Old Children

Silly me, I once had the notion that any person who reaches the legal drinking age—twenty-one in PA—is an adult. Even sillier is the notion that I once expected them to behave like adults. Apparently that was an incorrect notion on my part because there seem to be a lot of people who appear to be adult but  who still behavior like children. They are the type of people I call old children

In case you’re not clear on what constitutes an adult, it is a person whose physical body is developed and who is emotionally and mentally mature and responsible. A child, on the other hand, is someone who is not only physically undeveloped but also one who is immature and irresponsible.

Based on that, then, I define an old child as someone who keeps having birthdays and is considered to be an adult but who still evidences behavior that seems as emotionally and mentally immature as any child in junior high. My dictionary tells me that while a child can be immature and irresponsible, it can also be a person with little to no experience in a particular area. Oh, and don’t forget the adjective—childish.

Also, please note that I am distinguishing between childish behavior and childlike behavior; they are two very different things. If a child is a person who is immature and irresponsible then childish is the term used to describe such a person and their behavior. Childlike is a word used to describe a person who has retained some of a child’s good qualities; say for example, someone who still has a child’s innate sense of innocence, guilelessness, and curiosity.

Unfortunately for me, both my Amish background and birth order conditioned me to become an adult almost before I was a child. As I said in my brief bio, I am a firstborn child whose mother had five more pregnancies by the time I was six.

I grew up living in community, to first become a responsible part of a family, and then an equally responsible part of a religious tradition. It was all about living with other people, you had to get along to survive. I also have an inherent tendency to use logic and reason instead of relying on feelings or emotions. I can still hear my mother’s voice yelling, “I don’t care how you feel, get to work!”

I suppose not many mothers do that anymore because nowadays it’s just the opposite. It’s all about feelings, and a lot of behavior seems to be motivated by emotional instinct rather than reason or logic. It’s all about ME, how that ME feels at any given moment, and what that ME wants at any given time. If anything anyone says or does is perceived as hurtful or evokes a threat, however insignificant, that ME raises its defenses and either shields itself or lashes out at anyone and everyone.

Maybe it’s still just my mistaken notion but there seems to be an increasing tendency toward childishly immature and irresponsible behavior. Everywhere people interact there seems to be a rise in petty squabbling with egos continually getting in the way of other egos. I see this everywhere that people interact with each other, (and no, I do not spend my days in junior high school.)

I am astounded and appalled at the amount of truly narcissistic attitudes that fuel all manner of public displays of inanely cretinous behavior by so-called adults without even the slightest bit of embarrassment or shame.

Don’t they know that their imbecilic behavior entitles them to wear Bill Engvall’s “I’m stupid” sign? It’s almost exasperating enough to spur me to join his campaign and get “I’m-stupid” signs printed up myself and start handing out actual signs instead of just thinking, or sometimes actually muttering, “Here’s your sign.”

What is causing this phenomenon? How is it that we are growing old without learning even the most basic people skills or the slightest level of understanding and tolerance for others? How is it that we can grow old without ever growing up? How is it that we are growing old yet remaining children?

And also no, these are not rhetorical questions, if you have an opinion please click on “leave a comment” under the title of this post. I’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Old Children”

  1. Interesting that the phrase “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (woman), I put childish ways behind me” follows Paul’s description of Love in the Bible. Love is patient … kind …does not envy … does not boast … is not proud … not rude … not self seeking … not easily angered … no record of wrongs … rejoices with truth … always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. When I both receive this behavior and behave this way, I feel grown up.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Sharon, and yes, the apostle Paul’s discussions on the behavior of love do follow the concepts of maturity, understanding, and tolerance, do they not?
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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