On Growing Up

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I think one of the reasons that we’re so fascinated with Peter Pan is his simple and explicit disinterest in growing up.

Last night I was looking at a photo of a kid wearing his dad’s shoes and it gave me three thoughts:

  • This is adorable.
  • Kids want to be “grown ups.”
  • Adults want to be kids.

What we really want is freedom, freedom over our choices. We want to set our own schedules, activities, diet, job…everything. As kids, our freedom is limited by adults. As adults, our freedom is limited by responsibilities (sometimes including kids.)

Peter has seemingly attained the freedom we’re all seeking. He is always a little boy who can have fun – he does what he wants when he wants it, without regard to rules, responsibilities, or consequences.

Part of our musical challenges Peter’s selfishness, but that’s a story for a different day.

For now, we fight to reconcile freedoms and responsibilities. How can we balance these? It seems that tipping too far into either side causes distress.

There’s your existential tidbit for the day!


“All the boys were grown up and done for by this time; so it is scarcely worth while saying anything more about them. You may see the twins and Nibs and Curly any day going to an office, each carrying a little bag and an umbrella. Michael is an engine driver. Slightly married a lady of title, and so he became a lord. You see that judge in a wig coming out at the iron door? That used to be Tootles. The bearded man who doesn’t know any story to tell his children was once John.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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