Monday, November 3, 2008

different visions of growing up

I am both a child and a parent. Caught in the cross-hairs of the concept of "growing up," I wonder what it can really mean. After all, I am in my mid-forties and I'm fairly sure that my parents still believe that I should "grow up". The truth is though that it is their perception of me that has remained frozen.

It is an unfortunate thing to be an adult who needs charity and help, to pass through a time of need. What that time of need creates more than anything is the feeling of being dependent on the kindness of others. Seemingly, this is the very definition of being a child. In particular when one is forced to turn to one's family of origin for assistance the feelings it brings up are exactly those of parent-to-child. The repercussions of returning to the dependent-provider relationship, no matter for how long, can have lasting effects on the relationship between adults.

The value of the external and material outweighs the inner light of the people involved, and the provider becomes once again all powerful and the dependent becomes weak. The temptation to abuse power by dictating the choices of the less powerful is hard to resist. The giving and withdrawal of assistance defines the politics in the relationship. Indeed it is a rare person who can give without expectation or conditions. Equally, it is a rare person who can receive without adjusting his behavior to be less than one is in truth.

I imagine it is likely that this crush of values is going to come up more and more through the coming financial melt down. Parents who've lost their retirement may be forced to ask for assistance from children who are still working. Children who have lost their homes may need to move back in with their parents, their own children in tow. It becomes necessary then to redefine adulthood from financial independence to something else, or the crush of untamed passions and emotions about the solidity of a life will squeeze the life out of hope.

I'd like to suggest that there may be twelve year olds who are more grown up than 50 year olds. Judgments aside, what might be the qualities of a grown up, if not financial independence?

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