parenting

Growing Older

Horsey girl

I was a year old, I think this was my first ride, but not my last!

I’m thinking this morning about how growing up means, in time, that you become a responsible adult. Yes, yes, I know not everyone does this process. I’ve known some who were stuck in the teen years forever. But most of us do grow up, and start making tough decisions, and taking on an adult role.

I was reading a book yesterday and enjoying it, but something stuck out to me. The main character was 63, and according to the author, an old man. This is not an age I would have picked to label ‘old’ perhaps ten years later than that, but seems to me that 63 is more tail-end of middle age these days than old. Maybe that’s because I’m hitting middle age, myself. Other than this old man fixation, the story was pretty good, although interestingly, not as much about the characters themselves as it was the story, if you follow me (and for the curious, JL Curtis, The Grey Man, reminiscent of Tom Clancy during the good years).

There are times I’d rather not be the grown-up. Being the one who takes the heat for decisions sucks. But someone has to think about the future, and prepare for it, because children can’t do that. Their brains just don’t work that way. It’s interesting, when I was studying development, to find that the human brain doesn’t fully mature until we are 25, and before that, the teenage brain is, well, as they say around here “not quite right.”

I find that this is the problem with reading a lot of Young Adult books. The characters are teens, but treated (and written) like they are adults. Sure, back two hundred years ago teens were basically adults, they fought in wars, got married, had kids, and so forth. But a modern teenager is not comparable to that. Our culture, the training and education they receive (or more like, don’t receive) is geared toward perpetual adolescence. One of the things I consciously inserted into the Children of Myth books was this teenage recklessness, and something else, that the teen thinks they know better, even at times they really have no idea what is going on.

Maybe that’s the difference between teenagers and adulthood. As we grow older, we learn to be afraid. A friend and I were talking about how scary it is learning to drive as an adult (an experience we both share) and I quipped that this is because we aren’t young and feel we are immortal. We’re old enough and wise enough to imagine everything that could happen to us, or others, hurtling down the road wrapped in a ton of steel and fiberglass. Me? I’m old enough to know better. When I was 16, I couldn’t think far enough ahead to see what was coming a decade or two down the road. Now? I dunno. I think I can plan for some things, and know that there will be turns, deadman’s curves, and bridges out with no warning. It’s scary, for sure.

I’m not taking counsel of my fears. I keep going, every day a bit older. Maybe a little wiser.

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2 thoughts on “Growing Older

  1. I find that age has little to do with how old you are. We have some nice old ladies in our church who are younger than my mother — who I haven’t allowed to be a old lady yet 😉

    Some people are old before 65, others take another decade or so.

    So, all those young people whose brains didn’t mature until 25 still managed to become adults at young ages — like Alonzo Wilder of the Laura Ingalls Wilder days. So I agree with you that it is the culture we put around our youth that creates their perpetual adolescence.

    (And Happy Birthday!)

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  2. That picture of you on the pony is one of my favorites! (Another is the picture of you nude in a tidepool!)

    I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t see the possible consequences of an action (such a time may have existed when I was very small, but I don’t remember it). I think that’s why I was afraid to learn to drive, and didn’t get a drivers license until I was in my thirties. That’s also why I never tried drugs, or did any other reckless things common to the teen years. So yes, it does come to different people at different ages. Possibly one reason is that so many kids in our culture are wrapped in cotton wool from birth, so they don’t get to experience natural consequences of their own actions, or see the serious results of consequences in other people. Also I think that the technology of our era (particularly automobiles) is inherently too dangerous for people with immature brains to be using it.

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