Monday, June 7, 2010

Grown-Ups

I'm reading Ruth Park's autobiography, A Fence Around the Cuckoo. In the beginning of chapter nineteen, she talks about her childhood lack of interest in growing up.

Long ago I had decided never to be an adult. This was no Peter Pan fancy; I had never heard of him. Simply, by and large, I had no high regards for adults. I looked upon them chiefly as curiosities, bound hand and foot by inexplicable rules.

I was thinking about my own childhood view of adulthood, the the other day, because Jack had been talking a lot about his future drinking life. He's excited to be at the age where he can drink alcohol. He's intrigued by all that. I don't remember ever being eager to drink. I can't really remember ANY particular longings for adulthood. I had no interest in driving. At times, I imagined myself in romantic stories. So I guess there's that. But I'm not sure I imagined myself in adult romance stories. Maybe more in my teen ones? I had career aspirations, but I think I wanted to be discovered in my youth. I had this thing about wanting to be published as a teenager. I had no interest in waiting for adulthood to get that done.
I'm guessing that my lack of aspiration in becoming an adult came from the idea that I'd have to profoundly change. The adult woman I spent the most time with was a very adult-adult. My mom is one of those women who likes professionally decorated houses, diamonds, and having regularly scheduled appointments with beauty specialists. There's nothing wrong with being this way, but it's not me. And I think I assumed that this is the way adults NEED to be, and if I don't become that way, there'd be something wrong with me.

Growing up, I had an eccentric aunt and uncle. They're NOT adult-adults. They're very much child-adults....child-adults to the extreme. Instead of making babies, they got themselves very much into the Cabbage Patch Craze. At the age of twelve, I was still playing with my Cabbage Patch Dolls. It seemed I might be on the same path of eccentric immaturity. Now I think there's nothing really wrong with that. But back then I felt ashamed. I felt like some kind of freak.

Freaky as I felt though, I continued with my imagination games. I had a sister five years younger than me, and we played together. It was somewhat embarrassing that I could relate to someone so much younger than myself....even worse when she outgrew the childish games before I did.

Anyway, at some point in my life....I realized I didn't have to stop being me at a certain age. Maybe it was my husband who helped with that. He wasn't bothered by the fact that I still slept with stuffed animals. And he loves video games. His sister was somewhat of an inspiration. She and her husband collect toys, and love comic books. For Tim's birthday, she'd sometimes send him action figures.

My parents probably helped as well. Although I think they pressured me simply by the behavior they modeled; in their actions towards me, they definitely sent the message that they accepted my child-like interests. When I was in film school, their birthday gift to me was not a nice bottle of wine or a new vase for the corner table. They bought me a giant orangutan stuffed animal.

I think the people in my life helped me realize that I could be an adult with a child-heart. There's nothing wrong with that.

What I've come to learn though is that ALL adults have child hearts within them....even my mom. She may like her perfectly painted toes, and her very maturely decorated living room. But she also loves video games, and she seemed to enjoy our family trips to Disney World.

I am thirty-seven...definitely an adult. But I still FEEL like a child. I'm not an unhappy soul trapped in an adult world. I don't think there really IS an adult world....at least not a pure one. I think of my favorite friends. Some of them have kids. Some of them have jobs. Some of them drink wine and beer. They all have had sex. They do grown-up stuff. Yet, I see them as being the same type of people I was friends with when I was five, seven, twelve, fourteen, etc. They all have a childlike quality.

So if I could go back in time and talk to myself as a child, I'd say don't worry. When you become an adult, you can still be who you are. You can drink if you want to. That's fine. And you'll likely have sex at some point. But you can still like candy shops, and ice-cream cones. You can giggle about silly things, and enjoy watching The Simpsons. You can read books about child wizards and teenage vampires. You can laugh at fart jokes and enjoy Disney cartoons. You'll find most other adults are the same way....at least to some degree.



My sisters and I with Grandma Goldie, another adult with child-like qualities.