Tuesday, 31 July 2012

When do you think you

"grew up" or "became an adult"?  At twenty one or (if you are younger) at eighteen? Was a birthday enough to make you think you were now an adult? Did it change things for you?
Tbe question was put to me yesterday after a piece appeared in our state newspaper about how and when people start to feel "grown up" or "adult". The article itself was rather interesting. I wonder how accurate it was because I know that newspapers tend to get things wrong as often as they get them right.
There was a suggestion that if you are poor you will grow up more rapidly. If you leave school and get a job and take on the associated responsibilities you will feel you become adult more quickly.
Students were said to feel they grew up more slowly. They were more likely to be financially dependent.
My youngest nephews are still students. I doubt they would say they are completely grown up even though they have just spent six weeks in Europe. (Europe survived and so did they.) It was a "growing experience" for them but they have come back to study, part-time employment and the usual round of household and family activities. They live at home. They have always lived at home.
I went away to school in my teens. It was a miserable experience. Did it make me "grow up"? No. I grew further away. I became more independent but I kept being dragged back and put back in the box marked "child" whenever I returned home. It was confusing and disturbing.
Later I had a job in a boarding school. It was much the same there because I was still a student as well. I was also a "junior housemistress" but I was only a year older than the girls I was supposed to be looking after Monday to Friday evenings. At weekends I was expected to be very grown up because I went off to work at a residential nursery school for the deaf. In both places I was told what to do by others - but told in quite different ways.
If I grew up at all I think I grew up when I left Australia and went to London. I was on my own at last. I could, within the limits of the university course I was doing, do as I wanted to do. Life was still regulated by the timetable at university and life in the hall of residence. I had money only for the bare necessities and no time for exploring the way I had hoped. What I did have was the freedom to make some choices for myself  - even if it was just the freedom to decide whether I needed to wear a raincoat or not or whether to eat muesli or cornflakes for breakfast. (No, I never ate cornflakes!)
But I was hauled back yet again and attempts were made to shut me into the box which said, "Not-yet-adult" and "Not-capable-of-caring-for-herself".
It was a battle until my mother died. My father still sees me as a child - his child - but he sees all his children this way.  I suspect all parents feel this way.
I think though being adult means taking responsibility for oneself and others. It is important to, in time, become adult. 
Whether it is important to grow up though may be something different. There are times when my father is not very grown up in the sense that he still enjoys the company of very small children, the games they play, the stories they like and so on. He can also enjoy serious conversation with an adult. He finds both things stimulating.
When I was asked about being and adult or "growing up" I thought about this. My father gets a lot of fun out of life. I think it's a good example to follow.
I don't think I want to "grow up" as such but I would like to be adult enough to continue "growing out" .

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