I think I will be found out one day. I don't know when it will happen, but I'm sure that it will, because it's glaringly obvious that I am a child in an adult's body. Sooner or later someone important will be informed and I will be removed from my children, who I am not responsible enough to take care of, and I will be taken to a place where I can finally be made to grow up.
Oh, wouldn't that be awful though? Of course, I would resist; I would go kicking and screaming to the place where childhood is taken away. I have never seen it, but I have heard about it from someone who knows. It's a tall concrete building with tiny windows that don't let in enough light. Inside there are floor upon floor of square rooms, corridors and corridors, partitions and partitions. When you first go there you are sent to the top floor, where there are no windows at all; you have a small shiny room to yourself, and you are not allowed to talk to any of the other people there whom you might meet on your way to the bathroom or the water cooler, or the photocopier. You are given a meaningless job to do, which involves typing and printing, typing and printing for eight hours, and then filing away the printings at the end of the day in the filing cabinets that line one wall of your room. You sleep in your own little office - there's a fold out bed. If you behave yourself you are moved to a much larger open-plan room, which you share with some other people who are showing some signs of maturity. You move through the building as you complete various stages of the growing up process, and are finally allowed out when you can prove that you have truly lost the urge to cartwheel at the sight of a grassy field
I do not know many people who have had to go for a stint at the place where childhood is taken away. Many of my friends seemed to manage to grow up on their own. One or two have been through the system, and supposedly came out all matured and sensible. But I can see that it's possible to cheat the system, because those couple of friends are just as silly as they ever were before they went in. So I am eased in my mind by that, and am hopeful that if I do have to do time in the block I will come out the other side having retained my Peter Pannishness.
The eyes will be the test. Lots of people have probably been credited with calling the eyes the windows to the soul, but whoever said it first, I agree to some extent - though I do not believe in a soul as a separatable entity - for when you look into a person's eyes you can see how old their personality is. I have lots of friends who are a good bit older than I am physically; but if you were to look into our eyes when we are together you would very plainly see that we are all the same age: seven. We are not sixteen, though we may often say that we still feel that age. But no, sixteen knows too much. Seven is right, because seven can still play properly, but also has the ability to reason and discuss, and debrief about a busy day's play. Seven can draw accurate representations of stories, and seven has confidence to show its creations. Seven is wonderful and that is where me and my Lost Boy friends have chosen to stay. We look in the mirror sometimes, and are not completely naïve, we see that our skin is not as smooth as it was, that we are sagging and greying. But really, what does that matter, when in our eyes we can still see seven?
Sometimes I worry that it has gone, my childhood. When I have no patience with my own children I feel like an adult, and it does not agree with me at all and I do not recognise myself; then I worry that I might have accidentally become a grown woman. A good night's sleep after a bath and a bedtime story usually cures me of that kind of melancholy though, and I am a girl again the next morning.
What to do if you find yourself growing up:
- Paint your face and go out in public.
- Climb a tree. Never fails to make me feel seven again. Of course, if you're not physically able to do this any longer, then enjoy a memory of when you could. Whatever you do though, do not go into parks and watch strangers' children climb trees - your intentions might be misunderstood.
- Put every grown up thing away from you for a few hours and let your children (or grandchildren, or nephews or nieces) dictate what happens for the rest of the day.
- Get some of your toys out and play, even if there's no-one else in the house to play with - if you are a true forever child, like me, you will still have toys no matter what your physical age is. Talking to oneself, and to one's toys is a sure way to find that inner Peter.
- Make sure you do not entertain any thoughts of domestic activity - children do not clean the house.
It's possible that someone may inform on you, and that you will have to do some time in the block, but do not give in. Together we can fight the oppressive forces of adulthood, which would have us all serious and responsible.
Are you a forever child?
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