I Don’t Want to Grow Up

Do you remember where you were, when it happened?


What you were doing, how it felt?


When you figured out that you were going to grow up?



When we’re kids, we know, in an existential kind of way, that we’ll be adults.  One day.  In the far off, hazy, inconceivable future.  Grown-ups start, as soon as we can understand language, asking us “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  The marks on the kitchen doorjamb let us know we’re  getting taller.  The signs are all there.


But did you have a moment, one crystallizing moment, when you realized it would be happening to you?


For me, it was late August 1981.


One year of school under my belt, about to start another one.  The Sears Christmas Wish Book used to come in the mail, every August.  That year, through some bit of good luck/maneuvering, I got to the catalogue before my sister.  I took it out onto the front step, savoring every page of potential.  Even though I wouldn’t get 99 and 3/4 percent of what was on my list, I could suspend the disbelief and just enjoy.


“You know, one day, you’re going to be a grown-up.  And you won’t even like toys.”


I actually looked over my shoulder, to see who had come to ruin my life.  But no one was there.  It was me.  I’d said it to myself.

And I knew that “I” was right.


I was on borrowed time, here.  And there was nothing I could do, really.  I could hold on by my fingernails, sleep with a doll into teenagerhood.  But it wouldn’t help.  Time was going to come for me. 


I think I watched my son have his moment, yesterday.


We trekked all the way through the zoo.  Past the red pandas, not stopping for the zebras, barely giving the elephant a glance.


Headed for the pony rides.


And as we walked up to the gates, there was something I’d never really noticed before:  the height line.


The “If you are above this height, we assume you are at least a small grown-up, whose weight will crush our ponies in a most unsettling display ” line.


Even from a few feet away, I could tell he wasn’t going to make it.  He took his hat off, thinking it might help. 


It didn’t. 


“Slouch, kid!”, yells a man behind us.


My son’s face turns red.  He’s holding back tears.  He looks like he’s been punched in the gut.  He joins me on the fence, while we wait for his smaller sister’s turn on the pony to be over.


“You okay, buddy?”

“Yeah.  I just…thought I’d have more time.”




60 responses to “I Don’t Want to Grow Up

  1. awwww…that’s so sad! poor kid!!

    my oldest boy has been in a rush to grow up since the day he was born. the other day, at ikea, he was too tall to play in the kids room. for the first time in his life, he wanted to be little.

  2. I ache after reading that. *sob*

    Stupid period.

  3. My child is conveniently a “tween” and a “baby” based on the opportunity that has arisen.

    I’m not going to say this was when I accepted adulthood as I was already a parent – but when I accepted it and realized I didn’t like it was the first christmas I went home after Lady H was born.

    (not for children’s eyes)

    In my family we open all the family gifts on xmas eve. Santa presents come on Christmas Day, unwrapped, and Santa leaves the biggest and the best. The year I visited home I asked for a digital camera. I kinda knew I was getting one, but when I unwrapped it on Christmas Eve, as happy as I was to receive it, I was sad.

    I looked at my Mom and said “I thought Santa was going to bring this to me.” Santa foolishly neglected to bring me anything, cuz he thought I was too old. He did leave me a stocking though.

    I think last Xmas was the last year that Lady H will truly believes in Santa. It makes me so sad.

  4. I don’t even think I realized I had to grow up until I was about twenty years old. It STILL boggles my mind. People my age have babies. Babies, I tell you. That shit is CRAZY.

    • My mind still boggles, that I have kids. There are times when I look at them, and wonder when their parents are coming back. Because certainly, it can’t be ME who’s responsible for them…

  5. Well maybe now he can ride those big roller coasters?

    For me it was getting my driver’s license at 15. Freedom. Freedom!

    I have never stopped liking toys. In fact, last week I bought a couple of Hot Wheels with the excuse that I was going to use them to show my daughter some driving rules. Left turns and things like that. The exercise worked and now I have two tiny cars to play around with.

  6. oh that’s sad. makes me want to go out and BUY your son a pony…. hope you don’t live in an apartment Ginny. Shall I fedex one over now?

  7. I think it was also the 1981 Sears catalog that did me in… only it was Cheryl Tiegs in a bra and a funny feeling from “down there” that signaled things were changing. Looking at my life since that time, nothing has really changed. Life is still about toys and lingerie.

    When I was a kid, I used to dream about being an adult. I’d lay in bed and think about having the power to change the thermostat setting. That’s how I’d know I’d arrived… when I could walk up and change the temperature of the house and nobody could do a thing about it.

    Maybe you should slip your son a Victoria’s Secret catalog. It might help the healing.

  8. ouch. can’t pinpoint my own moment… but still feel the loss. saw my children process it along the way. and it just hurts… maybe when we’re old ladies, we’ll shrink enough to ride the ponies. and they won’t throw us and bust our hips… fucking ponies. they hate old people.


  9. I can truthfully say I have never had such a moment.


  10. That’s so sad!

    I never had a moment like that, I think. In fact, anyone who does have a moment like that has been pretty lucky. I HATED being a kid, and was always waiting for it to be over. I get happier every year, because I still think being an adult is way more fun.

    So, perversely, I’m slightly happy for every kid who ever has that moment. Because at least they’re loving being a kid.

  11. That’s tough. Poor guy. Guess it’s time to find him some real horses.
    I don’t remember the day, but I know I’ve had nightmares about growing old and dying since I was a kid. The nameless fear that wakes me in a panic attack even to this day. Where’s my teddy bear?

  12. This post made me teary. Growing up sucks. It’s painful and uncomfortable and hormone ridden. This made me project to the time when my boy reaches that cruel line. I know there’s a bright side, but from where I sit right now I don’t see it that way.

  13. Poor lil guy 😦

    I can’t really recall that feeling but I do remember always being curious what I would look like as an adult. I think I thought somehow I would look rather different.

    Meh, I think I was a better looking kid.

  14. *gulp* It was the “Yeah. I just…thought I’d have more time” that pushed me right over the edge.

  15. Though I can no longer ride the pony’s, I never grew up. Mine was more of a moment of knowing….I’m never gonna grow up! My blog is proof positive of that. This awareness was an adjustment, but I’ve come to terms with it.

  16. What a wonderful, bittersweet story. The mention of the Sear’s catalog made me laugh. I remember many days of looking through it wishing for my Cricket talking doll.

    I have three children of my own now, and I see the signs of growing up. It saddens me greatly.

  17. I didn’t realize I was a grown up until I was like 25. It sucked.

  18. Something like that happened to me when I was six. We went to Disneyland and I had apparently seen commercials for a ball-pit in Toon Town. I was so excited to go to this more than any other ride, but as I got there, I was a couple inches too tall for the room. My parents yelled at the attendant to let me play and that I wasn’t going to hurt the littler kids. As my parents told it, they got their way and I was able to have fun in the ball-pit.

    Still, there’s something bittersweet about growing up.

  19. I wish my mom was a writer. My memory might be better.

  20. My 11 year old daughter has always been horribly addicted to the Themed Birthday Celebration Merchandise Catalog which, in the past few years, I’ve gotten off the mailing list of, and hidden the ones that have snaked around my request. This catalog wants you to spend hundreds on a gott-dang birthday party. Her birthday was this week and one made it through the cancel my name list, but more crucially, made it through my censoring of the mailbox. I saw her looking at it and I winced. But then I wanted to cry when she tossed it on the floor and said “It’s official — I’m too old for Birthday Express.”

    And because motherhood is one long continuum of getting a stiff neck and shoulders from your opinion, wants and preferences going back and forth and up and down — well, I missed when she used to love it. I almost wanted to talk her into each and every party good of the dogs with big eyes variety.

    • Ugh. That one hit me in the stomach.

      (Also? I never knew of the existence of such a catalogue until right now. What’s that creaking sound? Oh, just Pandora’s box opening…)

  21. Just found your post about the school supplies elsewhere and followed it here 😉

    This totally happened to me when I was about eight years old – I discovered I was now too tall for the Ikea Ball room (even though all my friends were short enough). I protest by over-indulging in video-games in an effort to turn back time…

  22. I’ve never had such a moment. At first I thought your son was crying from embarassment that he was attempting to do something he was obviously too old/big to do and was mortified that people saw him doing something baby-ish. But what really happened is so much more mature and endearing altogether. He is waaaay ahead of me.

    • I think it was actually both, blues. Because as a consolation, they offered to let him feed a pony. But he brushed it off, like he knew he was being patronized.

  23. Mine only came last year, with my first mortgage payment.

  24. Mmm. Yeah. The ball pit line at Showbiz Pizza. I was devastated. Poor kid.

  25. Oh my gosh! I think your son might be a 80 year old poet in a child’s body. I wonder if he even realizes how universally applicable his heartbreaking little words were!

    Strange thing about aging- when I was younger, I thought I would feel more grown up by now.

    • I wonder that all the time, Jillian. Completely unprompted, he once told me that he was “a senior, inside of a kid’s body.” I don’t think this is his first time around.

  26. A couple of these involve ball pits. The first time I ever saw one, at Chuck E. Cheese, I was already over the height limit. I hated it, because it looked fun, but the real heart breaker for me was the air castles. The giant inflatable whatevers where you get in and jump around. I was always tall for my age and it was so awful seeing kids my age and older having so much damn fun, because seriously, what is more fun than just jumping and hurling yourself around with no fear of injury? I still miss those.

  27. i feel the exact same way right now…

  28. Mine came late. I think it was when I came to school this year dressed up everyday in October….and no one else did. I told them it was because this was my last Halloween ‘as a kid’ and they all looked at me like I was crazy because I’m 17, and I was on the fast track to graduating (I graduated in November).

  29. I found this from googling “I dont want to grow up”… And it made me tear up, cuz when I was a kid I had it in my head that Id never age past 21. I havent allowed candles on my cakes since I was 15. 22 was traumatic for me because it HAPPENED… I STILL dont want to grow up and avoid it wherever I can. (Which is why I still dont have a bank account, lol. Cash is easier to be in denial about!)

  30. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    My main “realization” came when I was 17, but let’s back track a bit. Like most kids, I looked forward to summer vacation every year, so I could relax and not have to worry about school work. As an introvert (I had friends, but I enjoyed my alone time) and night-owl that slept until late morning/early afternoon, I tended to play video games in my pajamas until around dinner time and then change (sort of pointless). If I didn’t have plans with friends (it did happen despite my introverted nature), I watched movies all night and repeated the process. Anyway, this came to a screeching halt when I decided to take Honors English instead of the regular English course for my Junior year. This particular course (which is the prerequisite for the Senior year A.P. English course) required work over the summer. I had to read two novels and complete various assignments, which were both due a couple of weeks before school started again. As I stayed up late reading these books (“Grapes of Wrath” and “The Great Gatsby, fantastic works) and spent my mornings and afternoons working on my assignments, I thought to myself that this is what REAL adults feel like. Granted they’re not doing school work, but, as adults, we do not get a summer vacation from work. I did make time for fun as I finished my work ahead of time, but that summer really brought me back to Earth from my free-flight of movies and video games. Since then, I’ve lost interested in video games, but my interest in film (artistically speaking) has grown exponentially.

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