There are times in your life when you look up from your work and think, “Something’s changed.” This week my wife and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. Earlier this month I ran into someone I want to undergrad with who I haven’t seen in over 13 years. That span, I told her, is longer than the time from kindergarten through high school graduation. At some point since college I’ve become, irrefutably, an adult.
This was recently brought home when my wife and I went out for dinner for the aforementioned anniversary. (If you get the chance, go to Roy’s for the best service and most delicious food imaginable.) Our babysitter is a girl from the neighborhood who is a high school student. Sure she seems young but I feel a bit of an imposter, acting like a grownup. Yeah, I’ve got a mortgage and a car and dress up fancy to go out to dinner but it wasn’t that long ago I was in high school, I want to tell her. Then it hits me. Yes, it was a long time ago. Trouble is, as you stretch into adulthood, your mind remains (hopefully) clear and events from fifteen years ago are as clear and at your fingertips as those from fifteen days ago.
So if I’m really a grown-up, I’m getting to live a second childhood through my daughter. Toddler Harbat likes to run around with no shoes, gets manic about cookies and cakes, doesn’t want to get out of the bathtub because she’s “doin’ sum-sing” and doesn’t want to take naps. When you get your feet as dirty as this and can sleep soundly you’re having, I hope, a good childhood.
Maybe this is my reward for having to play the role of an adult. With her, I can be my true self, one that’s little kid, high-schooler, and responsible adult all in one. When I look at her sleeping I realize that being a grown-up just means you have more selves to clutch to your chest, more onion layers that make you whole. When you’re young you think time marches forward, abandoning the past with every tick of the second hand. Not true. Time is a fabric and with your mind you can pull two distant points together with a simple fold. Having a child is, truly, being a child again.