The ticking crocodile

Daily Prompt: All Grown Up

When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

Do we ever really grow up? I think that most of us are a little like Peter Pan at heart; our grown-up-ness is just a front. Who of us does not throw an occasional snowball, or splash in a puddle or kick a pile of autumn leaves about or wish that we had never learned that Santa is not real.

Peter pan 1911 pipes
I know that I was never a Wendy; I made no attempt to be grown-up before my time.

Wendy Darling
“You need not be sorry for her. She was one of the kind that likes to grow up. In the end she grew up of her own free will a day quicker than the other girls.”
? J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Did I feel grown-up the day that I left home, perhaps – when my father pressed a fiver into my hand and left the 18 year-old me with her suitcase outside the Nurses’ Home at North Ormesby Hospital? I only recall feeling trepidation… and a  kind of triumph.

Did I feel grown-up on the day that I got married, maybe? I remember very little about that first wedding and most of it has to do with the voice in my head that said “this is a mistake, turn around and walk away…” I certainly behaved like a grown-up and I went through with it (and what a mistake that turned out to be!) No, I do not think that I felt grown-up – my parents were there and my mother was niggling at me about this, that and the other… all the things that I was doing wrong. I felt small and insignificant, not grown-up at all.

Surely, you might think, I was feeling grown-up the day that my daughter was born. I only recollect feeling numb, and nauseous.. and throwing up. I may have had an inkling of what grown-up feels like on the day that she first went to school but it was certainly fleeting, and lost behind nausea again (pregnant with #2)

The thing is, on a bad day, with maternal disapproval hanging over my head in the way that it does, I still feel like a small child; freshly spanked and sent to bed without tea. I have never really been permitted to grow up, not properly (see yesterday’s post.)

On a good day, I  feel 17 inside. I often wonder how I could have possibly reached this stage (waiting for my bus pass to arrive) when I was actually only 17 a few days ago. I still have all that hope and expectation in me; I still believe that I can achieve anything I want to, anything at all. The world is my oyster.

oysterworlsI thought a dictionary definition might help in pursuing what is grown-up and therefore whether I have ever truly felt myself to be a grown-up:


[grohn-uhp] adjective

1.having reached the age of maturity.
2.characteristic of or suitable for adults: grown-up behavior; grown-up fiction.
Origin:  1625–35;  adj. use of verb phrase grow up

Related forms:grown-up·ness, noun

OK. I got my vote in 1971. It did not make me feel grown up. Physically, I matured a few years previous to that. No, I did not feel grown-up (girl, you are a woman now.)

The second meaning in that definition may be our sticking point. In order to feel grown-up, it may be that we have to act grown-up. Can I recall a time when I behaved with all the dignity, responsibility and intelligence of a grown-up, hmm… I can recall being throwing-up drunk, that’s for sure. There were a few occasions of unprotected sex – that’s not at all grown-up, is it?  I have no trouble in remembering occasions of casting all caution to the winds and spending the housekeeping money in a highly inappropriate and irresponsible manner…

I sense a theme.

My research also turned up this highly depressing quote (the emphasis is mine):

Adults come in all sizes, ages, and differing varieties of childishness, but as long as they have “responsibility” we recognize, often by the light gone out of their eyes, that they are what we call grownup.

Jules Feiffer

(Jesting aside, the full quotation is instructive and I have included it at the foot of this post.)

I am so depressed after reading that; I think I need a lie down.

We can accept that Responsibility and behave in a responsible manner, or we can be Peter-like and choose to have fun instead. To be childish.  In truth, most individuals do not have the luxury of that choice. Responsibility is the ticking crocodile which, being in league with Time, is chasing all of us.

“Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things again.

Never is an awfully long time.”

? J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Perhaps I did feel grown-up once; when I was parenting and earning a wage, and doing all the responsible things that parents must do. It was so long ago now that I seem to have forgotten what it was like. In time, I threw off the bondage of the office and ran away – if not to actual sea, at least to a wild island – and am having fun.  I fill my days simply doing exactly what I feel like doing.  So maybe I am not quite Peter, maybe I had my Wendy Phase and then reverted. That quote from Jules Feiffer seems to explain it quite well – though I cannot say that I regard Leisure as a Problem, more of a great Privilege. I intend to wring out of it every possible moment of childish glee that I can. We are, as they say, a long time dead. I have a lot to fit in before then. On the matter of Death itself – well, I am sticking with Peter:

To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

? J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Adults have their defense against time; it is called “responsibility,” and once one assumes it he can transform his life into a set of routines which will account for all those hours when he is stale or tired. It is not size or age or childishness that separates children from adults. It is “responsibility.” Adults come in all sizes, ages, and differing varieties of childishness, but as long as they have “responsibility” we recognize, often by the light gone out of their eyes, that they are what we call grownup. When grownups cope with “responsibility” for enough number of years they are retired from it. They are given, in exchange, a “leisure problem.” They sit around with their “leisure problem” and try to figure out what to do with it. Sometimes they go crazy. Sometimes they get other jobs. Sometimes it gets too much for them and they die. They have been handed an undetermined future of nonresponsible time and they don’t know what to do about it. And that is precisely the way it is with children. Time is the everpresent factor in their lives. It passes slowly or fast, always against their best interests: good time is over in a minute; bad time takes forever. Short on “responsibility,” they are confronted with a “leisure problem.”


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    • March 6, 2013

      Thank you very much

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