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Is the notion of "adult" a misleading myth?

Grow up! Act like an adult! These are things we may have heard when growing up. Yet, do I want to become an adult? What is the benefit? I am not suggesting we stay childish but perhaps there is merit in honing our skills to become more childlike? Business coach Robin Sharma says it hit him one day when he asked his kids what they were up to. They replied, "We're going to play!" He wondered at what point had he lost this gift of "playing."
To be an "adult" (seems to me), to be filled with fear, stress, and brain numbing pragmatism. To be childlike is not the same as childish. One can still be responsible and accountable and still be childlike...full of wonder, acceptance and the willingness to try.
In fact, I wonder if "childish" is somehow synonymous with "adult? Adults who want what they want when they want it. Who pout and give the silent treatment to those who do not cooperate with them. Who drink, eat and smoke too much while being mostly sedentary. Doesn't this "adult" sound like a brat? Childish?
To maintain and develop our sense of child-likeness would encourage creativity, passion, fun while developing responsibility and accountability.

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    W. Ying

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    Mar 21 2014: They are well-proved common sense:

    Playing --- Go bravely ahead without fear of loosing anything,
    because of having almost nothing to loose.

    Adulting --- Go carefully ahead with the fear of loosing something,
    because of having enough may be lost.
    (To get more will merely make invalid happiness.)
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    Mar 19 2014: People of all ages can be and are playful. Here are some of our many TED talks about play and its virtues.
  • Mar 21 2014: Kids play with dolls and Adults play with idols. What is the difference between the two ? Both play .
    Kids also fight and Adults also fight , kids fight at small scale and adults fight at large scale.
    Kids also lie sometimes and Adults also lie sometimes.
    Kids are also spoiled brats and so are the Adults too.

    I don't see any difference between a child and an adult .
    • Mar 21 2014: I think your argument minimizes the question. I find it hard to believe you don't see the differences you pose in your series of questions.
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        Mar 23 2014: Mark, could you elaborate on why you believe :):)'s response minimizes your question? I understood his point to be that people of different ages have common behaviors, both positive and negative.

        I see two ways of interpreting your question. Your question asked in bold could be interpreted as asking whether "adult" is a legitimate separate category from child. I think :):) answers that it is in many ways not.

        I think :):) puts forward a reminder that one could look more carefully into the behaviors of both children and adults and find that stereotypes of either may not capture the reality of what humans do.
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    Mar 21 2014: Mark,
    Thankfully, I was not told to grow up and act like an adult, because the people around me realized that there are stages in our lives when we experience different things, and we can be responsible at all ages at some level. "Growing up" often suggests accepting more responsibility and accountability, and the people in my life apparently realized that a growing child could be responsible/accountable as well....that is when we learn best if given the opportunity.

    Sometimes, those who direct others to "grow up" are suggesting that some of the playful, childlike characteristics "should not" be apparent any more. As you insightfully can be accountable and responsible and retain childlike characteristics.

    Like you say, being adult sometimes means stress and fear, when in fact, if we continue recognizing the childlike characteristics such as trust, honesty, curiosity, creativity, passion, enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, playfulness, open heart and mind, etc. there is less stress and fear!

    Sometimes people "grow up", leave the childlike characteristics behind, and wonder why they are not happy and content! Then they spend the rest of their life seeking those qualities they have ignored. If one has abandoned the childlike playful qualities, it is often a matter of remembering.

    I remember my mom, riding the alpine slide with the other kids, with a big smile and twinkling eyes....she was in her 80s:>)

    "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused"
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    Mar 21 2014: There is time for everything in life. There was a time I played with toys, didn't care what I looked like, and rolled in the sand with girls my age.
    At 19 I could still roll in the sand with girls my age, but it could turn embarrassing because I could have an erection.

    If I'm up against a soccer player like Wayne Rooney or Christiano Ronaldo or Messi in a penalty kick; I may score mine, while they may lose theirs.
    Does that make me a soccer player?
    Adults may be childish or child-like; but they are adults. A child may be matured, a 14 year old may have some profound insight. But a child is a child.

    We are born, we age with each passing second. Day by day, year by year.
    This adult thing is not a myth. So, act your age or live your age; because even if you wish to be young forever, nature is counting.
  • Mar 20 2014: good comments Collin, but I believe that the ability to show empathy begins early in life. My argument would be that experience does not always teach because we are not open to be taught. What I think you might be getting at is the difference between concrete thinking vs abstract thinking. I do not think this is necessarily a result of a higher level of moral maturation unless you see this term as indicative of moral evolution. Quite frankly, I have met adults who should have a "higher level of moral maturation" but do not while I have seen kids with it. Anyways, just some thoughts. What more do you think?
  • Mar 19 2014: Totally agree. I don't personally understand why at a certain age we start having so called organised fun instead of spontaneous fun.

    I think its more to do with the worlds expectations on us. At this age you do this, at this age you find a job and replace play with money/work and at this age you roll over. It's all to do with how the economy works.

    I personally feel just as playful and up for playing tag in the street as what I did when I was a kid. Some of us never truly leave the inner child behind, whereas others find the work room as more of a play ground. We really need to find a happy medium.
    • Mar 19 2014: I love the fact you still can enjoy playing tag in the street! I can so relate to that fun!
  • Mar 23 2014: Bingo!
  • Mar 23 2014: I thin I just answered this in a recent post of 5 minutes ago. My question is not, asking whether "adult" is a legitimate separate category from child. My question is suggesting that adult and childishness are one in the same. That the idea of a child is different and that if that child evolves into childishness then the adult form is still childish. When a child evolves the traits of childlike then the adult version is saved from childishness.
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      Mar 23 2014: I now understand better your focus. You are asking only whether being adult and being childish are the same, perhaps whether adults grow to be more childish than they were as children.
  • Mar 23 2014: I see children who accept responsibility all the time. Some children don't, I agree but this is the act of childishness.
    "Children never accept that and if something goes wrong, it is always someone else's fault. If it goes right, it is always because of what they did, even if it was nothing." I see the childishness in adults frequently do the same in fact I might even say, more.
    The act of being and evolving as a child is not a perfect place. It takes time and it involves learning to escape the luring of self-centered and self absorbed behaviors. For those who do not...they grow up to be an adult.
    "Accepting responsibility," is not in my opinion, defining of "being adult." This would reduce us to an extremely pragmatic existence. This is another aspect that learning to develop the child would wish to escape.
  • Mar 23 2014: Let me address your sarcasm. The question was and is," Is the notion of "adult" a misleading myth?" The response was kitchy at best beginning with the play on words between "doll" and "idol." The basis of the argument is similar to, "If birds can fly and planes fly, then there is no difference." I agree I used the word "question" when it should have been "statement." My mistake.
    My point is that:
    1) there is a difference between being a child and being childish. They are not the same.
    2) there seems to be strong similarity between being childish and being an adult.
    3) We would be better to evolve into a better hybrid of "child" because I think that adult is a hybrid of childishness.
    Perhaps the last statement agrees best with my premises above. "Kids are also spoiled brats and so are adults too." The "kids" are acting childishly as is the adult. Both possible narcissistic behaviors Acting as a child is not the same. I think that many of the great inventors continued to act like a child through their wonder and curiosity, And no I do not think that childish or adult people can do so in the same ways. They tend to be more motivated through self-absorbed ideals.
  • Mar 22 2014: Adults accept responsibilities, especially concerning their actions. Children never accept that and if something goes wrong, it is always someone else's fault. If it goes right, it is always because of what they did, even if it was nothing.

    Childish wonder is always there. Ask anyone who solves a design problem or discovers something that was unexpected. The wonder is part of the process.

    I feel being adult has nothing to do with age but the accepting of responsibility - seen it in some very young and not seen it in many individuals over 20 to 80.
  • Mar 21 2014: Some great insight from the family you grew up with. I had an aunt who in her 90's hiked in the Rockies and was blind. Isabel was always up for a party and loved her relatives deeply. I think it was her example that inspired the question of this topic. Thanks for sharing your stories.
  • Mar 21 2014: I reallyenjoyed you sharing this wisdom. You msde me think deeper!
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    Mar 19 2014: I definitely agree that this represents a misleading myth. The only real maturation that I find valid is learning to think about others more than yourself. Other supposed signs of maturity; social norms, physical development, being money-minded, and liking or not liking certain things; really aren't notions that we should concern ourselves over.
    • Mar 20 2014: It seems to me that children are often better at learning to think about others than their self. Observational studies in fact show the development of empathy in children starting fairly early. N.ot that adult empathy is a rarity, however I think it is often tempered by experiential "sourness." As a result adult empathy I think tends to be more selective than a child's.
      I still think "adulthood" is over-rated!.
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        Mar 20 2014: I mainly agree, however it's one thing to be kind and trustworthy to others when you have had no to little experience with being hurt by them, while it's another thing to think about others after having had experience with them. Being kind to others when you know that they might not be appreciative and they might hurt you in return is a lot harder to do, and I believe it requires and indicates a higher level of moral maturation than is possible in kids.