At some point since you were first victimized, someone said, or maybe you just thought it, You’re just being a big baby. Let’s take a look and see if that’s really the case.
You may remember how I feel about the word just, especially when its used in a reductive manner. No one is ever just anything. It’s all a lot more complicated than just that. Somewhere on the road to reconciliation you’ve got to shed the impulse to oversimplify things. But, even if we get rid of the word just, we’re still left with the question, Are you being a big baby?
You’re a big baby when your birth certificate documents that you’re an adult, but you’re not acting like one. You’re five-foot, six, but it’s like your legs can barely reach the floor. You vote, drive, smoke cigarettes, drink, cuss, and have a bank account, a hundred-thousand in debt, a job, four kids and a wife; your skin is starting to wrinkle and sag, but you might as well be wearing diapers and sucking on a pacifier. You’re a big baby when you should’ve learned something by now, but you haven’t.
There are five signs of true adulthood. Five indications that you can stand on your own two feet and take care of yourself: responsibility, composure, civility, perseverance, and wisdom. Five things to look for; if they’re missing, you know you’re being a big baby.
Adults make their own decisions and accept responsibility for them. Babies have to be told what to do and cannot be blamed. When babies make a mess, mommy and daddy are there to clean it up.
You know you’re an adult when you realize that real people get hurt, or helped, by the actions you take. What you do has an effect. You’re willing to admit your responsibility, even if it goes badly. You’re willing to accept the consequences and you don’t manipulate others into cleaning up your messes. You clean up your side of the fence, even if the other guy hasn’t cleaned up his.
You don’t avoid responsibility by maneuvering others into making decisions for you. You don’t provoke someone into throwing the first punch and then say it’s all his fault. You don’t devalue your marriage and then pout that she divorced you. You know that, when it looks as though you’re not deciding, you’re still making a decision; you’re deciding not to decide. You can be decisive when called for, or await further study, if that’s what’s needed. An adult is the author of her own life, the originator of her own emotions. She doesn’t blame others for making her feel a certain way and she doesn’t make them responsible for feeling different. He doesn’t look for someone else to swoop in and save the day. You’re the one who swoops in and saves the day for others who cannot be expected to help themselves.
Being a responsible grownup enables you get close to others. Others can trust you, so they want you around. You get put in charge. They listen to your opinion because you have one and are willing to stand by it.
Other people are not so powerful when you’re an adult. You are their equals. You can say no. You can seek advice and let yourself be influenced by others because the final decision is yours anyway. You can change your mind when warranted. You can be flexible without losing your identity.
If you have trouble accepting responsibility, you’ll feel like a victim, you’ll be playing the victim. You’ll be angry that others don’t pick up your share. You’ll be hurt that they don’t seem to care for you. Everyone will seem so mean.
A baby needs to be soothed and comforted because he can’t do it on his own. Every setback is the end of the world. A baby cannot see the big picture or know that all things will, in time pass. To a baby, there is no time, there is only now, and, when now sucks, it sucks big time.
An adult soothes her own hurts and regulates her own anxieties, she doesn’t depend on other people or on some substance to do this for her. She’s able to sit with her feelings, cope with her pain, and even moderate her triumph if there’s a reason to do so.
You’re an adult to the degree that you’re a rock: firm, steady, and sure of yourself; but not so much a rock that you’re rigid. When you bend gracefully, take the bad with the good, and live to fight another day; but don’t bow down at every bully or blowhard that comes your way. Adults understand and practice moderation. They take the middle way. You know you’re an adult when you have feelings, but your feelings don’t run your show. You have disappointments, but not despair. You get angry, but not violent. You have fear, but you are brave.
When you can compose yourself, you may be able to enjoy alcohol, marijuana, or even the harder stuff, without needing it too much. You can appreciate, but don’t require coffee to get you up in the morning, or cigarettes or pills to get you through the day. We don’t let babies use any of those substances because they can’t handle them.
When you can regulate your own feelings and anxieties, you don’t have to be dependent on others to make you feel good. You can just enjoy people for who they are. Not needing people sets you free to love them and they don’t have to be afraid to love you. You’re low maintenance. Furthermore, when others have a bad day, you don’t have to. You can empathize with them because their feelings will not be too much for you. You can be with anyone and go anywhere. Even the most difficult, toxic people will not too much for you.
If you do not have composure, you are easily hurt. It’s like you have no skin on your body. Any little thing gets to you, people see right into you, you’ve always got your guts hanging out. If you don’t have composure, you’re constantly the victim and never get anywhere down the road to reconciliation because even the pebbles on the road bother your feet. No one can ever make amends to you without inflicting a hundred other cuts in the process.
Babies cry a lot, over the least little thing. They scream bloody murder when there is no need to. They throw themselves on the floor and have temper tantrums. They have unreasonable demands. They piss in their pants and shit everywhere. They can’t sit still in church, make a mess in restaurants, and just got to touch every fragile figurine. They can’t have nice things, you can’t bring them anywhere, because you never know what they’re going to do.
Adults may cry, they may ask for help, they might even get frustrated, but they avoid over-reacting. They can follow the rules, control their bladders, shut their sphincters, practice patience, and pay respect to others.
When you’re acting like an adult, your responses to other’s behavior is proportionate. You don’t go off the deep end. You deal with the matter at hand. You don’t bring up old wounds. You don’t have something to prove. You’re not always yelling. You don’t go to pieces over little things. There’s not nearly as much drama.
When you make a mistake, for instance, when you’ve trusted someone too much, you don’t overcorrect by not trusting at all. You avoid flying off into extremes. When others act poorly, you don’t have to. You remember that their feelings are their feelings and not yours. You practice moderation.
You’re careful about what you say and avoid hyperbole. Letting it all out scares people and the hurtful words you say cannot be retracted, so you’re careful about catharsis. You have no need to vent, or blow off steam, because things don’t come to a boil in the first place. You’re careful about how you act because what you do matters.
A baby will freeze, wrap her arms around her mother’s legs, and fail to act when needed.
You’re not acting like a grown up if you fail to react or take action when necessary. An adult can be decisive when it’s needed.
When you’re civil, other people want to be with you. They don’t have to be afraid to bring you bad news. They’ll try to solve problems with you because you’ll work with them; you won’t cause more problems. You can focus on objectives and not get distracted. Moreover, others won’t have to run when they see you coming; they don’t get sick of hearing you complain.
When you are not civil, you will often feel victimized because you’re always getting into fights. You bring out the worst in people. Nothing is ever easy with you. If they try to make it up to you, you just blow up at them, again, and you can never get past it.
A baby can’t wait for anything. When he wants something, he wants it now. He requires instant gratification. He doesn’t understand the concept of sacrificing a little now to save for later.
An adult accepts temporary hardships for the sake of worthwhile objectives. It’s natural to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but sometimes brief discomfort must be tolerated to attain better things. An adult possesses grit, determination, and endurance. She understands meaningful suffering.
People who can defer gratification do better, all the way around. They have more education and make more money. Their marriages are more stable and they have happier children. Their health is better, have more friends, and are more successful in sports. They invest more for their retirement. They are more adult.
When you practice perseverance, people will respect you, even if the objective is not important to them, but because it’s important to you.
When you fail to persevere, you will feel victimized because you cannot take the long route to reconciliation. You opt for cheap pardon or you bail out of the relationship at the least sign of trouble.
A baby has only ever been a baby; she has never been anything else. An adult once was a baby and still has vestiges of the baby she once was. A baby has no other point of view than a baby’s. He can only see things work one way, his way; anything else makes no sense. An adult can entertain multiple points of view; he can walk a mile in another’s shoes. He knows that, if there are ten people in a room, there will be ten ways of doing things and they will all, to their way of thinking, be right. You are acting like a big baby if you think there’s only one right way.
A baby can only do a few things: eat, sleep, shit, and cry. An adult can do many things. She has skills that a baby can’t imagine. If an adult doesn’t like the view in one place, she can get up and walk to another. A baby is stuck where she is, like a plant. You’re acting like a big baby if you don’t do what you can do.
A baby can’t say what she wants, she has to cry. Crying is the only way a baby has to communicate. An adult can say what she wants. You’re acting like a big baby if you don’t use your words.
When you’re wise, people will respect you for knowing what to do, what to say, and when to keep quiet. They will go to you for your discernment and trust your discretion. You’ll know a lot, but you’ll also know enough to know what you don’t know.
If you have wisdom, when you read this post, you’ll see many ways that you’ve acted like a big baby. When you admit it, you’re acting like an adult, no matter how childish you once have been. The wise person knows there’s a big baby in him; but the wise person takes care of the baby so the baby doesn’t always run the show.
When you have wisdom, you don’t put a baby in charge of things he can’t handle: you wouldn’t have a baby drive a car, conduct surgery, negotiate a deal, talk serious matters over with a spouse, handle delicate issues, or take care of the sick and dependent. No, these are matters for an adult; you wouldn’t put the baby in you in charge of these things either.
There are things babies are good at, that adults have forgotten: babies are open, playful, and eager to learn; they smile well, understand the necessity of touch, and are so gosh-darn cute. Therefore, when any of those qualities are needed, a wise adult lets her inner baby lead the way. A wise adult has many options and knows when to choose each one.
When you lack wisdom, you get victimized out of naiveté and misplaced trust. You disregard red flags and fool yourself into believing things that aren’t true. You don’t see things coming. You’re your own worse enemy.
So, there you are; the five signs of true adulthood. How did you do? I bet you found many ways that you’ve been an adult; but, I bet you also found many ways you’ve been a big baby. Remember, though: babies, even big babies, can grow up to be adults. The only difference between the two is what they’ve learned. Therefore, let this experience, the experience of getting hurt by someone you love, be a learning experience. Recognize and take charge of the baby in you.