I was at my volunteer shift on a crisis hotline and a new listener checked in with me on a call he’d received earlier. He wanted to see if he’d handled it the right way and made the comment, “I just wanted to check in with an adult.” He said it with a sense of humor since we’re very clearly both adults in the sense that we’re able to legally drive a car, vote and have an alcoholic drink. We also both have paid jobs and people who trust us with responsibility in said jobs, as well as in our volunteer hotline jobs. But his choice of words stood out to me – no matter how old we are, we don’t ever stop looking for an adult.
Several years ago, I was in a three car accident. A teen driver rear-ended me at a stoplight with so much force that I was pushed into the car in front of me. As we all got out of the cars, the teen driver was already crying and his friend was visibly shaken. The couple in front of me weren’t that much younger than I was, though they were clearly wondering what the hell had just happened. And in that second, I knew I was the adult in the situation. I was the oldest, least shaken and knew what had happened, so the role fell to me. I made sure no one was seriously injured (thankfully, that the was case) and I told the teen to call a parent while I called the police. And the whole time this was happening, I remember wondering how in the world I was the adult in this situation. When did that happen?
More often that we admit, there are times in our lives when we think surely there must be someone else who should be in charge. How did we end up as adult in the room? Lots of factors can contribute to how adult we feel at any given time – our age, experience, confidence, abilities, health, financial status, support network, and on and on. And while we’d like to think we’ve got it under control most of the time, there are also times we just don’t want to be the adult in the room. We don’t feel like the situation is best handled if we’re in charge and we desperately hope someone else will do it. Or at the very least, someone will tell us it will be okay if we do find ourselves the adult in the room.
So the moral of the story…cut yourself some slack next time you find yourself looking for the adult in the room and you’re well above toddler age. The rest of us are doing the same thing.