Growing Up

Growing up doesn’t have to mean growing old.


I’m constantly seeing social media posts, mostly from men but sometimes women too, about not wanting to “grow up”. Is it about aging or adulthood, and are they actually the same thing? Personally, I think there is a big difference between being a “grown up” and “growing old”.


I have watched friends’ husbands acting like teenagers, embarrassing their partners and even their kids. But what’s it all about? They seem to be so caught up in their fear of growing old that they are oblivious to the impact their insecurities are having on those they love.


For me, “growing old” conjures up images of grey hair, walking sticks, and narrow minds. The “old grump” is the family member you “have to visit”; the friend or neighbour you’d dive into your accountant’s to avoid talking to in the street. For the grump, the music is too loud, the people too young – the only thing he likes about anything is that he can complain about it. Handily, everything was of course better in his day, so nothing can ever be right or good enough.


I get it, who wants to end up like that?


But does being a “Grown Up” go hand-in-hand with “growing old”? For argument’s sake I’ll frame this around men, but take heed ladies, you’re not immune!


Being a grown up means taking responsibility for your family, home and job, if you have one; literally, minding your own business. But most importantly, it means taking responsibility for yourself. What this boils down to is looking at your actions and decisions and their consequences. But after a lifetime of avoiding commitments, duties, and the terrifying march to being out of touch, how do you learn to take stock?


As a husband or partner, a grown up is the adult male in the relationship, not another child. Remember important dates and anniversaries, sometimes the best thing we can do for someone is show them that we respect their time. Grown ups make decisions, treat their partner as an equal, share in domestic duties, organise date nights, and generally enhance their partner’s day to day life. You’re there to reduce their workload and stress levels, not increase them. For many, this will be the lightbulb moment in which they recognise themselves.


If grown ups have children, as a father they do an equal share of parenting and raising their kids. You are not your teenager’s coolest buddy, or the party-mad mate of your adult offspring. That silence after you cheers your own joke and chug a beer isn’t one of awe. Your children don’t need you to be their friend. They need you to let them find their own way in the world and make their own mistakes, not be a vehicle for you to relive your youth. Respect their space and support them. And remember, they’re watching you and learning – for better or for worse.


An adult son is there for his parents, he doesn’t pass the buck to his siblings or partner because there’ll always be someone else who can be the grown up. Your parents looked after you, now it’s your turn. Be involved in their lives, and even in those hard decisions if the time comes. Don’t stick your head in the sand like life isn’t happening, it’s not fair to make others take care of everything that’s difficult. You may not be the old grump, but you’ll be the petulant kid who complains about decisions out of his control. It’s wasn’t a good look then, and it certainly isn’t now.


As an employee, give your employer 100% of you, at your best, while you’re at work. Don’t expect praise and a raise just for turning up. A half-hearted job, long lunches, rolling in late, or worse, hungover, and pulling sickies just doesn’t cut it as an adult. The heady days when seniority and years with your name on the payroll being the path to promotion are few and far between now. Employers expect hard work and commitment; merit rules, and rightly so. Take note, if you’re not prepared to handle it, there are a hundred real grown ups behind you waiting to do the job.


As a business owner, take responsibility for your business, don’t pass all the hard work onto your staff. Remember, people won’t take the blame without expecting to take the credit as well. We all know our strengths and our stretches. Work to your strengths and put measures in place to fill in the gaps. Get some training or coaching, employ an expert and value their contribution. If you’re passionate about one area of your business but have no time for another, rely on trusted colleagues and allow yourself to do what you love. Don’t let your ego get in the way – do what you do best and allow others to do the same. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to contribute to those who contribute to you.


Recently I heard someone asking this question: what if we aren’t as productive, and actually sabotage our own productivity, because we are afraid that it would mean taking responsibility? For me, it’s the age old, “if you don’t try you don’t lose”. And it seems as though this is also at the root of the fear of being a grown up, with all its trappings. So is it actually a fear of living, and all the things that can go wrong? The reality is that if you don’t take ownership of the bad, you’ll never really experience the good.