Tags

, ,

 

Wearing the right clothes; carrying the right handbag, look I’m an adult…

When I was about seven, I thought if I had a handbag, a shiny red one preferably, I’d be a grown up woman.

A little after that when playing with Barbie dolls, my sister and I agreed that since they lived alone and had a split-level apartment, they were real women.

At about twelve, I thought make up would do it. Between about 15 and 18, I was sure that if I had a car and could drive, then I’d be grown up.

Oddly enough, I never considered children to indicate ‘grown-up-ness’. Part of my inherent immaturity no doubt.

What can I say? I’m what any rational young person would call grown up, yet I promise I don’t feel any different.

These days, I play the piano, knit a little (a very little), cook nice things to eat, garden a little and sometimes put a pair of heels and make up on and act all grown up in a bar or restaurant.

So what makes us adults?

Yes, having children is a sort of ‘adulthood landmark’. But not just giving birth to a baby. (“I gave birth. I’m now all grown up.” Ha!)

Now, I can say with an almost biblical oath that paying bills, dealing with organisations and councils and agents and other grown-ups (who are usually much more grown up than I am) comes close to defining an adult.

Yes, having children is a sort of ‘adulthood landmark’. But not just giving birth to a baby. (“I gave birth. I’m now all grown up.” Ha!)

The ensuing physical challenges (fatigue, stamina, mental agility all under the shadow of severe sleep deprivation); social and moral dilemmas, the choices where you don’t know what the outcome might be for another human life you adore until about fifteen , twenty or thirty years down the line; the shaping of answers to difficult questions, these begin to define the adult I believe. Because they rely on self-knowledge and introspection. Without those, we’re barely human.

…I’ve been confronted with children who have asked me how I am, asked about my own child’s exam results, asked about my husband… What?! Go and play little one!

So what is it I see these days? A disturbing phenomenon. Infantadults. And of course, the other symptom: Babies in Adult Bodies!

In the last three days, I’ve had encounters with children (yes, persons of 8, 12 and 13 are to my mind most definitely children) who’ve been shoved into adult roles and have (obviously) not done it with finesse, elegance or actual knowledge.

So I’ve been confronted by children who have asked me how I am, asked about my own child’s exam results, asked about my husband… What?! Go and play little one!

The parents would define themselves as ‘professional’ and ’mature’ I think, yet somehow they relinquish parental duties and hand them over to their children. It more than bothers me. I find it unsatisfying and insulting. And I find myself having adult conversations with little ones who have only just learned to tie their shoelaces, ride a bicycle or tell the time. As you’d expect, I have a theory…

Like enormous toddlers – unfit to govern themselves or anyone else.

The parents of these precocious little darlings (late-thirty-early-to-mid-forty-somethings) had career parents. So as little ones they had to take on responsibilities: Get themselves to school in the morning. Let themselves in after school by the time they were six, look after Mummy and Daddy because they were exhausted after a day’s work; answer the phone, do little errands… These little people were all grown up by fifteen. Precocious, resentful and burdened with the weight of a childhood lost too soon for no good reason.

So what do they do? They partner up and have their own wee ones. ‘Aaaah’ they think, ‘another few years (let’s say five) and I’ll have someone to take care of me: my children!’ On it goes…

My heart breaks for them even though these arrogant, little know-alls are immensely annoying.. Like enormous toddlers, unfit to govern themselves or anyone else. But at the start, quite beside themselves with the honour of being thought grown up. That’s the child in them: Mummy and Daddy say I’m grown up because I can answer the phone. Yeah, Mummy and Daddy are outsourcing their duties, dearie.

Their future? Much the same as their giant, media-fed neurotic child-parents. Be a grown-up at seven, get a job; partner up; breed; spend six months being a parent (maybe); offload their young onto another organisation; treat them like adults by the time they’re in first school… And let society deal with the fallout. Aggravating but ignorant people.

Real children are charming: fully formed adults can be fascinating. A messy combination of the two is just trouble lying in wait.

Santana had a song, Let the Children Play. Maybe someone will redo the theme with Get the Children to Work or something.

One last word: please keep your young people away from me unless they behave in an age-appropriate manner and at nine years old are knowledgeable about climbing trees, playing chase, making huts, fighting, dressing dolls, making weapons out of sticks or chasing around the neighbourhood armed with tubs of water.

Real children are charming: fully formed adults can be fascinating. A messy combination of the two is just trouble lying in wait.

Advertisements