We celebrated New Year's Eve tonight with a few close friends. I could have said this exact same statement for the past 10 years, as we've done the same thing, with the same people, for a decade. At first, we all went out to eat at fancy restaurants. We were recently out of college, all newlyweds, with good-paying jobs and plenty of disposable income, with no one to spend it on besides ourselves.
We'd sit and talk for hours at dimly lit tables near the back of our favorite three steakhouses, chatting about everything and nothing all at once. We'd talk without fear of interruption and without keeping a close eye on the clock. Then, we'd head back to someone's townhome to pull out the champagne and toast to another year together.
Tonight was much like all of those other nights. We caught up, laughed and toasted. Only this time, we toasted at 7:00 in the evening rather than at midnight. We had dinner together, but it was pizza in our living room, surrounding by no less than six babies and toddlers alike. We navigated around toys, dolls, books and Legos to find a place to sit and our conversation, despite how we tried to steer it otherwise, inevitably landed on our child-rearing days. How do you get them to listen to you? Is she ready for preschool? How is potty training going for you guys? We compared notes, listened to hilarious anecdotes about life with tots, shared worries and told each other that we're all going to be just fine.
They left with a little sliver of the sunset still up and I was reminded that though there are many times when I still feel like that newlywed in her early twenties that I once was, I'm very much an adult now and suddenly, the things I care about look so much different. For instance, I spent 15 minutes yesterday comparing types of almond milk because since having my second, I haven't been able to tolerate dairy. I got legitimately excited about the 500-thread count sheets and pillow-top mattress cover that my mother-in-law gifted us for Christmas this year.
I care more about this week's cartoon lineup than my own shows because I know my three-year-old will want to watch the newest episode of Mickey Mouse after lunch on Wednesday. I can tell you all of the characters to every book they love. I know about things like which detergents are best for newborn onesies, what shampoos make their eyes sting even though they say tear-free, how to get pen marks out of a microfiber couch and which flavors of Gatorade will leave a mark on the rug and which won't.
I didn't sign up to learn these things. These are just the kinds of things you find yourself thinking about when you have a two-year old and a four-year-old living with you. While those points are trivial, they've also had me considering more deeply the really important parts of life. What do I want to do with my days, and who do I want to do it with? Do I look at a screen too much and if so, how can I better focus my attention toward them? Is public school enough or should I consider homeschooling or a private school education? Do we live too close to the road or should we move to that family property that sits back in the woods? If we choose the latter, do we leave it as is, or install things like a paved driveway or solar panels to make it more long-lasting and kid-friendly?
I don't pretend to know all of the answers, and I think that's the beauty of it. It's also ironic. When you become an adult, and especially once you have kids, the things you thought you cared about suddenly seem small and your prior concerns are replaced with much bigger ones that leave you awake at night wondering if you'll ever really feel confident that you got it right. At the same time, the journey is the revelation. As we seek to better understand, to learn it all and to be the best we can, that's where the real growth takes place.
I'm excited that I get to experience that alongside these little people who call me "mama." I'm glad that my days don't look like they used to and my nights are certainly different, too. Growing up is hard and there are many times I think I'm likely doing it incorrectly, but if tonight was any indication, I'm not in this boat alone. We all have our doubts, our insecurities and our inadequacies. We're all wondering, both aloud and to ourselves, if the way we're going is the right way. When we share that with one another, there's solidarity. There's the comfort that says, "I see you, and I'm here for you. Let's tackle this together."
So maybe I think too much about things I shouldn't or I know too much about things that won't matter five years from now. Today, however? I'm well-versed in adulthood and parenthood and there's nothing else I'd rather be learning.