It was a question I couldn’t answer as much as I pondered it over a series of days, leading to weeks: “When did you first realize that you had become a grown-up?”.

Although I am one – a grown-up – the question posed in Real Simple Magazine’s Essay Contest two years ago proved to be harder to answer than I realized. Unfortunately, the answer came two years too late.

The realization arrived with a phone call every parent hopes they won’t get. A midnight phone call answered in a sleepy fog from my teenage daughter screaming, “I’m so sorry Mommy.” The engine of her car is sheared off by a semi. Minutes later I’m standing in those metal bits strewn over an empty highway hovered in a disco of flashing lights, praying I’ll wake up from the nightmare.

And it’s not the trauma or the shock that forces the grown-up in you to sprout like Jack’s magic beans, it’s the realization that you’ve been one all along and didn’t believe it. Until God removes all the props that made the child in you feel safe. And stuck.

My husband was asleep in a hotel room thousands of miles away when I got that call. On any other day, he would be the one talking to the emergency workers, calling the shots, driving us an hour away to the trauma center behind the ambulance carrying her body strapped to a gurney. But this wasn’t any other day.

It was the day I realized I had become a grown-up. The day my daughter came within an inch of her life and walked away.

But being a grown-up isn’t just about handling the hard stuff.

Last week, I stood behind the bar in the kitchen pushing a knife through lettuce on a glass cutting board, lost in chapters of my own thinking. My daughter’s whining across the room about a homework assignment pulled the string on the bucket of thoughts dangling in the well back up to the surface. And our conversation spilled revelation all over the counter.

Wiping my hands on a paper towel, I glanced over at her legs folded at the knees like a tent, feet on the coffee table, computer in her lap and asked, “What’s wrong.”

“This test isn’t accurate,” she scoffed, “my percentage on Mathematical is low and that is my best subject.”

She was taking a computerized test, an assignment from a teacher to determine her learning style. The results made her feel misunderstood. She asked me if I wanted to take it. So I agreed.

As I placed chicken breasts in the skillet and watched grease sputter spots on the stove, she read each question. And it wasn’t the results that surprised me, it was the way I answered the questions.  Blurted fast and confident, without hesitation.

Revelation comes at the most unexpected times.

I realized that all the writing and blogging I’d done since that contest two years ago was more for me than my readers. Because not only had I become a grown-up, I’d become a grown-up who discovered her identity by practicing.

Because sometimes it isn’t the big things in life that shape us as much as the everyday clumps of faithful moments that build the nest of who we are. And one day, when you are lost in the minutiae of building your life, God does something to turn your head; a realization that the birth of who you’ve been waiting to become, is already standing in your shoes.

My essay got chosen and published at Real Simple after all. For a blog contest with the prompt asking, “Who are you most surprised to be friends with?”. That question, it was much easier to answer.

When did you first realize you had become a grown-up?


when you realize you’ve become a grown-up

by Shelly Miller time to read: 3 min