I distinctly remember one evening, after visiting some family friends late into the night, when I was in between asleep and awake in the backseat. My head was propped on the side of the car and my body was rolled up in a self-made cocoon. I was about 8 or 9, and we had just pulled up into our driveway; my dad turned off the ignition and my mom gathered my younger brother, also sleeping, in her arms.

“Tsh. Tsh. Time to wake up. We’re home,” my mom said, and then she turned toward the house with her arms full. I wondered—If I sat still long enough, would one of my parents return to the car and carry me, too? Maybe they’ll think I’m sound asleep. Or maybe they’ll have pity on my too-big body and schlep my dead weight over their shoulder.

A few minutes passed, and no one came back for me. This is when I realized: I’m too big to be carried in any more. I was growing up, and part of that meant not getting to be a baby.

sleepy baby

Most of the time, that was cool. But at 11 p.m., when I wanted someone else to do the getting out, the walking up the driveway, the clothes-changing, and the teeth-brushing, I was bummed that I never got an official memo when that stage of my life ended. I blinked, and the phase between being small enough to be babied yet big enough to do some big things myself whooshed by.

This still continues all the time in my life. The kids are in bed, the kitchen is a mess from dinner, and I wonder where the grownup is who wouldn’t mind cleaning it for me. Bills come, and no one but Kyle or me can pay them on time. If I want to progress in my work, I have to—well, do the work.

Be the boss of me

Slow and steady, I’m learning to be the boss of me.

Not in an irresponsible, selfish way, where I raze down anyone in my way or disregard authority. I just mean maturity means owning that I own my choices, my actions, my ideas, and that I can’t put the blame elsewhere.

There’s a lot of freedom in this. We can choose what to spend our money on, how to fill in the calendar boxes, and what to put in our fridge. If I choose to sleep in or wake up early, either one is my choice. I decide how to start my day.

This also means I have the freedom to say no to things that just aren’t best and yes to things that are.

Being a grownup means we technically could exit the freeway and head to the airport to board the next flight, bound for wherever. But because we love our kids and want them to eat, we choose to spend those allocated funds on groceries instead.

looking out

I’m the boss of me. No one else forces me to make my choices. There’s a lot of responsibility in that. But it’s also pretty damn freeing.