Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Bird Poop Taught Me About Being An Adult

Last night, after David put Lucia to sleep and drifted off himself, I was thinking of the time a bird pooped on my mom's head.  I know what you are thinking: "Real deep thoughts you have in your private time, Mandi."  But I promise, this is going somewhere.  

My mom was dropping me off at school.  I must have had a dentist appointment or something because my mom had to walk in with me (normally, she just pulled up in the carpool line and I got out on my own).  Anyway, we were walking in and it just happened.  All of a sudden, my mom's hair was covered in poop.  The bird got her good.  And I remember my mom laughed about it and got a napkin out of her car and just wiped what she could out of her hair (the napkin really didn't do much good).  Then she walked me in.  

a likely offender
I don't know what happened after that - did she go home and shower or go straight to work?  But what I do know was that she handled it with such poise.  She laughed it off.  She didn't act disgusted.  She wasn't embarrassed.  She just was.  

That's what I thought adults were like - calm, undisturbed, and able to handle anything.  I think of that now and my goodness, I hope I'm not the only adult that feels the complete opposite of that!  Growing up, I always thought there was this magic age when you just had it together and yet I always seemed to never get there.  When I was in middle school, high school students were so smart and confident and sure of their future.  Then when I got to high school, I felt so awkward and unsure and self-conscious.  

I've felt like that at every step of my life.  In college, I didn't feel like a college student.  In my first teaching job, I didn't feel like a teacher.  In some ways, I've lived my entire life feeling like an imposter.  I keep waiting for someone to find out that I'm not really supposed to be there, to notice that I don't really have what it takes.  

It wasn't until recently that I realized there are many other people out there that feel exactly the same way.  No matter what they've done to get to where they are, they always second guess that that is where they are meant to be.  

I turn 27 this weekend.  But in my mind, that's impossible.  Isn't a 27 year old well into adulthood?  Yet I still don't feel like an adult much of the time.  I'm afraid of so many things.  I don't have my act together.  I never know what to do in difficult situations.  I am still so insecure.  I'm not sure I even know who I am.  I can't even tell you if I'm an introvert or an extrovert!  Clearly, I'm not really an adult.  I look like an adult.  (I'm rarely even carded anymore.  Boo.)  But I can't be one.  This isn't what adults are like, right?

Then I think back to my day yesterday.  Lucia is sick.  Again.  As I was putting her down for a nap, she suddenly sat up and puked all over our bed.  I comforted her.  I took off her clothes.  I stripped the bed and got everything into the wash.  Lucia got a bath.  I got her down for nap.  In the moment, I performed.  I did what needed to be done.  I didn't hesitate or stress.  I was an adult.  

If a bird pooped in my hair, I don't know if I would have the same good humor my mom did.  But if Lucia needed to get into school, I would walk right up the the front desk with bird poop in my hair.  To my little girl, I would look like a fearless, unflappable adult.  

Is there a way to break this cycle?  How can I teach my daughter that adults are vulnerable too so that when she is an adult she can be confident in her self?  How do I teach her that I am still learning and growing, that I'm not always confident and that's okay, while at the same time providing her with a solid sense of security? 


I'm honored to be a new contributor at Faith in All Times, a website for Catholic women struggling with infertility and miscarriage.  You can see my contributor profile here and read my first essay, "Finding God in Modern Medicine" here.


  1. You know Mandi, I don't think anyone ever really feels their age or feels like an adult. Not, really. I'm 36 and I still don't always feel my age. I know my mom has said that she doesn't really feel her age, she feels younger. I think that's a good thing. The imporant thing is if you are able to do adult things and be an adult when you need to (and obviously YOU ARE). And, I think it's good that our children see us as adults and as calm and capable and able to handle things. That makes us them feel safe and secure and that's important for a child.

  2. I think the biggest lesson is that our feelings aren't always a good litmus test of who we are. Being an adult, or being mature, has to do with putting aside our own feelings and desires to do what needs to be done to a certain extent. I'm 38 and feel like a kid playing house most days. I think it is just a part of life to feel a bit like a fish out of water. I think it is important to let them see you sweat, but still come through. And if a bird poops on your head, by all means, use a wipe. ;-)

  3. We moved into a new area and it took me a while to adjust and make new friends. My husband finally invited a family he met over for a game night, and at the end they were leaving and I said something along the lines of "I'm so glad we finally know people our age! There were a bunch of families where we used to live that were our age, instead of like, THIRTY!" They looked at me and said, "How old do you think we are?"

    They were almost thirty. Then I realized, *I am almost thirty*! I still can't believe I'm 27!!

    In my personal experience, there have been things I've needed to change… I honestly don't think my children see me as infallible. (I'm as far from it as you can get!) I think part of the way to teach them is to show them how you are changing and getting better, and apologize, sometimes, too. Other than that, I think that in a way, you were right -- that confidence and perspective comes with time; it just doesn't come in one tidal wave, it comes a little bit at a time. For everyone. :)

    In other words, I think you're doing just fine! :)

    (PS I'm an ambivert, which is a right smack in between an introvert and an extrovert! It took me a long time to figure that out. Maybe we are similar?)

  4. Because you think about it now, I'm confident you'll find ways to express these thoughts to your daughter as she grows. I'm with you on being a blend of extrovert and introvert. I love to be around people, but I also need alone time....that just means we're balanced, right? :)

    Read your article, it's beautiful and exactly where I was 5 years ago. I struggled for a long time with the more medical approach to procreation and finally decided that I had to try because not trying was a kind of choosing too....and I didn't want to choose not to have anymore kids, it had to be after I'd used all ethical/moral means that I put it to rest. I just discovered Creighton and am two months in to charting - I have an appointment with a Creighton dr next Wednesday, and I'm actually pretty anxious about it. I'll offer that up for your journey.

  5. I'm going to be 34 in May and I still feel frequently like a little girl playing "dress-up". Maybe I'll feel like a real grown-up after my midlife-crisis tattoo next year?

  6. I think most of us feel out of place a lot. But I also think kids put adults on a pedestal for a long while, so I'm not sure it's something Lucia will grasp until maybe her teen years. I've done my share of "fake it 'til I make it"--and I have no idea if that is what my mom was doing all along or not. But she was always confident in herself (at least around me), and that rubs off.


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