Thursday, February 1, 2007

Definition of a Grown-Up

I was at the library yesterday in my role as a Homework Helper. This is a program for elementary school kids to get help with their homework, and most of the Helpers are high school students. Tuesday I helped a fourth grader with long division and a second grader with a paper about Shirley Chisholm (speaking of black presidential candidates). Yesterday I helped a different second grader with spelling and subtracting by tens.

Yesterday's student and I had the following conversations:

He: How old are you?
Me (after a little thought): 38. How old are you?
He: Eight. How old will you be when I'm 38?
Me: I'm thirty years older than you. I'll be 68. That's probably about your grandmother's age.
He: My grandmother's dead.

About half an hour later he asked, "What grade are you in?" I guess he'd forgotten our previous conversation in which it was determined that I'm almost as old as his father. I told him that I'm not in school, and have been out of school for a long time. He said, with some surprise, "You're a grown-up?"

I immediately thought about how I had wondered, in my 20s, when I was going to start feeling like a grown-up. Would it be once I bought a house? If I had a child? When my hair started turning grey? Except that a patch of grey came in all at once when I was 26, between the beginning of March and Easter that year, a house was far far off at $8.35 an hour, and I didn't want to have a child, and I still felt like I didn't know what was going on.

Now I know. When you finish school, you're a grown-up. Things are so much clearer when you're eight. They're sure not very clear now.

No comments: