Growing up I was not just the youngest kid in my household, I was the youngest kid of the entire family. Add to that the large age gap between my siblings and me and it meant I spent most of my time with people a lot older than me. Of course there was the lovely circus-themed daycare Mom enrolled me in so I would learn to play well with kids my own age. We can’t forget Big Top – believe me I have tried.
I loved playing with all my little friends, but I also liked hanging out with the grownups, and it was a trait that stuck with me. In high school I was that weird kid who left lunch to get to my math class five minutes early cause I thought my Calc teacher was fun to talk to (until he started talking about Calculus that is). Okay that makes me sound way, WAY more pathetic than I actually was. I hope.
Always being the youngest also meant that I was never responsible for anyone and no one was ever looking up to me. Hanging out with the grownups gave me the chance to (at least pretend to) operate on an adult’s level now and then without actually having to take on any adult responsibilities.
So it’s been quite a new experience hanging out with my cousins the Chapmans. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m the adult, and they’re the kids. I’ve learned the difference is a lot more subtle with teenagers, especially ones as mature as them. When I’m with my nieces and nephews I naturally go into my fun-yet-responsible mode, but it doesn’t seem to kick in automatically with the Chapman kids. It’s easy to forget that I should be watching what I say around them. I should be setting a good example for them. I should be asking their parents before making plans with them. I should not be teaching them how to watch TV shows online in a way that’s probably technically illegal. I should not be repeatedly encouraging them to have movie theater popcorn for dinner.
Instead all I usually manage to do is channel my inner child. Tonight as I sat and chatted with two teenagers I think I regressed about 10 years. I mentioned it to their dad and his response was “Yeah you do that every time you’re with us.” It makes me wonder if they’ve ever even met the 25-year-old me.
I think it has a lot to do with the fact that hanging out with them has such a family feel to it. Sitting around their kitchen table, I jump right back into that youngest-kid-amongst-the-adults role. It’s a great way to remember the joys of being a kid for a few hours without actually having to go back to high school (cause let’s be honest, none of us want to do that).
Sometimes it’s also a good reminder on the benefits of being a quasi-grownup. Like being able to determine for myself that oreo cheesecake is always a good life decision. Especially if it’s made by one of those very talented Chapman teenagers. If only I could regress my metabolism as well.