When I listen to my daughters chatting and playing together, the conversation always turns to what they will be able to do, “When I’m a bit older.” It reminds me of my own childhood and the innate yearning for all the exciting things that come with age.
I smile wistfully at the idea of them wishing away their childhood. The few, short years of their lives that afford them the luxury of being free from adult worries and responsibilities. When the most important decisions they have to make revolve around whether to have water melon or ice lolly for pudding on a hot, sunny day.
But when I take the time to understand what exactly they’re saying, I realise that their desire to reach a distant, undefined point in the future is no different to the way I feel as an adult.They long to be able to take control over their own destiny in the smallest of ways. Deciding what to do every day without having to compromise. Going to see family on their own without mum and dad cramping their style. Learning to drive so they can go wherever they want under their own steam.
As each year passes, they will be a bit older. They will take more control over their lives, and with that control comes responsibility. First the maturity to become accountable for their own actions, behave appropriately, dress for the occasion and be in the right place at the right time. They will be able to call the shots when it comes to bedtime, after school activities and hobbies. They can give something back to their community – if they choose to do so.
And one day, they will start to earn money. Not pocket money or little payments from us for doing chores, but a real wage. They will make up their minds what to spend it on and whether to save any. But saving won’t matter, because they’ll want to have fun. Party, travel and see the world.
Eventually they’ll want to settle down, have a career. They’ll borrow money but it won’t seem like borrowing at the time, things will just be bought on credit cards, student loans or mortgages. Paying it back will seem like something that will just happen one day.
Until a few years later, when they realise they’ve lost so much of that control they’d always dreamed of having. The freedom to do whatever they want, the travel to far flung places, the fancy meals and the fun days out. They’ll have their own responsibilities. Children, pets, a mortgage, debts, a home that they love and a yearning for an undefined time in the future.
They will smile wistfully as they listen to their children discussing what they’ll do, “When I’m a bit older.” And they’ll realise that their own hopes, dreams and aspirations have changed but they’ve never gone away. And that life has gone full circle, and it’s time to embrace their imperfect lives and love the way things have turned out.
And the world will keep on turning as the next generation dream, hope and aspire to something that is never quite within their grasp.