“Don’t you wish you could just be a kid again?”
I never know quite how to respond to this question politely. My initial reaction is something along the lines of, “Fuck no, what’s wrong with you?” However, most people wouldn’t respond well to that. I might consider lying and going along with it. The question is rhetorical, after all. It’s like asking someone, “How are you?” There’s very little room for deviation from the expected answer.
“Don’t you wish you could be a kid again?”
“Yes, yes, I do. I, too, wish to frolic among the flowers and sing with birds as I oft did in my squandered, unappreciated youth.”
The truth is, though, I would never, ever want to be a kid again.
Maybe there are a few things I genuinely miss about being a kid. Birthdays, for one. Birthdays are such a big deal to kids. It’s literally a day when everything is all about you, which suits egomaniacs like myself very well. Saturday morning cartoons or, rather, the anticipation of Saturday morning cartoons. And, maybe, I miss the sense of being taken care of, of never really having to worry about the future. I miss these things in the same way people might miss an old pair of shoes. They were quite comfortable when I was using them, but they’re inadequate for my life now.
But there are several things I don’t miss about being a kid and these things overshadow the things I sometimes think I miss. Collectively, I think of these things as the various indignities of childhood, which I think is a fair name.
I don’t miss having people make decisions for me. I like to think of myself as a fully-functioning adult (this is debatable). But I am 25 with a full-time job. I decide when I go to bed, when I take showers, when I eat, what I eat, how I eat, when I wake up, where I go on weekends, when to clean the apartment, when to make my bed, and so on. I can tell you that I only make my bed when I change the sheets. I wash the dishes whenever the fuck I want and if I feel like having a goddamn pizza for dinner, then that’s exactly what I’ll have. When people talk about their apparently idyllic childhoods, they talk about the long days of summer and staying outside from sunrise to sunset. I remember having to mow the lawn every Sunday and then cleaning the bathroom.
I don’t miss people forcing me to do things I don’t want to do. This closely ties to my first item, although I consider making my own decisions to be a little more proactive. No one’s going to make me spend time with family members I don’t want to spend time with or share the toys that belong to me or go to my siblings’ boring-ass soccer games or learn how to ride a goddamn bike. I get that bicycles are part of the “kid experience” but, like camping, they are something that is simply not for me. But I don’t need to worry about bikes or football or spinach or Bachata (a terrible style of music) ever again because no one has the authority to make me care about those things anymore. As an adult, I’ve filled my life with challenges that I want to accomplish with my own goals in mind.
I don’t miss having to rely on other people. My parents were dependable… most of the time. The really important things were always taken care of: food, clothes, shelter. It was everything else that could be a shot in the dark. I remember this one time, my mom was supposed to pick me up. She was in the parking lot and called my phone, which I’d accidentally put on silent because I was leading some class discussions. Now, she also had to go coach my brother’s soccer game, so I understand her time constraint. But instead of getting out of the car and asking the front desk people to look for me (which I still think would’ve been a totally reasonable thing to do since my school was tiny), she left. I had to take the city bus home. I suppose this demonstrates her confidence in my ability to take care of myself, but I learned that relying on other people is always a risk: They’ll either do what you want (and how you want it) or they won’t. This story is just one of several. Now, though, I can pick and choose when to rely on other people, which is not very often. I have my own car and make my own schedules.
The common theme here seems to be that I like being able to do whatever the hell I want when I want to do it. This is what I think many people forget about being a kid. For some reason, all they seem to remember are the slumber parties, the summer nights filled with lightning bugs, and Saturday morning cartoons. No one ever remembers your dad calling you downstairs so that you can take the laundry back upstairs (because his legs are broken???); no one ever remembers being expected to listen to your parents’ boring friends (who can talk for two hours straight, by the way); no one ever remembers having to eat gross black beans when you’d rather have a breakfast taco. No one ever remembers how controlled and limited everything was as a kid.
And I get it. I know why parents do things like limit TV or computer time. Chores have utility; I know how to clean my apartment because I used to clean my parents’ house. My complaint isn’t with them. My complaint is with people who seem to think other people controlling their time is better than being able to control their own time. That bills are somehow worse than washing dishes. That jobs are somehow worse than mandatory bedtimes. That worrying about their own future is somehow worse than letting someone else control it.
There are a lot of scary things about being a grownup. Perhaps these scary things are what make people reflect so positively on their childhoods, casting a light so bright it banishes all the shadows. As a single adult with no kids, though, I don’t have to wait for my birthday to have everything be about me. I can make every day about me if I want. Adulthood is kind of like jumping into a pool of water. The initial plunge is shocking, but once you learn to tread, it can be a hell of a lot of fun.
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