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Growing up, there was one particular phrase that would drive me bananas, which was used commonly by adults. The phrase:

“You’ll understand when you’re older.”

What exactly was I to understand? Good question.

"Life is too important to be taken seriously." But 'mature adults,' are marvellous at convincing us otherwise.

“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” But ‘mature adults,’ are marvellous at convincing us otherwise.

Growing up , I realised that there were certain things that children simply couldn’t “understand” to the same degree  adults could. Like the nature of love, and loss, and heart break. What it’s like to have a job, obligations and responsibilities. The things that one must experience directly to understand. And that’s fair enough.

However, when I hit about 16 years of age, I noticed that adults kept using this expression to kids my age. What’s more, they’d apply it in the same context they had always done when I was a mere child. “You’ll understand when you’re older, you’re still a teenager.” And then I got to thinking, “Hang on a second. When I was four, they told me I’d understand when I was ten. When I was ten, they told me I’d understand when I was 16. Now I’m 16, and I still don’t understand.”

Now, I’m 24. I’ve joined the adult world (ha-ha-ho) the only thing that I know for certain, the only thing I really understand, is that nothing is certain, and that I still don’t really understand. (Yes, that’s a paradox. Clap-clap). Everything that baffled and bamboozled me about life back then, still baffles and bamboozles me, now. Nothing really changed.

This might be a reflection on me, and what I think I might know, but don’t really know. But I beg to differ. You see, the fundamental problem I have with the expression, “You’ll understand when you’re older,” is that it assumes some sort of ultimate truth that can only be reached with age. It also assumes that everyone will eventually and invariably arrive at the same conclusion.

What conclusion? Good fucking question.

Who knows what I’ll come to understand one year, five years, or ten years from now? To assume that age brings about a special sort of wisdom, or even knowledge, is to make an ass out of u and me. I know plenty of adults who lead delightfully ignorant/wisdom-less/”immature” lives. It’s not uncommon. But what is common, at least from my own experience, is that the adults most inclined to use the expression, “you’ll understand when you’re older,” are also usually the ones who don’t understand much.

Another thing I’ve determined is that children understand life better than adults. We are the ones who’ve a lot to learn from them.

See that unencumbered laugh? That's real maturity for ya.

See that unencumbered laugh? That’s real maturity for ya.

The lens’s of children is clean. Their vision is still untainted by the adult world, and all it comprises. Children don’t look upon life with dread, weary at the thought of another working week. They are free spirits. Imaginative geniuses. Not shackled down by the prism of their “self.” They are mature beyond their years because they live immaturely, without superimposed thoughts demanding them to be otherwise.

Actually, my girlfriend just told me a story quite fitting for this post.

Today, while she was on the bus, she noticed a mum and her son, a four-ish year old, talking together. The mum was explaining to the son everything that his life would comprise of when he grew up: He would go to school, then he’d go to university, then he’d get a job. He’d find a girlfriend, then get married, and then grow old like grandpa. The son responded, in all innocent seriousness, by simply stating “and then I’ll die?” To which the mum became a bit awkward, not knowing how to respond. There, the kid just exclaimed, completely content, “well, that’s okay. I’ll need a rest by then anyway.”

Isn’t that a great way to look at death? Without all the complications that adults attach to its concept? So innocent, yet so perfect. 

Ultimately, it’s plain to see that age, as defined by a linear time-keeping system, does not at all equal maturity. It can equal maturity, sure, but it can also equal immaturity (the “bad” kind). All that age signifies is just that, age. That’s all. It’s rather simple.

So, for the parents, or anyone else dealing with kids on a frequent basis out there, here’s a know-it-all 24 year old farting some advice your way:

The next time your kid says, “but I don’t understand… why?” Instead of resorting to the common denominator that so many adults are hell bent on walking on, instead of merely stating, “you’ll understand when you get older, sonny Jim (or girly Sue), try to explain it to them.

Explain to them why you think love happens, or what you think death might be. Give them your best shot at drawing on why people work from 9-5, Monday through to Friday. Tell them that the world’s a weird and confusing place, and that there are some questions that no one has any answer for. Be real with them, be authentic and raw. Kids are a hell of a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and they see and feel things that they’re not necessarily capable of expressing through words. Be open to learning from them, in the same way they are open to learning from you.

And here’s a crazy idea, tell them the truth. Tell them that you your self don’t have all the answers. Period. Tell them it’s their own job to create an answer, to build on a conclusion of their own. Cause isn’t that what life’s all about?

Humans-are-often-blindly-arrogant-in-their-ignorance. Children know best.

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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Couple of things; you are assuming that all parents use the same tact. They don’t. A good many parents of my acquaintance do “Tell the truth.” and it is something that is becoming more and more common. Truth is also relative to perspective however. What seems to be truth at 15 is not necessarily the same truth that appears evident when one is 25 or 30.

    You are right, age does not always equal wisdom but it does expand experience. Some people are able to use experience as a tool toward attaining wisdom and some people are simply “Tim the Toolman” and the opportunity is missed or mishandled. That’s one of life’s truths – the world has an awful lot of asshats. My own offspring never had that fact hidden or secreted away from them. Hard to do with the media and immediate information, impossible to do when buildings full of mothers and fathers are seen blown to bits on morning television.

    Reply
    • Blasphemy! I never assumed such a thing. The only assumption I made/ was intentionally making, was that age =/= wisdom. There are plenty of great parents out there… well, by my standards at least.

      And the whole point I was making was that the expanded experience that goes with age doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is learnt. I’m not even sure that age does expand experience; tis very easy to live a dome all your life if you wanna.

      And yes, asshats abound. Haha.

      Reply
  2. That story about the kid on the bus cracked me up! And by the way, you’re 24? Really? Well, that simple fact proves your point that age does not automatically grant one maturity and wisdom.

    You just mathematically proved that getting older does not result in a person acquiring secret knowledge and new truths. Truths granted to us by some magical wisdom fairy only because you turned 29.

    “Happy birthday!” she says as she hovers over you and taps you with her Wand of Wisdom. “You now understand women!”

    When I turned 29 that didn’t happen to me! There was no magical fairy. I just turned 36 and I still don’t understand women!

    But that’s OK. I like mysteries.

    When I turned 29, I was four years into the longest relationship I had ever been in. Before this relationship my record was three months (17-25 were fun years!).

    So at 29, I was in unchartered territory. So I sat down with my brain and had a chat with it. As any rational person does right?

    Me: “Brain, how does this gig pan out? Marriage? Kids? What’s the deal with whole thing?”

    Brain: “How the hell would I know? I haven’t been here before either! Don’t put this shit on me! This is on you! Good luck tosspot. Knowing your record though, you’ll figure it all out 2 years too late.”

    Quick aside: We broke up after 7 years together. We are still friends and would do anything for each other so it’s all kind of ok.

    Anyway…

    It turns out my brain was right. You don’t really learn anything until you experience it. To equate age with wisdom is pure arrogance.

    So we have to be humble sods. We don’t know it all and we never will. Age will not bestow upon us grand insights that will make us wiser beings.

    Just live. Oh, and tell kids the awful truth! It’s funny! Teach them how to play poker, how to make a fake ID or hustle a Roulette Table at Crown Casino.

    It’s a lot of fun, and you will never be asked to babysit by your auntie : )

    Reply
    • I’m tired, so I can’t be assed re-reading your comment to reply to it properly. But I’ll say this. Did you read my other comment? I made the blog. It is now your turn to email me so I can give you the passwords/username etc. And then it shall be our turn to fill it with nonsensical gibberish.

      Your input re the layout/about section/anything else would also be much appreciated.

      http://www.twoweird.wordpress.com

      Oh, and I cracked up at the story as well. She told me about it when I sent her the draft to this post. (For whatever the reason, the post made me feel uncomfortable when I first wrote it. Meh).

      Reply
      • Umm, help! What link do I click on? Register or Log in?

        I work in IT so I am clueless about this techie stuff. Shoot me an email at borisnmi@hotmail.com with the info please. I’m talking instructions for a two year old is what I need here.

        My IT skills don’t involve web based software and social media ok? I don’t even have a face book account. I don’t do twatter and I only learned how to post comments on blogs three months ago. I am a totally clueless moron in many aspects.

        Oh, and the chalk board look is cool. I like it.

        Ciao
        Boris (No Middle Initial)

        Reply
    • Boris? I’ll be 55 in a little less than a month; I’m female and I don’t understand females. I don’t really understand males either so I guess it sort of balances out. I live in a constant state of “Flummoxed.” Its kind of nice, once you get used to it.

      Reply
  3. psssst: the thing you will grow to understand is that some adults just don’t want to answer uncomfortable questions, don’t have the internal fortitude to work out the answer in a way they feel a child/adolescent will understand or address those questions they don’t have the answer to and don’t want to admit it.

    Reply
    • Got it. Thanks. Haha. Also, fun fact:

      Alcatraz is built on the feces of dogs and unicorns. Where is Alcatraz, you ask? Hidden in the trenches of Narnia. Narnia, not the mythical adventure land that has had books written about it, but Narnia, a world existing in the land of my head.

      What?

      Reply

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About Humans Are Weird

I live life on the edge. Because I'm constantly anxious. I'm following my dreams. Because they're so overbearing. I live life out of my comfort zone. Because I'm always uncomfortable. And so I write to express. I read to escape. And I'm eccentric because I know not another way. Namaste. And now must go. Huzzah.

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