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Peter Pan or Wendy?

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
— J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)

∞ ∞ ∞

This week’s Query is about being an adult…or not being an adult…  Well, it’s hard to tell.

Click the link below to see how people answered this question:

How do you know when you’re an Adult?

Like all the other Queries, this is pretty much up for debate and interpretation.

Is it responsibility for a human other than yourself?  Or is being responsible for yourself enough to tip the scales from childhood to adulthood?  And does that mean responsibility for yourself financially or emotionally or physically, or all of the above?  Is it putting the non-essential pursuits on the back burner, the ones that don’t put food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head?  The answers are a little different for everyone.  And I have to wonder, is there even such a thing as grown up?

Of course, there are people who seemed to have been born as adults.  Maybe that’s just my perception because they’re a bit more serious, or more driven or ambitious than I am.  On the other hand, there are people who never seem to grow up at all.  Again it’s perception: daring or reckless? care-free or irresponsible? fun-loving or immature?  It depends on what side of the Or Fence you’re on, doesn’t it?

The thing is, I still like to carve pumpkins, and I get excited at the thought of Halloween candy.  And Christmas presents, both the giving and the receiving.  And puppies…swinging on a swing…and going down a slide if the occasion calls for it.  Okay, even if the occasion doesn’t call for it.

Oh, and Pixar movies, Harry Potter, fireflies, ice cream cones, Scooby Doo…

I think some things are just who we are, and not about whether we’re an adult or a child.

Peter Pan was a kid through and through.  Wendy went all the way to Neverland, and naturally took on the role of mother.  You just are who you are.

Who are you?

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well, I suppose there are times when I feel like I do the adult, mature, responsible thing–like paying bills and caring for elderly parents. But I really, really, really refuse to fully grow-up! Like you I want to keep playing and seeing with the wonder of a child, delighting in all the little things of nature and life.

    In The Little Prince, adults do not really see things–they change and become stodgy and forget about wonder and imagination. So I will keep my own little montra: I am not a grown-up, I am not a grown-up, I am not a grown-up. . . . .

    July 12, 2011
    • Haha – that’s a good montra! I think it’s all a state of mind. We can be adults, with adult responsibilities, but we don’t have to grow up in that stodgy sense.

      “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!”

      My body may not let me, but my spirit is clambering up there among those upper branches.

      July 12, 2011
  2. You summed it up for me: “I think some things are just who we are, and not about whether we’re an adult or a child.”

    I like that you said “some things” instead of simply, “You are who you are,” because I think who you are certainly changes, but does it ever change entirely? That sounds like a strange question… How could you change entirely and still be yourself? You’ll find that I’m about to talk in a lot of circles here…

    I know people who seemed like adults from an early age. LIke you said, they were serious, or they understood things that usually only adults understand simply because they’ve lived longer and accumulated more experiences. Some people have what we call “old souls.” But does that make them adults? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I suppose. Or I guess it’s more complicated than that.

    A lot of kids are much wiser than their parents, yet they do certain things that identify them as kids. They make mistakes that are almost predestined because to avoid making them requires first making them at least once.

    A lot of adults struggle their entire lives with problems and questions that beset them when they were toddlers. I know I do. I think that’s the part of me that is me, and that won’t change easily. So what makes me an adult and what made the toddler version of myself a kid? Maybe it’s inhibition. I can suppress better now what I couldn’t so easily control when I was younger. So here cognitive development and just plain experience would be factors. I was an easy kid, but I still acted on impulses and fear and confusion more then than I do now–I think! Sometimes I still act on these things in ways that aren’t ‘adult-like.” All around me I see other adults doing the same thing all the time.

    I was just thinking about how our definition of adulthood has changed over time. Not long ago a kid would be expected to do adult things, like work the fields, or work in the factory, bring home money to support the family. Society did less to protect kids and create a space for them to be children. Now, we do more. We invest in each kid more because we have fewer of them on average. We delay responsibility. Also, children have a world apart from adults now that is larger and more autonomous (I think) than anything they had in decades and centuries past. They have their own culture and they define themselves against their parents through what they do with their leisure time, what they buy, who they hang out with (usually other kids). They have power. They don’t work alongside adults in fields. They don’t hunt or collect berries. They spend most of their time in situations where they outnumber adults by thirty to one, or where adults (defined as 18+) are nowhere to be found.

    Not long ago (a century, a little more?) kids themselves had kids pretty regularly. It still happens, but it isn’t the norm. So that’s another thing to consider.

    Also, what was the average life-span a few hundred years ago? Thirty? Forty? There wasn’t as much time to be a kid and then be an adult, and fewer people had the opportunity to spend decades being an adult, long after their children had begun their own families. So life-span is another factor.

    Well, that’s no answer to your question! But it’s a great question and I think it’s actually a pressing one in this day and age.

    July 13, 2011
  3. Haha – you’ve given me more to think about! I hadn’t considered about the roles we play, based on when and where we’re born, but it’s decidedly a factor. I kept thinking about Little House on the Prairie as I read your comment. Laura Ingalls married at about 16 or 17, I think, and started having children soon after. She was living with strangers and teaching school by the time she was about 15. She was a child, and she felt like a child, she had a child’s ideas of what is fun, a child’s exuberance . And yet she also had adult responsibilities. It was a different life altogether.

    And similar things are going on today. My nephew is in that in-between world, where he has a job in which he is expected to conduct himself like an adult; he has a car, so he is enjoying the next level of freedom with that. But he still seeks his parent’s advice and counsel, he still relies on them for emotional support and guidance. Hell, I still do that with my parents.

    Anyway, a lot of good points you’ve made. I’m feeling old tonight – or maybe just tired – or I’d say more interesting things 🙂 . Or at least one interesting thing, lol.

    July 13, 2011

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