Grow Up. But Not So Fast

Before my father passed away some years ago, he told me that he was happy to see me finally grow up.  He said he was proud of me.  I knew what he meant.  I had grown up, but I didn’t mean to.

My father waited a long time to see me “grow up.”  I was poster child for a generation of slackers, Generation X.  After a prolonged college experience, ahem, my late twenties was spent in a series of dead-end jobs.  I didn’t want a “career,” I wanted jobs for money.  I needed money so I could hang out with my friends and pay the rent on a dingy basement apartment.  And when money got tight, I could always ditch the rent and stay in my old room at my parent’s house.  I took advantage of this several times.  My parents didn’t care for this arrangement, but it was good for me. Whatever, ya know?

Eventually I got a better job, a job that seemed like it could be the beginning of a career, but it was just a better paying job to me.  I hadn’t really grown up, but at least I could steadily afford my own place now.  To some, that may have seemed like growing up but it wasn’t.  I was now just a slacker with furniture.

I did reasonably well at my job and I kinda liked it.  But a job was just a job.  I could take it or leave it, but since I liked it, I kept it.  But as it always was, it was about me.  I would keep the job as long as I felt like it.  If it got boring or they hassled me, I could just leave.  Whatever I wanted.  Whatever, ya know?

Then I met a beautiful girl and we got married.  That sure seemed like a grown up thing.  Tux.  Limo. Church. Honeymoon.  All very grown up, except I wasn’t.  Marriage was great and my new wife was great and it all made me happy.  But my vision still didn’t perceive much beyond then end of my own nose.  But who cared?  I was happy.  Whatever, ya know?

And then we had a baby.  And that was great too.  But different great.  This little critter needed me in a way I had never been needed before.  She depended on me for everything.  Everything.  My job was not just a job any more.  I couldn’t just take it or leave it.  I needed it because she needed it.  And my wife needed me in a new way too.  It wasn’t all roses and it didn’t always make me happy, especially at 3AM.  But they needed me and I loved them, and that was more important than me.  Something was more important than me.

That is what my father saw.  That change.  The “something more important than me” change.  That is when I grew up.

Saturday night that same baby sat on the couch next to me, along with the other children, watching Peter Pan.  And this 11 yr old baby asked me why the director had the same actor playing Mr. Darling and Hook.

I asked, “What is Wendy afraid of?”

“Growing up.”

“And what, more than anything else in her life symbolizes growing up?”

“Her Father.”

“Yes.  Sooooo?”

“Oh, so since she is scared of growing up and she is scared of Hook, they use the same actor as a symbol?”


After watching a few more minutes, I saw my daughter’s eyes narrow and then widen.

“Dad!  The whole thing.  The whole story, Peter Pan, is all a metaphor about the fear of growing up!  About caring about something more than yourself!”

“Yes!  Wow.  You’re right.  I am very impressed.  You know what?  I think that you are really growing up.”

As the movie came to a close, she was still basking in the glory of her realization and my compliments and wanted to discuss it some more. 

I asked her, “Even though Peter chose to stay in Neverland, do you think he grew up at all?”

Before she could answer, my 8 yr old boy on his way to the bathroom casually answered for her.

“Yes.  He grew up some when he learned how to love.”

They grow up so fast these days.