Am I Old Yet?

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I have some terrible news: I might be an adult. The test results won’t be in for days, but the early indicators aren’t good. Last weekend I spent four hours test driving minivans. Something about measuring if three car seats will fit in one row made me think perhaps my best days are behind me. It didn’t help that the used car lot was right beside a motorcycle dealership. As I pondered which fabric would best hide the bodily fluids my kids constantly spew, I looked over and saw young, childless couples buying two-wheeled death machines. I have no desire to join a motorcycle gang. It’s not that I’m a law-abiding citizen; I just sweat a lot in leather. But even if I wanted to go that route, I don’t have the option anymore because I’m potentially a grown-up. The Hells Angels frown on guys who ride with baby carriers strapped to their Harleys.

The Hells Angels daycare policy leaves much to be desired.
I always knew in theory I could end up as an adult, but I put that eventuality in the same category as flying cars and zero-calorie beer. The world will be a better place when water is finally obsolete. All these developments will happen someday, but not necessarily within my lifetime. I was more than willing to put off maturity until after I was a corpse. That’s why I was caught off guard by adulthood. Although I recognized my predicament in one terrible epiphany, the process of growing up actually happened gradually, like a frog slowly boiled in water. It’s an overused analogy, but it’s apt here because adulthood is always fatal. It’s possible to survive childhood and even adolescence, but every grown-up eventually ends up as a body in a hole in the ground – or as ashes flushed down the toilet at Wendy’s. I should be nicer to my kids.

Looking back, I made it through an impressive number of major life milestones with my immaturity intact. I certainly wasn’t an adult when I graduated from college. Back then I harbored secret hopes the world would reward my hard work with success, so clearly I still believed in fairy tales. It took me years to learn the only remuneration for optimism is soul-crushing disappointment. I didn’t even get to take it all home. I lost half that disappointment to taxes. I also didn’t suddenly become an adult when I got married. It doesn’t take much maturity to sign up for a second income and a permanent laundry service. It would’ve taken more wisdom to recognize the drawbacks to such a move, of which there are none. No, my wife isn’t standing right behind me with an extremely hard wooden spoon. I’d get fewer concussions if I played football.

There were several other “achievements” I pulled off as an unrepentant man-child. I bought a house right before the start of the Great Recession simply because that’s what my friends did. Surprisingly, the mortgage officer didn’t notice any of my obvious red flags, like how many Ninja Turtles VHS tapes I still own. If you want an exact count, the number is “all of them.” Making the largest financial decision of my life solely due to peer pressure might seem sophomoric, but it wasn’t the worst choice I’ve ever made. That honor goes to my backyard reindeer farm. Those animals don’t fly, and they poop everywhere. I’d eat them if I wasn’t afraid to go out there. Prancer has an anger problem.

Reindeer can’t fly or pull a sleigh, but they’re perfect if Santa needs an animal to stand in one spot and eat moss. Nature is useless.
Surprisingly, I didn’t even become an adult when I had kids. Anyone who has ever been around a teenager knows there’s no correlation between the ability to reproduce and maturity. To high school kids today, babies aren’t so much a responsibility as they are a fashion accessory. No outfit is complete without a matching infant. I was out of college and married when my oldest daughter, Betsy, was born, but that doesn’t mean I was any closer to adulthood than the kids on “16 and Pregnant.” For the first week of Betsy’s life, I stayed up all night with her playing Xbox while my wife Lola slept. It turns out children love to be ignored. I’m the best dad ever.

I used the same techniques two years later when my other daughter, Mae, arrived because it’s important not to play favorites with my neglect. My main role as a parent these days is to turn on the TV and break up fights. I don’t even stop the combat all the way. I just pause it to show my daughters better techniques. No offspring of mine will leave this house without knowing how to do a proper armbar. I’ve never had a potted plant survive a single night when I house-sit, yet I’m now in charge of the well-being of multiple children. I’m lucky I didn’t have to take some kind of parenting aptitude test before I reproduced. I’d only pass if it’s normal for a toddler to get bitten by a reindeer.

I remained resolutely juvenile through college, marriage, a mortgage, and two kids, but my immaturity was stretched thin. I wanted to hang on to extended adolescence until I had six or seven more children, but goals are just a way to quantify failure. I couldn’t even make it all the way to child number three. The due date for my next daughter is less than three months away, so I either have to buy a minivan now or be prepared to walk everywhere with three kids strapped to my back. Considering that I get out of breath walking to the fridge, the permanent pedestrian route isn’t a viable option. It’s time for me to buy a minivan and complete my transition to adulthood. I hear the change comes with a stock portfolio and a complimentary tombstone.

I decided I liked the Honda Odyssey. Hours later, 900,000 of them were recalled for a defective part that starts on fire. My power to ruin things is limitless.
Buying a minivan will be a long, arduous process, but I have a definite deadline. The baby is coming in June, whether I get my act together by then or not. It’s now up to me to sift through the discarded leftovers from rich soccer moms until I find the used vehicle that will be my mobile prison for the next 10 years. At least despair comes with a seat warmer.