Steven’s grandfather passed away a week ago, and we spent last weekend with his family. Pa had requested that Steven speak at his funeral, so the weekend was difficult for Steven, not just because his Pa had died, but also because he had to help with the funeral and burial arrangements and responsibilities. When the kids and I got to Steven’s parents’ house on Saturday, Steven was with his mother and grandmother at the cemetery looking at the burial plot. The next day he sifted through a box of old pictures and put together a powerpoint presentation of memories of his grandfather. Once we got to the funeral home for visitation, Steven was busy greeting family members, meeting with the funeral home staff, and planning music for the funeral the next day. It was strange to see my husband in such a role; suddenly, he had become the man of his family.
Right before the funeral, I was in our bedroom at his parents’ house when Steven came upstairs to put his dress clothes on. My breath caught. For a split second, my husband reminded me of my dad. Growing up, my dad was the one who was always dressed up, the one in the pulpit. He was the preacher and the hospital visitor and the funeral speaker. Yet on this day, I watched my husband stand at the pulpit and pray, sing, and eulogize his grandfather.
As I watched Steven throughout those few days, it hit me: He’s a grown man now. We’re real grown-ups.
That may seem crazy; we’re in our mid-thirties and we’ve been parents for over eight years now. But honestly it still feels like we’re pretending. Like we’re still those twenty-two year olds who love concerts, movies, and eating out every weekend. (All things that we still do, just not quite as often due to the “we’ve-got-kids-now-and-they’re-expensive” budget!) Like we’re still those immature kids who skipped class to drive to Sonic and swap secrets over milkshakes and fries, and we’re fooling everyone who thinks we’re mature enough to be decent parents.
I kinda feel like our parents seemed much older at thirty-five than we are at thirty-five. Neither of mine really pursued their own interests; they did work and family, and that was it. Mom never went out for girls’ night, and dad never played golf with the guys. They were mature. They were sacrificial. They never spent money on themselves. They gave up everything for their kids.
It makes me feel selfish. I know that Steven and I are part a new generation, one that promotes self-awareness, self-improvement, and entertainment. So we value time and fun for ourselves, whether it is guys night, writers group, date night, or a new video game. Our generation also tells us education is important, so we have pursued graduate degrees even though it means that we are spending hundreds of dollars a month paying off student loans. Those things might have seemed extravagant to my parents. Yet Steven and I live in a culture that tells us to “find ourselves” and “be someone.”
However, as I keep reflecting, I see that in some ways my parents did “be someone.” In their mid-thirties, they graduated from seminary and moved across the globe to Thailand. That in itself was a tremendous, daring, trusting act. Their ministry there was amazing, and included church planting, training church musicians, starting and teaching at a Bible College, and publishing a Thai hymnal. I suppose there were some personal pursuits. I watched my mom transform into a talented and beloved speaker and teacher to women’s groups in Bangkok. I saw my dad embody his love of music when he directed The Messiah and was involved in the Bangkok Christian Choir. These pursuits were related to their Nazarene ministry, but were also somewhat outside of it. Though they weren’t bombarded with cultural messages encouraging self-development and entertainment, in their own ways, maybe they began finding their own voices.
As for Steven and me, I still am not sure that we’re true grown-ups. Maybe we’re getting closer. Maybe we’re teetering in the in-between, shouldering the responsibilities of parenthood and hanging on to our childhood dreams and joys at the same time.