I was spending the afternoon at the park with a friend and our children, as we engaged in the sort of desultory conversation those informal meetings lent themselves to, punctuated by trips to wipe noses and kiss scraped knees and rescue nauseated children from the merry-go-round.

We were just up to the part of the conversation where we reject each other’s supper ideas — my kids would never touch that! — when the muffled sounds from the street below grew louder. I walked to the fence surrounding the park to investigate.

Two groups of teenage boys stood opposite each other, in a scene so obvious it could have been choreographed by a film director. There were raised voices; one boy balled his fists threateningly; I heard something about a missing bicycle. One side wore black pants and neat white button-down shirts; the other, bare heads and torn jeans. Arabs. Now this was more than a standoff between bored neighborhood boys; this had the potential to erupt into real danger at any moment. One boy raised his fists and shouted. His friend held him back — for the moment. I drew in my breath sharply, then turned to my friend.

“Do you think we should call an adult?” I asked, thinking of my kind and practical middle-aged neighbor, when I was jolted by a sudden realization.

We are the adults.

And then:

The world is in such big trouble.

I suppose I thought that at some point — maybe after seminary, or after I graduated college or got my first job — I’d magically become An Actual Adult. You know, someone who understood how the world worked and what it wanted from me. How to file taxes and fold fitted sheets and parallel park. How much to tip the delivery man and how often to change the air-conditioner filters.

But the years have passed and here I am, still frantically bluffing my way through life and hoping no one catches on (or inspects my linen closets).

That’s not a socially appropriate admission, I’ve realized. Over the years, I’ve learned to fake it, to act like a bona fide adult in public. So at the grocery, I thump my melons carefully before putting them in my shopping cart, even though I have no idea what I’m thumping for. I fill out forms for taxes and medical expenses and just pray that I’m doing it correctly, never able to shake my vague fear that the government will be coming to arrest me shortly. I chime in at company meetings and hope my suggestions aren’t met with laughter or mockery. I call my son’s principal with my heart in my throat and hope that I don’t end up in detention. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 569)