Adulting Is Hard, Especially When You're Older

When did you finally realize you were an adult? When you turned 18? Or 21? First time you had sex? First time you bought a car?

I didn't actually feel like a real adult when I got married at age 26. Or when we had our first child when I was 30. Or the day I bought a new car. Or bought a house. I always felt like I was faking it and needed someone's permission to do what I was doing.

The day I finally felt like a full-fledged adult was five years ago, when I realized I didn't need to wait for an iTunes gift card to buy music online.

For years, I never bought songs on iTunes unless someone had given me a gift card. Then I would agonize about my decision for days before I finally splurged and bought all the music on my wish list.

Then one day, it hit me: I'm an adult! I have a real job! I don't have to wait for a gift card for my birthday from my mommy!

I mean, I've known I was an adult when it mattered. I've made adult decisions. I've taken on adult responsibilities. And I've hit all the major milestones any adult my age should have, including complaining about kids these days and grunting when I sit down.

Even so, I had not always completely accepted the fact that I was responsible for my own life and the lives of my family.

I finally understood it on the day my son was three. He hit his head and got a small cut over his eye, which needed stitches.

The realization struck me like lightning hitting a frog: "You're in charge," I thought. "You're the adult in the room."

Just like that, everything clicked into place, and I knew no one else was going to step up. So we all piled into the car and drove to the ER where he got a couple stitches.

On the way home, I felt like I had just passed an important test, and that things would never be the same.

At least not until the iTunes epiphany.

So I get it when 20-somethings complain about "adulting," the act of doing adult things when they don't think they can. When they're still longing for the days of playing video games all night, sleeping until lunchtime, and eating whatever they want without worrying about their weight.

Even now, there are days I still feel like I'm just pretending and that I have to put on my big boy adulting pants just to face the world.

These young Millennials feel less like adults in their own minds, and I can't blame them. When my father's generation was in their early 20s, they had been married for a few years, had families and careers, and they owned houses and cars.

These days, early-20-somethings often still live at home or with roommates, they're getting married later, having kids later, and still drive their car from high school or college.

They even look younger than their counterparts did 60 and 70 years ago. There are several photos online that show how much older people looked in the '40s and '50s: People in their 20s looked like they were in their late 30s, and people in their 50s looked older than Betty White.

Did you know Wilford Brimley was 49 when he made "Cocoon," and Carroll O'Connor was 32 when he started filming "All In The Family." But they easily looked 20 years older.

But two weeks ago, at age 50, Jennifer Lopez suspended herself horizontally on a stripper pole in the Super Bowl halftime show.

As older people look and act younger, it's no wonder young adults still feel like teenagers.

To help young Millennials feel like real adults, the company Winks For Days now sells adulting merit badges, a series of humorous patches you can stick to your favorite jacket or jeans, when you are proud of a particular accomplishment.

Each badge is 2" in diameter, and can be easily ironed on with a hot iron. Just remember to ask a grownup for help.

The badges come in sets of three, based on different themes, and each set costs $19.50.

There's the Achievement set (with the Did It Myself, Used a Coupon, and Learned Something New badges), the Responsibilities set (Called My Mom, Watered the Plant, Made Coffee), and even the Corporate set (Responded to Emails, Packed My Lunch, and On Time For Work).

I think Winks For Days also needs to include merit badges like "Had Enough Money to Buy Novelty Badges" and "Did Not Wear Colorful Children's Patches Today."

Personally, I don't need any badges to tell me that I put on my big boy pants and went to work all by myself. I'm too old for that kind of thing, and I just don't need the recognition for a job well done.

I'd rather have some cookies and milk, please.

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.