Growing Up But Not Growing Dull: A Look at Childishness and Unadulterated Adulthood

With everything in this world the future of our generation looks bleak. We want things to be simple again, like they were when we were children. We refuse to accept the new as good, or at least as good as what we had when we were small. It feels as if our culture has growing up backwards. We try to stave off adulthood, but rather we should welcome it. With this flawed mindset cynicism and sarcasm grow and in order to avoid seeming childish, we stay perpetually immature we end up perverting what it means to be childlike.

Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with some co-workers, about video games. I myself, am not a huge gamer, but I have friends who are, and I do play Pokémon, Halo, and Assassin’s Creed from time to time. I even admit that I have bought every generation of Pokémon game since the original red, blue, green, generation. The conversation turned into a criticism of gamers, and specifically male gamers. The co-workers I was talking with were both female, and they said that men that play games are nothing but big children, and that they need to learn to grow up. I took great offense in this. They eventually said that anyone who plays games is immature and should grow-up. They didn’t say men who play to many video games. They said men that play any video game. I have been thinking about this since we talked, and I just want to take this time to voice my feeling on the subject.

Being that I am a Christian I will use some bible verses in this article to defend my point, and I ask even if you don’t hold any stock in the Christian faith don’t shut yourself off to the wisdom of the verses I use. I will also be using quotes from very famous authors and other influential people in history. So, First things first, what does it mean to be childish? One of my favorite authors says it best. The following is a quote from the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis.

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

According to Lewis childishness is being embarrassed about being childish. I go UCSB. It has its reputation as a party school. I also live in the dorms right on the border of the local party central Del Playa Dr. Isle Vista, CA. Every weekend I hear the parties going on as I sit in my room studying, and taking Pokémon breaks. On Monday I see the hungover husks that were once my friends. They will then proceed to mock me because I don’t drink saying, “Oh Jake, so innocent. One day you’ll be mature enough to party.” So now their behavior is mature, and mine is not. I spent the weekend growing my mind, and yes, I played a kids game, but only to give my mind a proper rest while still keeping it stimulated. They spent their weekend killing brain cells, forgetting consequences, and fulfilling their every desire for instant gratification. Their behavior seems more like a child on Halloween who eats all their candy not caring about how sick they will feel the next day. These are childish traits. They don’t think ahead, and get upset with the consequences of their own actions. All the while they say they do this because they are adults now who make their choices.

They are too afraid to listen to the warning of their parents, and those older and wiser then themselves, because they want show their independence. This is what Lewis is getting at. They worry so much about looking like children, and being perceived as immature that they make unwise choices to prove their maturity. Although people like me understand that they aren’t that mature, and yet I know that I’m still young I will grow more, and all I can do continue my growth. Understanding and accepting your own immaturity is the first sign of adulthood. In short Childishness is plain and simple acting in a way which reflects the behavior of a child, disregarding future circumstance, seeking instant gratification, and refusing to admit the faults in your life. I believe childishness is not what you do, but why you do it. Childishness is a matter of behavior not physical activity.

With this said, I would like to begin talking about the main subject of this article. Video games are one of the most widely used sources of entertainment in our culture. It is a quickly growing enterprise that is beginning to rival film in scope and acceptance as art. Now, most people watch movies, and a bet I can get you to admit that movies in and of themselves are not childish. You would be hard pressed to find someone that would discredit the entire art form just because of kid’s movies, or the brain rotting drivel such as the American Pie series. Many movies make us, think, cry, bond with others, and change. Why should we do that to video games? There are many games that are meant for children, and there are many brain rotting games such as the GTA. However many games these days have intelligent writing, character arcs, and themes that get you thinking. For example there is a game coming out called Watch Dogs coming out. It is a slow paced game which touches on the threat that only a few people could pose to public safety, because of how far technology has gotten. It also touches on theme of censorship and freedom of the people. Should we limit access to technology to prevent a few people from doing bad things or should we educate more people so that everyone is on a level playing field?

These are complex themes that would go over any child’s head, and these games are designed for adults. You wouldn’t let a kid watch a violent biopic, but you would watch it, and no one thinks you childish. In the same vain you shouldn’t let children play games like Halo or Call of Duty. Yet, these are perfectly fine for adults. However, there is a way even playing adult video games can become an outlet for childish behavior. Once you start sacrificing responsibilities for video games that is when even these mature games can be childish. It’s not the game itself. It is the gamer. For me to say all gamers are mature would be just as ignorant as my co-workers saying all gamers are Immature. Like I said earlier childishness is a matter of behavior not physical activity. In the ESV translation of the Bible there are two verses I want to discuss.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1st Corinthian 13:11

Notice how the first verse says nothing of specific actions. Speaking, thinking, reasoning, all these things are grounded in behavior. There are many things we do as children that we continue doing as adults. Sports, camping, and games, all these things are activities meant to relax and bring fun. Heck, what is a casino other than giant smoke filled arcade. To condemn an activity just because a child does it is judgmental and intolerant. That would be like me saying just because a man get a pedicure that makes him girly. He just cares about good personal hygiene, and even though I personally wouldn’t get a pedicure, that doesn’t make it wrong. The first verse is all about what must change about yourself when becoming an adult, but the next talks about what shouldn’t change.

And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3-4

Now this verse is talking about the marks of a mature Christian, Yet, this shows that not all aspects of childhood should be lost. The action of humbling oneself is something that many adults forget. This is what Lewis was saying. As a child we worried about looking childish so we hid our behavior away, but as an adult we understand trying to please others and vying for the approval of others is a form of pride. If I get actual enjoyment out of what I’m doing, I’m not neglecting any responsibilities for it and nothing is morally wrong with it, why should I be ashamed of it? Like everything there is a balance. If something makes you laugh it makes you laugh. However, if these thing start spreading to other parts of your life and starts consuming, then an enjoyment can turn into an obsession, and an obsession can become an addiction, and any kind of addiction is a problem rooted in behavioral tendencies similar to the behavior of a child. Once something becomes an addiction the addict is in need of aid.

These childhood addictions can cause adults to violate safe zones. Now, you’re probably wondering what I mean by safe zones. Safe zones are what I call physical spaces in which every child should feel safe. These are places like arcades, the toy aisle, gaming stores and parks. Some of these “Safe Zones” have a natural mixing of kids and adults. Things like the video game store and parks, but there are behaviors which keep these two groups apart. For example I want to bring another childish trend into view for a minute, the Brony craze. For those of you lucky enough to have never have heard of Bronies, here the definition. Bronies are grown men who semi-ironically enjoy the children’s cartoon My Little Pony. Now I don’t think men who like watching the show are necessarily in the wrong. It isn’t the first time a trend like this has happened. Summer of 1995 the most watched show for men 18-31 was Nickelodeon’s Rugrats. It is created by the same creative team as the shows Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. All these shows have a deep nostalgic connection with the 18-25 year old crowd. The creators of My Little Pony have even been adding references and elements specifically designed for those older viewers. Now this is where safe zones come in. In every department store there is a bright pink aisle. This is the aisle that every little boy treated like a radioactive hot zone. This aisle is reserved for little girls and adults who are buying gifts for such little girls, but now because of the Brony craze, you have grown men creeping around these aisles. They hang out there and discuss the show, and the various perverted fan-fics they’ve read recently. These are the people who take a childhood trait to far, and it becomes a sick obsession/addiction. When an adult takes childishness to a point where they violate the safe zones of real children then it is taken too far, but as long as appropriate boundaries are respected then a nostalgic enjoyment of something made for children is fine.

In conclusion, I do not defend the inner child as a psychological disorder. I support keeping a wonder and childlike view on life alive. Doing things that only adults should do, for that sake of looking mature, is as childish as an eight year old boy that won’t play dolls with his 3 year sister, because he fears looking silly. The most mature person I know would have to be the father who has four daughters, three of which are under the age of 10 and he lets them paint his nails, and plays with them, for he knows it is more important let his children know he loves them and that he wants to be in their lives, then worry about looking immature. The man that plays video games, for a healthy amount every week, to relax is no more childish then the tenured Professor of Science at your nearest University. However, I do concede there is a problem of people become obsessed with childish behavior, for they refuse to grow up. In doing so, they break established, and needed, boundaries that we have set up to protect our children from inappropriate influences. Everything in life is a balance. Every person must learn to find the middle ground between childishness and unadulterated adulthood. Ending on a personal note, I have played Pokémon since Christmas day 1998, when my parents got me the special edition Pikachu yellow Gameboy Color. Ever since, I have had some sort of portable gaming device with a Pokémon game in it by default, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

I figure I should add some more quotes from wise men and women from the past. I may not agree with everything some of these people say, but that doesn’t discredit the validity of these specific statements.

Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery:  He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life.

~G.K. Chesterton

Adults are obsolete children.  ~Dr. Seuss

In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Creativity, imagination, and daydreaming are all traits of small children, and the greatest minds of our world.

~Anonymous

The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.

~Jim Henson

I’m just an antique little girl…I feel the same as when I was a little girl

~Agnes Safely (The Authors Great Grandmother)

“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, ect. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.”

~ Hugh MacLeod

After a while the middle-aged person who lives in her head begins to talk to her soul, the kid.

~Anne Lamott

A grownup is a child with layers on. ~Woody Harrelson

Works cited

“Blue Letter Bible.” Blue Letter Bible. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2013.

Editor. “Montreal Chronicle.” Montreal Chronicle. N.p., 26 May 2013. Web. 26 May 2013.

Various. “C.S. Lewis and Inner Child Qoutes.” Goodreads. N.p., 24 May 2013. Web. 24 May 2013.

Various. “Inner Child Quotes, Sayings about Play.” Quote Garden. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2013.

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