They say you are as old (or young ) as you feel. Some people feel that one should never allow the child in them to grow old because as long as your spirit is childlike you will be young at heart. There are others who say that one should act their age – so if you are 50 and behaving like a child there is something wrong with you. In other words, one should be a hypocrite who feels one way but acts to the contrary.
Like most people I too have struggled with this hypocrisy. I feel like a kid but must act like a mature grown-up. I have been trying to figure out what about me has changed ( apart from the physical aspect ) which is different from when I was a child and really nothing comes to mind. I seem to be lumbering through the years but the spirit seems to be the same as it was when I had just started to discover this world many decades ago. I still love amusement parks, I still love to day dream just as I did when I was in school and most of all I am still full of anticipation. More than anything else childhood is about anticipation - waiting for life to unfold when we grow up. A child observes the grown-up world and wonders when they will be able to participate in it. Childhood is all about waiting for the future. Strangely enough I seem to be doing the same.
At my age people are usually done with the ‘living’ aspect of life. This is when retirement is a reality looming on the horizon and people start mentally preparing themselves for illnesses, sedentary life styles and winding down for the inevitable. I should be doing the same. That’s the sensible approach to life, but I can’t seem to shake this feeling that there are many more turn on this journey.
Probably this extended childhood is due to the fact that for my mother I am still her little girl, and for me she is still the grown up of the house. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t remember anything I tell her, I still seek her permission for even the smallest matters just as I did in my childhood. I don’t need her permission, nor does she really fully grasp the situation, but it makes me feel better.
Having a parent alive is perhaps the most important factor for a prolonged childhood. It doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as there is even one parent alive you are officially a child. By the same argument, it doesn’t matter how young they are, children who do not have any parents tend to grow-up at tender ages. They may be physically small but they carry inside them the maturity of years.
I know my childhood will not last much longer. Unlike a child who can’t wait to grow-up, childlike grown-ups can’t bear the thought of it because it means the loss of parents. We are Peter Pans who never want to grow-up. And herein lies the dilemma. On one hand I am still waiting to grow-up, while on the other I want it to continue as is.