The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grown Ups

Teri and I are very close in age (exactly 2 years difference), so we have had similar cultural and educational experiences growing up. We both went to public schools, albeit her experiences were much more urban and diverse--having been educated on the East coast and in cities.  Our families shared some core values and experiences even though on the surface they look very different--she raised in a larger, strictly Catholic, military household with urban-raised parents and me raised in a working class, West coast, religion-ambiguous household in a decidedly rural locale with parents who also grew up in a small town.  Still, we were both infused with some major cultural expectations and idioms handed down around what it means to be a grown up:
  1. Life isn't fair; but that doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to be fair-minded.
  2. Be a good neighbor--personal feelings aside when it comes to helping, getting along, looking after and living in community with neighbors.
  3. Share what you have, help when you can.
  4. Unless it makes for an entertaining story, no one needs to know your personal business
  5. Manners first and always
  6. Feed people
  7. Take responsibility for your choices
  8. Fight your own battles, fix your own mistakes
  9. Know when to step away, step back, and detach
  10. Know when to step in and get involved
  11. Appreciate and respect differences
  12. Strong work ethic defined by: being on time, consistent, diligent, efficient, skilled, team-player, competent and respectful
  13. Support your family (and this is non-gender-specific)
  14. Be dependable, follow through
Now, of course, we have some fun differences too:  Teri was raised with a strong message to "never volunteer" when it comes to extra commitments and work tasks--I suspect this has something to do with survival in the military. I, on the other hand, saw the adults around me volunteer to take on extra tasks at work, work late, fill in, and cover for other co-workers, so I realize I've adopted a go-above-and-beyond approach to many of my projects. We each strive to learn some balance--Teri is learning the joys of volunteering and I am struggling to learn to say no and let go.

When sorting through all this baggage (and while this word has a negative connotation, I think some of our baggage is valuable and worth carrying along), it has also been worthwhile to identify and name what we think "being a grown up" means. I tend to use this phrase dogmatically, sometimes judgmentally--as in: "We need to be grown ups here" or "What sort of grown up does that?"  Like many things, it's all in the spin as to whether it is a useful or constricting definition.

I tend to retreat into an over-developed eldest's sense of responsibility, egotistically assuming that I have to be the grown up because no one else will. In our family, we have coined a term for this condition, which I have perfected, called the put-upons-- the put-upons are not to be confused with being a grown-up, but are more of a pathology; that feeling you get when you have said yes when you should have said no, when you take on extra tasks because you doubt someone else's ability, or when things have fallen in your lap because someone else really didn't do their part. The put-upons are a good sign that a person might need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

In my middle-forties, I am solidly a grown up--with all the experience, expectations and occasional rigidity that comes with maturity. One of the many things I love about Teri is that she is too.  With all of the playfulness and passion for fun, that sturdy spine of grown-up-ness is always there. The animals always get fed first, the bills always get paid, we can walk away from things we can't afford (even if we have to pout for a moment or two), she can support me without feeling the need to step in and fight my battles, she's always there for the kids, the neighbors, friends, etc., if she says she will do something, I can count on her making it happen (alright, so maybe not at my pace, but that is another blog...)

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