The Peter Pan Principle

When you’re young, everyone asks you what you want to be when you grow-up. A fireman, a teacher, a doctor, a train-driver – perhaps that’s how kids see the adult world. As a job, a series of labels.

As a child, if you’re lucky, grown-ups are safe and comforting, they provide money, food, warmth, security. They give us everything, teach us everything, mean everything. Surely then – they know everything?

My first proper “business meeting” was a complete con. There I was, thinking lacquered boardroom tables, power suits and commanding, take-charge types to took decisions and Made Things Happen. So it was something of a shock to realise it was all a little more cobbled together than that. That really, most people don’t actually know all that much about what they’re talking about, that even having an agenda is a rare treat, and that really, there’s an awful lot of hot air gusting about. It’s a sad day when you finally realise that most grown-ups are really just like you – complete and utter frauds. Big kids who still feel 15 and don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

But has it always been like that? Or is today’s society of gaming for “kids of all ages” (meaning adults, of course), 24/7 entertainment, dumbed-down media and uber-rich celebrity envy slightly to blame? Have we stopped growing up?

As a child you think of grown-ups in one of two ways. Like your mum, or like your dad. Real people who do real jobs and don’t let you down (if you’re lucky, of course) Those men and women going off in suits to the office, it was inconceivable that they’d actually be sitting at those high-powered computers in front of those high-powered office windows tweeting about their lunches, checking Facebook or having a cheeky race or two with that bloke in accounts who’s really just a big kid too and goes to sci-fi conventions every month. Yes, the Finance Director, that’s him.

It’s a funny thing – when I’ve known someone since childhood, that’s how I see them forever. Only when I have met someone as an adult can I see them as a proper grown-up. Perhaps that’s why parents have such a hard time taking their kids seriously.

Parenthood should perhaps have been the final thing to make me realised I’m not just a shy, ineffectual, unrequited child anymore. It should. But like nearly all parents I know, we’re all still waiting for someone to come and tell us we’re not qualified for the job. Sometimes I see or hear myself and realise I am putting on a pretty good show of it, this grown-up lark. I accept my responsibilities as a mother and I don’t resent any of the sacrifices, if that’s what they are. I’m not sure if that makes me grown-up or not. But since no-one else really seems to either – it’s just going to have to do for now.

Signs that you’re really a grown-up

– You start thinking you ought to have shorter hair

– You huff and moan about the washing up / laundry / ironing / food shopping / cooking – but you still get on and do it

– You never run out of essential food

– The local older kids shuffle out of the playpark in their hoodies when you go in there with your kids

– You put your own needs and wants and impulses to one side for the good of your family

– You stop being ungrateful to your parents and realise how much they did for you

– You stop finding crude jokes and slapstick quite so funny (OK, this one’s more for women. Some women.)

– You realise you probably should have worked a bit harder at university and wish you’d spent a bit more time in the library (or is that just me?)

– A year feels really short

– You start not hating the idea of being a grown-up

What are your criteria? Please share…

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~ by DelightingintheDetail on January 7, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Peter Pan Principle”

  1. Yeah, definitely not a grown up by those criteria. I *have* cut my hair short, but hate it because I feel middle-aged with it like that – and yes, I am scared of the idea of growing up. I may grow old, but I don’t think I shall ever actually grow up …

  2. And of course, my view of adults above is a very privileged one, having grown up in a pretty idyllic childhood situation. I know adults are not so comforting for many less fortunate children. But I had to start somewhere! I think I’m just wondering whether being a “grown-up” means being boring and stuffy – or just responsible, fair, and decent.

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