Posted by: robinsonwarner | January 14, 2009

Growing Pains

Everyone knows that growing up is difficult.  You are constantly discovering things, having new experiences, meeting people, experiencing joy and sorrow, loss and gain.  This process we call growing up is the most difficult thing human beings undertake.  So difficult in fact, that is ultimately kills us.

As we grow up certain things are harder than others to learn and pick up.  For me it was much easier to run around naked and work on my magnum opus of watercolor painting than it was to wash my bellybutton. 

I’m sure we all had things like this that were easy for us to understand, but there are some truths about the world, about the nature of our existence on the planet, that are so earth shattering that they stood as momentous pillars of individual discovery.  We can call them “game changers,” or “paradigm shifts.”  Whatever you choose to call them, we’ve all had to deal with these realities in some way or another.  These are the growing pains that hurt your brain, not your body.

1.  Death – I remember exactly where I was when my mom explained to me, very calmly, that all people, except for douchebags, die.  I was three years old, sitting in my car seat, and my mom was driving through our town after a haircut (which was terrifying enough as it is).  I believe it went something like this:

Me:  Hey Mom, we all live forever right?  People only die when owls kill them, right?

*Note* I had an irrational fear of owls as a child.  Perhaps I was a field mouse in a past life.  My parents spent many a night reassuring me that the owls were kept at bay not only by their vigilance, but these magical devices called “windows”.

Mom:  Oh…No, honey.  Everyone has to die some day, but not usually until they’re much older.  You don’t have to worry about anything for a very long time.

Me:  People can die?!  Why didn’t you say something? 

Mom:  Pooh bear, you really don’t have to worry about it.

Me:  Worry?!  Lady, I am beyond worried.  You’re going to have to change my diaper again.

Mom:  Shouldn’t you be potty trained by now?

Developmental stagnation aside, that mortal epiphany, even in its infantile stages, was a doozy.  The horrifying reality that it wasn’t just a highly organized regiment of owls could get you, but the entire world, was an owl; that danger was all around.  Let the tally begin:  Monsters under bed?  Check. Mountain lions in my backyard?  Check.

2.  Gravity – Until you hear about gravity every kid thinks that if only they worked harder and jumped high enough they would ultimately take off into the sky.

If empiricism didn’t sink in, parents would have to relay to their kids the cruel law of gravity.  Kids, in their infinite optimism, would never conceptualize that,  “I don’t seem to be taking off, but rationalism has informed me there’s a universal law in physics that attracts all objects to each other, especially planets and their inhabitants.  I spent many of my days jumping off pretty much everything.  I mean, why do you think kids like jumping off swings so much?  They’re that much closer.  There was also a sense of urgency in learning to fly because what if that kid down the street learned before you and didn’t share.

3.  Your Parents Aren’t Invincible – Some of us unfortunately have to learn this at a very young age if one of our parents becomes incredibly sick or, god forbid, a parent passes away.  For most of us we go through our childhood believing that our dads have superhuman strength or our moms have superhuman comfort skills.  How did she know I wanted a tuna fish sandwich during my lunch break from work?! HOW?!  Why do you think kids say things like, “I bet my dad could beat up your dad.”  Dads are our superheroes, our action figures, able to defeat any and all foes. 

It is often not until we are much older when our parents sit us down and “have a talk” to explain that dad needs heart surgery or mom has breast cancer.  It is an incredibly difficult experience, it truly is.  This is not because we don’t understand the effects of cancer or how serious heart surgery is, but it is difficult to psychologically adjust to it because we often imagine this happening to other people; and certainly not our parents.  Because it did seem like only yesterday that your dad could, with relative ease, pick you up and put you on his shoulders in one fell swoop or your mom could run around with you outside playing hide and go seek.  Unfortunately our parents are not Superman or Supergirl, but susceptible to bodily harm like Batman.  Many brave kids have to come to terms with this at a very young age

4.  Grownups Make Mistakes – This might be another one of the hardest things to understand.  I was blessed with a “nuclear” family that never had to deal with divorce.  I had a dog that never ate a baby’s face.  My upbringing was ultimately perfect save my mom’s unwillingness to let me watch The Simpsons or let me ride a Power Wheel.  First world problems aside, there many people who are not this lucky.  Parents’ fallibility is as likely as the tides

But there is a moment in our childhood when we realize that Mom and Dad make mistakes, Mr. President makes mistakes, Officer Friendly makes mistakes, and Mr./Mrs. Teacher makes mistakes.  Some extreme examples of this are when Dad leaves Mom’s suitcase in the bedroom when going on vacation, or Mom forgets Dad’s special low sodium salt in the cabinet on the way to Applebee’s and “ruins” dinner, or Officer Friendly forgets to read Mr. Criminal his Miranda rights and Mr. Criminal goes back out on the street because of a procedural technicality.  Or we see Mr. President cheating on his wife and lying about it or Mr. President doesn’t listen to sound intelligence forecasting a potentially devastating attack on a symbol of America’s economic preeminence in the world market and thousands of innocent people die.  This has been known to happen.

Things like this happen all the time, every single day, and we don’t notice them as we’re growing up because we haven’t formed our own opinions or developed our own sense of what is right or wrong yet.  We’re still following and not leading, therefore it is difficult to spot mistakes by people that otherwise might not be noticed by a recently formed juvenile psyche.

The ripples of this realization serve as a catalyst for us to embrace the notion of imperfection as a human condition.  Human existence is full of trial and error, decision and indecision, choice, and temptation.  As children, when we see the mistakes grownups make we hope to learn from them and form our own direction, but we also realize it’s okay for us to make mistakes as well.

5.  You Can’t Grow Up to Be an Animal – Where would you put your wallet?

6.  School can be full of lies – Christopher Columbus is awesome.  The Civil Rights movement made everyone equal.  Thanksgiving didn’t involve smallpox blankets.  These are just some of the gems learned as a kid.

7.  Commercials Lie – Guess what?  If you use NesQuik chocolate milk mix, it doesn’t transport you to an animated water park filled with chocolate milk.  I saw a commercial depicting just that as a child so I decided  to inform my mother that upon her next visit to the grocery store that I would like some NesQuik.  She informed me that Hershey’s chocolate syrup in the refrigerator would do just fine.  I calmly, but urgently, made her privy to the unquestionable reality that she must be off her rocker because Hershey’s syrup cannot conjure a magical chocolate water slide out of thin air.  Ergo, Hershey’s is an inferior product.  Needless to say, I had been lied to.

8.  The Importance of the Opposite Sex – I remember when things were so much easier when I didn’t care about girls.  Or boys… wait. I mean if you were a girl that time when you didn’t care about boys.  Haha, right?  

Once the opposite sex is introduced, everything becomes more complicated.  You care what you look like, how you smell, your braces, your clothes.  The list goes on.  Imagine getting back all those hours spent dealing with this problem.  I know I certainly would be better at math.Anyone who says they never cared or they were above those kinds of petty concerns, you can actually put your head in a microwave.    Everyone cared because you were young and insecure.

9.  The Economy is Complicated – My understanding of the economy until the age of eight was that the purpose of money was to purchase Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle products.  For example, what does inflation mean to a six year old?  It means that the price of action figures might jump a dollar during the course of a childhood.  And this applies to Barbies and Legos, jump ropes and footballs.  All products are subject to the sorcery of the economy.  You might as well spit in my Jell-O.


******************************************************************************

Figuring out all of life’s problems and harsh realities is like putting together a puzzle in the dark where the light gets brighter the more pieces you find.  We use the light to illuminate and understand their purpose in the grander scheme of things.  Let’s hope some of us get all the pieces before the light burns out.

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Responses

  1. It’s about time mister, Gahhhh! Where have you been dude? And by the by, Parents ARE invincible. How the heck do you think we keep from imploding when we see our kids bedrooms? no srsly, it was funny… 🙂

  2. I first realized my dad was vulnerable when he slipped on the stairs, banged his knee, and said, “ouch” in a calm manner. I’ve walked on egg shells ever since.

  3. I will grow up to be a dolphin. Just you wait and see. Although I would settle for hybrid and be a mermaid too.

  4. I think the worst is when you realize sometimes your best just isn’t always good enough.

    The best part of that realization though is finding out that you should still try anyways. The only way reason people try to achieve the impossible is because they believe in their potential over their limits.

    You can’t get taller with growing pains 🙂


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