Slices of Life: Growing up

Adulthood is awarded to you on your 18th birthday. Growing up is a process.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

Editor's note: Jill Pertler is off this week. This is a classic column first published in 2015.

Blowing out 18 candles on your birthday cake is a huge milestone. It happens in an instant. You are an adult! As such, you can vote and get married. You can serve in the military, get a tattoo, go to a casino, donate blood and get called for jury duty. You can even win the lottery (because you are finally old enough to buy a ticket).

Even though you can do all these things (and more) being 18 does not make you a grown-up.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand with some of my own kids. They are young adults and independent in so many ways but they are not yet grown-ups because being an adult and being a grown-up are two different things. One is immediate and automatic, the other is not.

A grown-up has the ability to discern a running toilet from anywhere in the house. This is accompanied by the inability to ignore a running toilet from anywhere in the house — even and especially at 2 a.m. An adult flushes and doesn’t give it a second thought or listen.



  • Slices of Life: What is your default? In our preoccupation with the clouds, we forget one critical factor. We forget the default.
  • Slices of Life: Making new plans

When you are an adult, you eat when you are hungry, whatever time of the day (or night) that might be — even and especially at 2 a.m. When you are a grown-up you anticipate other people’s hunger more than your own.
When a grown-up sees a police car in the rearview mirror he experiences a sense of security. An adult breaks out in a sweat and hopes he wasn’t speeding — again.

Adults have been known to lie about their age by increasing it. Grown-ups have been known to lie about their age by decreasing it.

Adults pay the rent; grown-ups pay the mortgage. Adults have jobs; grown-ups have careers. Adults stay up way past midnight; grown-ups attempt to stay up past midnight when they are waiting for their adults to return home. Adults wake up late on a Saturday morning; it’s the perfect time to catch up on sleep. Grown-ups see the weekend as a perfect time to catch up on yard work.

Grown-ups cut the cheddar on the cutting board. Adults cut the cheese wherever they can. Grown-ups secure the bread bag with the twist tie after making a sandwich. Adults aren’t aware there is an actual purpose for a twist tie.

Adults put their dirty dishes in the sink. Grown-ups rinse their own dishes along with whatever other dishes adults have left in the sink, put them in the dishwasher, run the dishwasher and return two hours later to unload it.

When you are an adult, the best part of the holidays is getting presents. When you are a grown-up, the best part is giving them.

Adults do not consider it out of the ordinary to watch an entire season of “The Walking Dead” on Netflix in one day. Grown-ups watch one episode each week. They are aware there is a way to buzz through commercials, but that seems like a lot of work.


Adults run to the grocery store to grab something for dinner — usually from the frozen foods section. Grown-ups go to the store with a list and spend a considerable amount of time contemplating produce and whether organic really is worth the extra money.

Grown-ups keep an accurate budget of spending and income. Adults say, “Budge-what?”

Adulthood is awarded to you on your 18th birthday. Growing up is a process. For some of us, it is a never-ending one. I’ve always said, “Growing up is realizing there is no such thing.” If this is true, none of us will ever be completely done growing up. I kind of like that thought.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

Related Topics: FAMILY
What To Read Next
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
"In the end, legislators are confronted with twin tasks: discerning and then pursuing the common good, and finding enough common ground with colleagues and the public at large to make progress possible," writes Lee Hamilton.
"I experienced two epiphanies a week apart that made me realize that far too many people see their faith lives and the rest of their week as distinctly separate," Devlyn Brooks writes.