The Lies We Tell Our Children About Adulthood

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Being a grown-up was supposed to be awesome! All of that freedom and power and control. We were going to get to do whatever we wanted! But unfortunately, with great power, comes great responsibility. Having the freedom to make our own decisions comes with the knowledge that our options are limited. We can’t do whatever we want. Now how do I explain that to my kids?

Edward was complaining about our car yesterday, because it is not a convertible. A fair critique. So I told him “When you’re a grown-up, you can buy whatever car you want, but for now you have to live with the one we have.” And that, obviously, was a lie. He cannot just buy whatever car he wants when he is a grown-up, unless he is Jay Leno or becomes some sort of evil Wall Street banker. I certainly cannot buy whatever car I want. I mean, I like this car, and I helped pick it out, but if I had a choice of any car in the world, would this be “the one?” No, it would not.

But I can’t tell that to my kindergartener. What am I supposed to do, crush his hopes and dreams for the future? That would not be a very nice thing to do. On the other hand, I don’t want to lie to him either. It was very disappointing to suddenly be an adult and to find out that I could not, in fact, be a rock star, or the president, or an astronaut, or a famous opera singer. It was disappointing to find out that most mail is bills and most e-mail is spam. It was disappointing to find out that every choice came with a burden. Maybe it would have been nice if somebody had warned me ahead of time.

No it wouldn’t have been nice! Why take away my last blissful moments of childhood with ugly visions of mean bosses and unpaid overtime? Why ruin my idyllic mind with concepts like racism and sexism and capitalism and homophobia? Why take my innocence before absolutely necessary? I guess to prepare me for the real world. What kind of idealistic idiot arrives at his adulthood thinking that everything is going to work out in the end? This kind, I suppose, because no one ever taught me differently. So was that a gift, or a curse?

It’s not like a didn’t see bad things happening as a kid. It’s not like I couldn’t have figured it out. I saw bullies at school. I saw my parents split up. We moved more times than I could count, leaving behind homes and friends. I knew the world was not just going to cater to my every desire. But when I grew up! That was when I could fix everything. That was when I was going to be better and smarter and kinder and wiser than any of those dumb old previous adults who had screwed the world up so badly. I would buy whatever car I wanted, and have all the money and all the friends and all the success. Because I was a kid, and I knew everything.

Maybe my children already know all of this. Maybe they know I am lying when I tell them they can have whatever they want when they grow up. They probably do; they are smart kids. Maybe preserving this utopian view of their adulthoods is more for my benefit than for theirs. What if I want to imagine a world in which my son can buy whatever car he wants? What if I want to imagine a world in which my kids live beautiful, perfect lives, free of stress and pain? What if I need to believe this, more for my sake than for theirs? Because they have been through so much already. They are strong. They don’t need a perfect world in order to survive. But I still feel the need to give them one. Even if it is a lie.

Posted in Edward, Parenting, The Future.

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  1. Pingback: Being a Grown-Up: It Isn't All Buying Chips - Tenor Dad

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