennials. So here’s a little history…

In simple terms, millennials, aka Generation Y, are the demographic born between the early 1980s and early 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they’re actually the largest living population on the planet right now. So the word adulting was coined especially for them.

It’s a clever adaptation of a very old and very plain word that’s got linguists around the world and all the lexicographers at Dictionary.com salivating all over themselves. And that’s because, according to a recent article in Time.com, the word started out as just an ordinary noun and then evolved into a catchy verb that was then turned back into a clever noun. We’re talking Word-of-the-Year contender.

The guys at Urban Dictionary define it like this…

untitledAdulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grownups. Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed.

So to say someone is adulting has become a cheeky way of making fun of the fact that the majority of millennials are doing adult-like things much later in life than their baby boomer parents did, and their parents before them. In other words, millennials are getting married and having kids and buying houses and paying bills much later in life than past generations have, historically. Much, much later.

Ultimately (and unfortunately), that’s put millennials behind the eight ball when it comes to managing grown-up responsibilities. Which, in my opinion, isn’t good. And the simple reason why it’s not good is because these things that they’re putting off learning how to do are critical life skills that they can’t live without. Unless, of course, they’re planning on living in mommy and daddy’s basement forever.

Now sure, millennials are tech-savvy and more aware of what’s going on in the world than we were back in the day, but too many of them still don’t know what it means to pay rent or work fulltime or shop or cook for themselves. And that’s because they haven’t been expected to do those things the way earlier generations were. So consequently, they perceive those things (when they do do them) like accomplishments. Like they’re playing grownup.art-of-adulting

What I find so interesting is that the very nature of the word adulting implies pretty heavily that growing up is a conscious choice rather than just a natural evolution. I mean, it’s just so funny to me that so many millennials are tossing around #adulting all over social media when they do things like cook a meal or pay bills or work an eight-hour day. Because those are normal, routine, day-to-day things that are just a part of life as an adult. But that’s the thing, a lot of millennials don’t see them that way, which is why the word has become so popular with that generation.

I just think the whole concept is comical (and maybe even a little disturbing). That’s probably because one of my two kids is a millennial right now. And as much as Dave and I have consciously, actively raised her to be independent and comfortable doing grown-up stuff, it still cracks me up when she makes a big deal about going to the bank to deposit her paycheck. Because, to her, doing something as simple as cashing her check feels like such an adult thing to do. And she’s still so inclined to ask me to do it for her. Which is why she’s totally adulting on the rare occasion when she does it herself.nopenotadulting

And the doing-it-for-her part is on me. Because I’ll be the first to admit that I do that sort of thing for my kids all the time. We all do. More out of habit and courtesy if I’m already going to the bank or doing the laundry. But we can’t anymore. Or, rather, we shouldn’t. Because the more we keep them from becoming legit adults themselves, the worse off this next generation will be. So sorry, babe. From now on, it’s just life. #justliving

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at http://www.lisasugarman.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

Sending our Kids to College: Part 3 of a 3-Part Series

 By Lisa Sugarman

For the last three weeks, I’ve been writing, firsthand, about the emotional path we travel as parents when we send our first child off to college. I’ve been chronicling how every part of the process feels—the highs, the lows, and everything in between. This is the third and final column in the series. I guess you can call it the Afterword.

 

Words are amazing little tools. Most of the time, they enable us to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings with almost pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately, there are also times, like now, when the right words elude us. When we can’t find a way to articulate how we feel, no matter how many thesauruses we use. For me, this is one of those times.b62ebb98ad81831dcefe0a7bbd79e132_370x290

So in the interest of trying to be as authentic as I can here and give you a true peephole into my heart, the rest of my column are the most emotional highlights from The Drop Off. It’s the best way I can express how it all felt.

5:30am on Move-In Day…

For God’s sake, why, of all things, did this month’s birth control packet have to become my countdown calendar to when Riley goes to college? The last pill in the damn cycle falls on the exact day we take her to school. So this is how I’ve been counting down the days all month. I mean, really?! It’s almost too ironic.

I’m lucky I have all this packing and unpacking to focus on, because without anything to distract my thoughts right now, I’d be screwed.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Dave: “If I slashed all four tires, do you think she’d suspect anything?”

Me: “A little too conspicuous, honey. Good effort, tho.”

Oh God, she’s about to say goodbye to the dog. This is not going to go well.

Me: “I can’t look at her, Dave. If I look at her or open my mouth, I’m gonna lose it.”

Dave: “I know. Why do you think I keep avoiding her?”

Libby: “Mom, are you ok?”

Me: (No response.)

Libby: “You’re ok, mom. It’s gonna be ok. You still have me for another three years.”

Me: “I know, honey. (Sniff)

Dave: “Lis, you ok?”

Me: (No response. Just tears.)

Dave: “I’m dreading going home.”

Me: “I know. I don’t want to see that she’s not there.”

Dave: “I hate this.”

Me: “I know. It’s brutal. It’s like someone hit me in the stomach with a telephone pole.”

Me: “Table for four, please.”8534766_1

Dave: “Uh, hon, we only need a table for three.”

Me: (Tears.)

Dave: “We’re gonna be ok.”

Me: “I know. But I don’t like what’s between here and ok. All I want is her wet towel back on the bathroom floor. I just want to trip over her lying on the kitchen floor after cross country practice, spooning the dog. I want to bitch at her for always having her door locked. I want to wait up until she gets home.

I miss her smelling like popcorn every weekend when she comes home from her shift at the video store. I miss cleaning up the wigs worth of hair that covers the bathroom floor every morning. I miss our Tuesday night ritual of watching Pretty Little Liars, cuddled up under the covers in my bed. I miss cooking and shopping and doing laundry for four. I miss knowing who she’s with. I miss knowing what she’s doing.

I want to know that she’s safe. I want to hug her whenever I feel like it. I don’t want to keep avoiding her empty room.

I also want her to be happy. I want her to get on with her life so she can come back to me and gush about where she’s been and what she’s done and who she’s met. I want her to embrace her future. I want her to do what the dean of her university said at her matriculation ceremony—I want her to explore and embrace and play every single key on the piano while she has the chance.”

So while I’d love to lie to you and say that letting her go was relatively painless, like ripping off a Band-Aid really fast, I can’t. Because it wasn’t. Escorting my daughter out the door and onto the rest of her life was the single most difficult thing I’ve done yet as a parent. But at the very same time, it was also the most beautiful. It was bittersweet and just barely doable. Barely.

As for advice, though, I don’t have any. Sorry. It is what it is and we all have to ride the wave with the goal of just staying on the board until we hit dry land again.Banana-Camp-Surf-Girls-79

But we do, eventually, hit solid ground. I’m sure of it. And when we do, we get to turn around and watch them ride their own beautiful wave into shore. And I’m looking forward to that. Very forward.

In the meantime, enjoy the ride, babe. I’ll be waiting with open arms.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

It’s Not the End, it’s Just the Beginning

By Lisa Sugarman

Thirteen years. Thirteen profoundly life-changing years. That’s roughly two thousand three hundred and forty bagged lunches, twenty-seven violin recitals, eleven cross country and track banquets, eight trillion No. 2 pencils, dozens of lunch boxes and backpacks, countless school open houses and parent meetings and report cards, buckets of tears and laughter and failures and successes. And now, here we are, me with a tennis ball-size lump in my throat and my oldest daughter about to dress in her cap and gown and walk her last walk as a high school senior.Bag-Lunch

It all goes so shockingly fast. Faster than we can ever imagine when our kids are little and we’re embarking on what seems like an endlessly long trip.

And then it’s here. That moment. The moment that the last thirteen school years have led up to. That moment that we, as parents, quietly anticipate in the far corners of our minds. The moment we’re not sure will ever really come because there’s so much to be done in between the time we start the journey and when this part of it ends.

It’s so cumbersome, this idea of our children graduating from high school, that most of us can barely get our minds around it. And then it happens. The day comes when your daughter asks you for the money to buy her tassels for her cap and gown. That moment when you realize they’ve finally made it. They’ve done it. We’ve done it. We can exhale. But only long enough to draw in possibly the deepest breath we’ve ever had to take as parents—the one that allows us to say goodbye.

See, Riley is my first child to graduate from high school, so this column has been percolating since she started kindergarten. So needless to say, there’s a pretty hefty collection of memories and emotions and feelings ready to stream out once these flood gates open.

And I’m sorry, I don’t care who you are; when your oldest hits a milestone like graduating from high school, there’s just no way you’re not feeling something. It’s too big of a day for them and for us as parents not to need at least a pocket-size package of Kleenex nearby.

I mean, I really just don’t understand how it happens this fast that we go from swaddling our newborn to putting a deposit down on their freshman year of college. It’s a very time-warpy sensation as you get ready for graduation. And everyone always says, Enjoy it all while you can because they grow up soooooo fast, and new parents usually politely shrug it off and think Yeah, yeah, suuuuure it does. But it’s true. God is it true. It all goes faster than we can ever imagine back when we’re being wheeled out of the hospital with that little package cradled in our arms.printcomp

The second your toddler takes their first steps you have to just buckle that five-point harness tight and do your best to hang on, because life starts moving like fast forward x10 on your DVR. And it never actually stops. Not for a second.

Right now, to me, it feels like no more than eleven minutes ago since Riley’s cheeks had that orange beta-carotene tint from too many orange vegetables as an infant; and now she’s only a few days away from graduating from high school and moving on to the next stage of her life. (A stage which, just as an aside, involves living in a totally different place than under our roof.)

And that notion hits you in very different and very unpredictable ways as you approach graduation day.

Take last week, for example. I’m setting the table for dinner when it hits me like a puck to the back of the helmet that this time next year, I’ll be setting out three dinner plates every night instead of four. That’s a thought that’ll sober you up pretty quick once it creeps into your head.

The problem is, I’ve had such a contact high since September from the excitement of her living out her senior year, that I’ve barely paid attention to the fact that it’s all actually leading up to her moving on and moving out in the fall. I’ve just been enjoying all the fun.

I think it’s because senior year is just one long steady flow of electrified energy (between applying to schools, prom, senior projects, exams, classes, sports) that there’s really very little time built in to absorb what’s really happening. It’s all just so exciting.

What I’ve realized this year, though, in spite of all the chaos and the to-do lists and the emotions and the anticipation, is that she’s ready for this. Ready in ways I’m not sure I even appreciated until I saw her navigate this last year of her life. And I’ve come to understand that that’s the only thing that really matters.Helping Hand with the Sky Background

She’s ready to cast out on her own and to carve a new path for herself. Ready for the classes and the independence and the opportunities and the new relationships that college will bring. She’s ready to make her own decisions and to find her own way. And while every parent’s darkest fear is that their child doesn’t need them anymore, I think it’s also our greatest triumph when we’ve raised a child who feels confident enough to let go of our hand and walk out into the world on their own. Because that’s the payoff. That’s the endgame.

The truth is, on the surface, senior year looks like it’s a big celebration of lasts and that’s why it tends to take our breath away. But what most of us fail to realize is that senior year is a cleverly disguised launching pad for new beginnings. It’s actually the doorway that leads them to rest of their life.

So as I softly cry behind my sunglasses this Sunday because this chapter is ending, I’ll also be celebrating everything that my sweet girl has accomplished in her life up to now. And I’ll be contemplating everything that still lies ahead.110605_SN_DLE_MHDGRAD_1-M

And hopefully, if I can steal her away for a quiet moment during all the craziness, I’ll be able to find the words to thank her for bringing all the color to my world and for showing me the reason why I’m here in the first place. I’ll explain that I’m celebrating her and the powerful, beautiful woman she’s turned out to be. And I’ll do it with the knowledge that it’s finally time for her to get on with her future.

But most importantly, I’ll thank her, in advance, for taking all of her laundry with her when she goes. (Oh who am I kidding, I’m gonna miss that too.)

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

Goodbye birthday parties, I’ll miss you.

By Lisa Sugarman

I can still picture my oldest daughter’s first birthday party like it was this morning. The weather was perfect, seventy-eight degrees and cloudless. And the way I remember it, our lawn was pristine, a lot like the front nine at Augusta, giving us the perfect backdrop for a first birthday party.5952530_f520

As I recall, we invited everybody. Like, everybody. And we had all the accoutrements to go along with a first-rate first birthday party. We had the grossly overpriced Winnie the Pooh and Friends cake. We had a guy dressed in a shockingly realistic Pooh costume walking around the yard playing with/traumatizing all the kids. We had cutesy little Pooh-themed goody bags. And come to think of it, we may have had Tigger there, too. What can I say, we were first-time parents.

Looking back, it was like we were subconsciously auditioning for the old MTV reality show My Super Sweet Sixteen. But in our defense, we just wanted her first birthday to be something special—the same kind of special that every new parent wants for their baby.

The irony is, the kid never remembers any of it. In fact, they probably don’t remember their first four or five birthdays. But we still go out of our way to make them memorable. Kind of funny when you think about it. We go through the motions of pulling together an unforgettable party for a kid who’s only ever going to remember it through pictures and stories, not from their own actual memories.Creative-First-Birthday-Party-Ideas

But I’m wandering from my point.

What really got me thinking about birthday parties is that my youngest is about to turn fifteen in a few weeks and I’m realizing that the days of planning birthday parties for my kids are over. And that makes me sort of sad.

Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t necessarily miss all the moving parts associated with a kid birthday party, like the invitations, the goody bags, the set-up, the decorations, the favors, the thank-you notes. (Ok, fine, I’ll miss them because I’m a detail-oriented person and I love that stuff.) But even more than the planning and the executing, I’ll miss the look on my girls’ faces when it all comes together. And that look is the exact reason we all jump through hoops to make their birthdays special.

In our case, we’ve done the princess tea party, the American Girl party, the pool party, the Snip-Its hair styling party, the petting zoo party, the hibachi dinner party, the fondue party, the sleepover party. If you can think of it, chances are good we’ve done it.

But now, sadly, our girls have aged out of the traditional birthday party. Once they hit thirteen-ish, there was a seismic shift in how they wanted to celebrate. Gone are the Disney princess parties where the only color allowed was pink. (Sorry, with two girls I never learned to speak boy. Pink and lavender are all I know.)

Suffice it to say, nowadays birthdays pretty much involve Dave and I dropping a group of girls off at a sushi bar and coming back to pay the bill. Or, in the case of our oldest who’s turning eighteen this summer, dropping her and her crew off at the train so they can spend the day in downtown Boston shopping, food-stand hopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and then pulling an all-nighter in our basement watching horror movies.140917_EM_Tipping

Fortunately for us, though, we’ve managed to retain our annual tradition of secretly decorating the house the night before every birthday so our kids wake up to signs and balloons and streamers and birthday crowns. So we’ve still got that going for us. And those are the things, as your kids grow older, that you find a way to preserve. Because those special traditions are what your kids carry with them into their adult lives and ultimately recreate when they have children of their own.

Here’s a tip, instead of taking it on the chin when the days of helping them blow out their candles are over, think of it as a hiatus—a vacation from all the party planning and stressing over a houseful of seven year olds. And enjoy the break while it lasts. Because it’s really only a brief pause that allows you to catch your breath just in time to help plan their wedding—the mac daddy of all parties.

So consider this as you anticipate or mourn the loss of The Birthday Party… for probably close to thirteen years you put your heart and soul and paycheck into planning the perfect birthday experience for your kid and now all they really want is a wad of cash and you to make yourself scarce. And while it seems cold and sterile to give your kids an envelope full of gift cards, it’s more or less what most of them really want. And that’s because they’re growing up. A fact that, whether we like it or not, we have to accept. It’s the natural order of things.gift-cards-pile

But remember, at the end of the day you’ll always be the one they turn to when they need a wire transfer or their debit card refilled. So you’ve got that going for you. Just think of it as a different kind of umbilical cord. Only I’m not sure this one ever gets cut.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

My weakness, babies.

babies

By Lisa Sugarman

 

So I did this thing today that I’m probably going to regret. And I can’t seem to get it off my mind. So what do I generally do when something’s on my mind and I can’t scrape it off? I write about it so that it gets onto your mind too and I feel a little less burdened. You know, spreading the load around makes it easier to carry.

What did I do? Well, I picked up my friend’s new six-week-old son and held him, dumbass that I am. Big mistake. Huge. Because in picking him up, I saw, very clearly and probably too closely, how ridiculously cute and squishy he was, and I had an instant and almost primitive reaction to holding him in my arms. Which was, of course, followed immediately by a very intense moment of envy. What can I say, my kids and most of my friends’ kids are grown and at least a foot taller than me, so babies have become kind of a novelty.

See for me, well us really, that door has been permanently closed, boarded up, and buried deep in the ground in a block of cement. A lot like what the mafia does with their bodies. So short of an Immaculate Conception that puts us into extra innings, the baby game is over for us. And, for the most part, I’m perfectly content with the houseful of teenage daughters I have right now and have no real desire to do it all over again. Especially because when I look at mommies and their new babies now—schlepping around all that gear and chasing their kids down the escalator—all I can think of is, How the hell did I ever do that? Not to mention the fact that even though my oldest is only sixteen, it feels like three lifetimes ago that we were in that baby stage.

Now although I’m [mostly] in love with the phase my kids are in now, I’m not going to lie to you, there are times, more than a few, that I’d love to just scrunch my daughters back down to their original toddler form and relive the magical days when they were little. Because let’s face it, it was a helluva lot easier to parent a couple of knee-high-size kids who worshipped the ground I walked on. Just toss them into the baby bucket or the BabyBjorn and off you go. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

I mean, like anything, there are always challenges and stresses, even when our kids are little. But I really do believe that those stresses are relative to size. Little issues for little guys; big issues for big guys. And you really only realize once they’re grown how easy and manageable it was to have these life-size Cabbage Patch dolls who followed you around and lived to be in the same room with you. Just change a diaper here and there, whip, whip, whip (as my mother would say) and you’re on your way. Maybe address a few hair-pulling issues, keep them away from open flames, and make sure they don’t eat too much Beta-caroteen so it doesn’t tint their cheeks orange. Otherwise, babies are a cake walk.

And the cuteness factor is just ridiculous. Whether they’re awake or asleep or covered in their own Farina, they’re just so damn adorable that it’s hard not to want to travel back in time to when they were little and vulnerable and dependent on you for everything. I mean every phase of their growth and development leads to cuter and more endearing phases. I remember holding Riley for hours and hours when she was a newborn. Just drinking in everything about her, amazed and awed by what I (oh, right, we) had created. And so it’s hard, at times, not to miss that delicious little person.

Because I really do miss that version of my kids. I miss how cuddly and mushy and innocent and baby-wipes-fresh-smelling they were. They were so portable and easy to entertain and just so loveable. God, they were loveable. And when I held my daughter’s friend Margaret’s baby brother John in my arms the other night, I was swallowed whole by his cuteness. We just sat there, staring at each other. Him not knowing me and me not knowing him, yet we had so much to say to each other. None of which either of us could understand because my ridiculous baby talk was just as unintelligible as his gurgling little spit bubbles. But we connected. We shared a moment. And it made me incredibly nostalgic. I can’t help myself. I love babies. I’m weak.

But while I sometimes crave the opportunity to pull the original version of my kids out of a shoebox in the back of my closet, I know I can never go back. We’re not supposed to go back. And as much as I’d love to be able to spend time with my sweet little girlies, I can’t get too depressed because they are actually still here. They’re just taller and have better skin and hair than their mother.

What’s exciting, though, is the idea that someday down the line (way, way, waaaaaaaaay down the line) I’ll have new versions of my kids to satisfy my cravings. I believe those are called “grandchildren”. I just need to be patient. Very patient. And then the cycle will repeat itself. What’s that famous song from the Lion King, “Circle of Life.” Only this time, I’ll have them in wonderfully limited doses and only when they’re on their best behavior and smelling all flowery, which is really my preference.

So in the meantime, I’m going to do my best to restrain myself from grabbing strange babies when I’m out in the general population and maybe just keep an old copy of One Fish, Two Fish next to my bed just to satisfy any spontaneous urges.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.