Being some two times zones away does not stop Erica’s mom from calling her late at night to ensure she made it home safe from work. Some parents may not even know their adult child’s work schedule, and some may’ve just called in the morning – assuming they needed to know the whereabouts of their kid that bad. Not Erica’s. Hers is someone she talks to on a daily basis, as well as her older brother and sister. She realizes that’s not the norm in other families.
The woes of being the youngest of the pack has led to her being constantly watched, checked up on and treated like a child. Even though she’s a 33-year-old woman who has run her own business, lived thousands of miles away for years and does her own thing today splitting her time as a barista and film student aspiring to direct. When she does point out that she’s grown, all her family can do is laugh. However, while Erica is almost always and will likely forever be treated like the kid of the bunch, we talked about the idea of her being an “adult adolescent” and she didn’t argue that the term didn’t apply to her situation. Which is admirable because there are a lot of people our age who would deny it until the end of time.
Now let’s get inside the mind of a woman, who even though is legally an adult and has been awhile – will forever be a kid in the eyes of her family.
Kendra: Have they always treated you like this, or was it after you moved out that it started?
Erica: I’ve been “the baby” my whole life. In addition to being the youngest in my immediate family, I was also the youngest among my first cousins for a large number of years. There’s over 30 of us.
Kendra: What’s the biggest thing they’ve done that’s made you feel like they treat you this way?
Erica: It’s not so much a single large thing as it is the little thing. When I tell my mom that I’m about ready to settle down and think about kids, she tells me I’m too young or have too many things to do to think like that. Also, my sister and brother will hunt me down through friends if they don’t hear from me for a few days. Things like that.
Kendra: Have you ever called them out on this?
Erica: All the time! On of my most said phrases is, “I am grown! I can do what I want!” Which in itself, is childish.
Kendra: What have you done to prove you’re an adult that they’re just not willing to accept?
Erica: I moved 2,500 miles away. I grew up in New Orleans and my mom still lives there. My sister and brother live in the Dallas area; the last city I also lived in. After making a few trips to Los Angeles, I decided to take the plunge and move away from my immediate family seven years ago. I haven’t looked back. I like to think I’m making it on my own, but that’s only a recent development. I have definitely gotten some financial “assistance” along the way while simultaneously refusing to move back home.
Kendra: Only bring this up because in Grown-Up Children Who Won’t Grow Up, the authors mention that sometimes it’s the grown-up’s fault that their family sees them as kids because they’re stuck in this “adult adolescence” phase in life where on the outside they appear to have it together but then they have these teen-like tendencies. Would you say that may apply to your case?
Erica: Absolutely. No one ever believes me when I tell them I’m 33. I look a lot younger than I am, which is a huge benefit in Los Angeles, the land of people who never grow up. I still fangirl over the bands I’ve loved since I was a teenager. I’ve never missed a Backstreet Boys tour in my adult life. I talk more about pop culture than politics. I procrastinate like nobody’s business. My financial habits are atrocious! Partially because I know, as the baby, someone will always bail me out in a jam. I’ve spent my adult career significantly underemployed for the most part because the idea of a job that cuts into my creative time makes me want to cry. More recently, I’ve taken more control of the reins of my finances and career by following and committing to my passions as career choices and taking care of myself but it’s definitely been a slower process for me than for many of my peers.
Kendra: Do you think they’ll ever see you as the grown up you are?
Erica: Ha! No. I could have an Oscar in hand, a few published books, a husband, two kids, and mortgage and I will still be a little kid in their eyes.
Erica: Money; I know someone will always send me money in a pinch, and presents. I still get presents from my mom for my half-birthday. MY HALF-BIRTHDAY. Process that. My sister and brother will buy me a pizza or groceries. I’m very cared for and still doted upon, 33 years later. I am definitely grateful but I know I have fringe benefits because of being the baby. My perpetual youth works well in my writing life and the fact that I’m back in college and don’t feel completely out of place.
Kendra: What’s the biggest low about being treated like a kid?
Erica: I’m not sure that I ever actually WILL grow up. Not in my own eyes or the eyes of the world. That kiddish sense that I can “get away with” things will always be part of me, for better or worse. It wreaks havoc on my love life because I’m so spoiled and expect ridiculous amounts of attention and praise. I have crushes that consume my life at times. Which feels so immature for my age. I’m definitely moving at a slower pace emotionally than a lot of people I know so it makes relationships difficult.