Ever since we started making sense of the world, we’ve always been in awe and wonder of ‘growing up’. It came in different forms, like…
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
‘When I grow up, I’m going to…’
For a child, growing up was something shrouded in cloaks of mystery. It was something that was desperately important to achieve, to be able to do a list of things, all top priority in the child’s mind… like watching TV all day, eating a van full of ice-cream, not having to go to school! Then, there was also the very obvious need to put to an end that nagging statement, ‘not now, when you’re older!’
Just when does a person grow up? All we do is move on from one age to another. Where’s the cut off, the threshold that suddenly says you’re all grown up? It never made sense to me and that was even more irritating being the oldest child… kind of like you’re moving towards a destination (without any example before you) and you never get there.
I remember I used to associate growing up with certain things, which I considered a ‘degree’ in maturity. It’s really funny when I thise now. For instance, wearing makeup, high-heeled shoes, being part of an adult conversation, being trusted with some important job… and more lately, being able to travel alone! As the oldest sibling, I was also expected to act grown up, which amplified the normal process and made me analyse my behavior constantly, always relating it to whether it was acceptable according to what my age would demand.
The silly thing was that I’d always seen maturity as something that came with being able to possess some material thing or simply being able to carry an adult conversation. It never made sense to me how people associated it with truly abstract things like ‘mental maturity’ and ‘understanding’. I’ll always remember my mother referring to a girl slightly older than me, ‘She’s so nice… she’s very understanding/samajhdaar!’ I used to rack my brain at that – ‘what’s she got that I haven’t? I’m understanding too! I’m sensitive too!’ It never made sense… until recently.
It’s been a long journey with bittersweet experiences but I finally believe the destination is close. Many theories have been postulated and then discarded in favor of new ones, backed by observation and experience. So what defines that collosal change from a child to an adult – being ‘grown up’? The answer is simple – our reactions and reflections. How do you react to a situation? In a conversation? In an emergency? What’s your thought process, your line of thinking?
For example, I’ve always been one ready to fly off the handle in arguments with my parents but I noticed the change that has come over me for a while now. I can keep quiet where I used to shout earlier. I’ve learned that saying what I consider to be my right, even if it is the truth, will not help me if said at the wrong time.
Thinking in terms of the future is also another thing I notice now. It’s like the fog has lifted and now, we can map out the journey of life simply by knowing where we began. Our decisions, thus, focus on long term thinking… something which applied in the above scenario as well. Something I might say today could have long term effects on my relationship with the other person… result: better keep quiet!
There’s also the subtle change in our perception of authority and who has the right to decide something for us. There was a time, uptill about seven or eight years ago, that I never disputed or disagreed with anything my mother said. My mother told me she’d make me certain clothes for Eid, there was no difference in opinion. She’d say something was good or bad, I’d accept it as that without a moment’s reflection.
Now, however, things are completely different – my mother has her own preferences and ideas on life, success, happiness and I have my own. They overlap ofcourse and intersect often but not like the carbon-copy they used to be. In fact, now that I’ve begun to do some thinking of my own, the older times seem foggy… like I didn’t have much of a personality then. It’s actually a very natural phenomenon and nothing to feel upset about, as if we’re loving our parents any less. Instead, it actually points to a very important aspect of growing up… growing into your own person!
When I think about it, I realize how our Deen has understood this change in girls growing up by encouraging earlier marriages and a separate home, if possible, for the wife/daughter-in-law. It’s the natural order of things. A daughter, as she grows up, develops her own ideas on how to proceed with live and before this results in a clash, she’s happily seen off into a home where she’ll be able to implent her ideas without inhibition. While I’m not arguing against the joint family system as a whole, I do feel strongly on this – separate homes because it’s so in-line with human nature.
Being an amateur writer, I know I haven’t done justice to this topic and there’s more I feel and know than I could write here. I hope this doesn’t mean I’ll have to wait till I lose a teeth or two, to become really old, and then be able to talk about growing up in a more comprehensive way! Ah well, that’s all my brain is ready to talk about now, the rest is all foggy…