Kristin van Ogtrop and I are so much alike.
I mean, apart from the whole editor-in-chief of Real Simple magazine thing. And the published author thing. And the myriad speaking engagements thing.
Apart from those things, we are basically kindred spirits. She has a job; I have a job. She has kids; I have kids. Her book is called "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom" (Back Bay Books); I end every night of every week begging my children to, please, seriously, just let me lie down.
But here's the clincher: In addition to those similarities (uncanny, aren't they?), she — like me — was well into adulthood before she realized she was a grown-up.
"I have two distinct times when I finally felt like a grown-up," she told me. "One personal and one professional." (We'll get to those in a minute.)
She's actually a step ahead of me. I still spend many, many moments wondering when I'll finally feel like a grown-up.
I recently hosted a dinner party with no napkins.
"Where do you keep your napkins?" my friend asked. "I'll set them out!"
They're … um … gosh, I think I'm out of napkins! Crazy!
"Oh, that's OK! We can use paper towels."
They're … um .. gosh, I think I'm out of paper towels too!
"Oh! No biggie! Let's break out your cloth napkins!"
Yeah, so, I don't really own cloth napkins!
We used Kleenex. It was funny and, also, sad.
Am I waiting for some defining moment to hurl me into adulthood? Some stark, unmistakable sign that I am really, truly, the one in charge here?
I reached out to some people I admire — people whose lives are full of career success and family obligations and, best of all, wisdom — to ask when they finally felt like grown-ups.
"I'm grown up?" replied Dana Suskind, a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital and mom of three who, in her free time, launched a program to improve language skills among impoverished kids.
That made me feel better. But I wanted answers. She had a few.
"Hearing 'Dr. Suskind' for the first time and realizing they weren't talking about my father," she said. "Hosting my first Thanksgiving with my entire family. I had it catered."
(Good way to ensure you have napkins.)