I often hear people talk about missing the days of childhood when life was simple. I don't know where they get the idea that life was simple as a child. Maybe that's true for them, but I remember childhood very differently.
8 Things That I Like Better About Being an Adult Than Being a Child:
1. I get to do whatever I want. All the time. Yes, I have to live in a system that has boundaries (like I need to do things to make money in order to be financially independent and thus have personal freedom), but I get to decide how I want to navigate that system. When I was a kid, I didn't have the final say in any decisions. For instance, my parents would force me to play a sport (I think because they wanted me to get exercise), even though the pressure of being on a team and the embarrassment of not understanding sports and lacking coordination made this an extremely uncomfortable experience for me. This kind of thing happened all of the time. Maybe if I had adult-level communication skills, I could have convinced them not to, but I didn't because I was a kid. Now, as an adult, if something makes me extremely uncomfortable (and isn't worth it to me), I can just choose not to do it. Like dissecting a pig in college biology lab. Fuck that shit.
Also, when there are things that I really want, like a kitten, rather than being confined by my parents' wishes, I get to decide whether or not it's worth it to me to put in the work to make that happen. Last year I really wanted a kitten/cat, so I fostered a cat that needed a home, it was great, but then I figured out that I didn't want to have the responsibilities of having a cat, so I gave him to a better home (ilu Catito), and I no longer have to live optionlessly with the burning desire to have my own kitten.
"I would rather have brain surgery again than get another cat." -My dad
|Catito xoxoxo [Photo credit Molly McGuire, Catito's new loving caregiver]|
2. Making a joke at my expense is considered rude. Sometimes when I see adults talking with a kid, one of the adults will be like, "What's your favorite book? Infinite Jest?"* and the adults laugh because it's funny to think about a kid reading a really long, difficult book, and the kid feels awkward and alienated because they don't know how to respond when they don't understand the joke (at least that's how I felt when this happened to me as a kid). They're thinking, "Is Infinite Jest not a book? Is it an erotic novel? Is it a baby book?" and each of these options would have a different appropriate response. Should I scoff and say, "Nooo."? Should I blush and yell, "NO!"? If someone made this kind of joke about something I didn't know (and didn't make up for it by then warmly explaining it to me), the other people around would probably be concerned about my feelings, and they might think the jokester was being an asshole.
*Not a real example from my life.
3. I don't have to rely on others for transportation. Not being able to get places on my own was the worst! I'd be in love with some guy from the next town over and my parents would only let me see him once a week, because they had to drive so much to get me to his house. If he lived half an hour away, they'd drive half an hour there to drop me off, then back, then a few hours later they'd do it again to pick me up. So that totals 2 hours of driving in one night, and they don't get anything out of it for themselves. Now I get to decide whether travel time is worth it to me to see people, so I don't have any tragically under-fulfilled relationships where I only get to see the person 1/7th of the amount that I want to see them.
|Feeling the freedom of independent transport|
4. People are almost never blatantly mean to me. Every once in a while, some asshole driver will beep at me when I'm on my bike doing nothing wrong, but that doesn't compare to how kids make fun of other kids all of the time. I didn't even experience much bullying; I probably did more bullying than received it (sorry to anyone I might have hurt). But people being mean to me was way more common in my childhood than it is now.
5. It's not considered acceptable for people to belittle my feelings. I remember sometimes when I was extremely upset or frustrated as a kid, my mom would be like, "You're just tired. Stop being cranky!" and I would be like, "NOW SO MUCH MORE UPSET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Maybe I was being tired and cranky; I don't know, but I definitely was having some real and intense feelings, and other people refusing to acknowledge them was beyond frustrating. As an adult, even when I'm PMSing and my emotions are completely unreasonable and over the top*, whoever I'm with will just give me a hug and be respectful. They might even say, "Do you think that you might be more upset about this than you'd normally be because of your period?" and if I don't think so, I can say, "No, this thing I'm upset about is a big deal for me," or if I think it might be that, I can say, "Probably," and the person is still compassionate about the fact that I'm having difficult feelings. And if people do belittle my feelings, I don't have to keep hanging out with them. Or I can say, "I feel like you're belittling my feelings," and they'll think about it.
*Though this is my experience of PMS, many women do not have intensified emotions before/during menstruation.
6. Being cool is less important and less clear cut. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be popular, but I was too weird. I went to school with the same group of kids for my entire childhood, so they all knew I wasn't cool. They remembered all the weird stuff I did, like chasing other kids around at recess in an attempt to hug them. (I would give more examples of why I wasn't destined to childhood popularity, but I suspect I repressed some memories, because I'm having trouble coming up with them.) But now I'm not stuck in a small community where everyone knows everyone else, so there are plenty of people who don't have preconceived ideas about whether or not they should like me. Also, in the general community of Boston, ideas about what is cool and what isn't are a lot less stringent than they were in my grade in the Easton public schools. Now a lot of the things that made me seem weird before can be seen by some people as endearing quirks. "Oh you love dogs and want to talk about how much you loved your now dead dog all the time? How sweet. I'm vegan."
7. Embarrassment isn't usually as bad. I remember being so unbearably embarrassed as a kid when embarrassing-type things would happen, like I'd accidentally wave at a person who was really waving at someone behind me. But in recent years, I figured out that when I'm feeling embarrassed, I can say to the person I'm with (often the person I'm feeling embarrassed in front of), "I'm embarrassed." This pretty much always prompts them to say, "You don't need to feel embarrassed! It's just me!" Saying it out loud helps me to remember that embarrassment is just a feeling that happens sometimes and that's okay. And talking about it reminds me that the person I'm talking to also gets embarrassed sometimes, and they can relate to what I'm feeling. Also, my concept of myself is more developed now than it was when I was a kid, so it's not as fully defined by what others think of me.
8. I don't have to hang out with my parents all of the time. Even when I was young enough that my parents still seemed like the coolest people ever, they didn't have nearly enough energy! I'd be like five years old and ready to climb and entire mountain and they'd be like, "I think now might be a good time to turn back," and I'd be like, "I want with my entire being to continue climbing this mountain for at least as long as we've already been climbing it," and they'd be like, "No, we're too tired." And then I got older and was annoyed with my parents all of the time because I was an angsty teenager, but I still had to be around them for a significant amount of time every day because I needed them to feed me and drive me places, and I lived with them. Now I get to choose how much to see them, and if they're driving me crazy, I can just leave.
I don't think I had an especially difficult or troubling childhood, but I like being an adult so much better! How about you? Do you long for childhood?