I have always had a sneaking suspicion that one of the primary driving forces which compels people to have children is the desire to escape the doldrums of adulthood and relive childhood - you know, go to the amusement park and ride all the crazy rides, play ball, host a pajama party. Sadly (and always surprisingly to me) most adults are not able or willing to do these things without children. It's as though there is this unspoken rule that (you name the activity) is for kids, or people accompanying kids, but not for solo grownups. It's almost as though having children will provide these adults with the adequate excuse they need to have fun and release their inner child. It never occurs to them that if they like amusement parks, playing ball, having pajama parties or generally just letting loose and being a kid again, that they can still do those things as adults (they're just as much fun!) and really don't need a child in tow (and all the responsibility that comes with them) to give them an excuse. I can personally attest that riding that big wooden rollercoaster is just as much fun in my grownup days (and without a child chaparone) as it was when I was a kid.
I've held this suspicion for years, although none of my childed friends or family actually admitted outright to their desire to live vicariously through another human being until recently. A couple months ago a friend (whose girlfriend was pregnant with their first child) admitted to it outright. We were reminiscing about our favorite Jersey haunt, Wildwood (known for its honkey tonk boardwalk teeming with rides, arcades, pizza joints and t-shirt stores) and all the fun times we had had there over the years, and my friend said, "see, that's why I want to have a kid. Wildwood just isn't the same to me now and I want to relive the excitement of it again."
And people call the childfree folks selfish.
My friend's statement brought up a couple of feelings in me. First, I felt really sad - for him and for all the grownups who can no longer find pleasure and magic in the simple things in life. I can only imagine the extent of this despair - that it would compel a person to undertake a lifetime of monumental sacrifice and responsibility - having a child - just to get the magic back.
It also made me feel puzzled and confused. I admit that I have difficulty understanding why and how people become adults and then - as if some switch was flipped - immediately lose their sense of adventure, fun, mystery and magic. Maybe it's not immediate - maybe it's a slow erosion that happens little by little, year by year. Okay, I admit that it's not completely hard for me to wrap my mind around it. After all, I am an adult too and have my moments of wondering where the mystery and magic went. Despite this, though, I can gratefully say yes, I still have fun, am still filled with a sense of adventure and I still can tap into my inner child. And no - I don't need a kid in tow in order to accomplish this.
Today, hubby and me are going to Wildwood (this is what got me thinking about my friend's comment) and I can already envision what the day will be like - first we'll sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine - maybe splash in the ocean if it's not too cold - walk the boardwalk and maybe even ride some rides (hopefully my favorite roller coaster in the world - pictured). I know that just as always - the second we step onto that boardwalk I will be 10 years old again. I'll be dodging those cackling, vulturous seagulls as I eat all that wonderful artery-clogging junk of which I am so fond (ice cream, pizza, Curley's Fries, fudge) and just as it was when I was a kid - I won't worry about it. I will giggle at all the tacky and offensive t-shirts hanging outside the ramshackle stores and as always, I will wonder 'who actually wears those things?'. I will gleefully play a round of skee-ball and just as when I was a kid, be disappointed by the junky prizes I can buy with my tickets. I will excitedly ride the tram car from one end of the boardwalk to the other - as my senses are completely overloaded with all the color, noise, lights, smells and chaos.
At the end of the day, we will drive home with tired feet, bellies full of grease and sugar, and the same satisfying feeling we had as kids - that everything worth doing in life and experiencing was all experienced today.