Perpetual Peter Pans

You’ve seen them and know them – the perpetual Peter Pans. The men (and women) who “don’t wanna to grow up.” These are the ones who want to play “doctor,” but never want to play “mommy and daddy.” The ones who  loved the food, games and fun at Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant and now embrace Dave and Buster’s whose ads read, “Recess time is calling: Can you hear it? It’s beckoning you to break out of your daily routine and have a little fun.”

Long after the time when other men and women put away childish things and shoulder adult activities, the adult Toys-R-Us kids line up nights of video games with their friends. These petulant, children in adult bodies want to watch Scoopy Doo and Road Runner in their jammies forever – and the networks cooperate with adult cartoons such as King of the Hill, the Simpsons,  Bevis and Butthead and South Park.

In his perpetual pre-pubescent state, Pan wore tights, green shorts and a shirt. Today’s Peter Pan would not be caught dead in a suit. As soon as they can, they finagle for casual Friday – and a relaxed dress code the rest of the week. Yes, they will go to college to seek a degree, but please, don’t expect them to quit being a sleepy child taken by mom on an early morning dash to the grocery store. They attend college classes in pajamas, slippers and a hat to cover their bed head hair.

For a long time, common sense said, “get a college degree, develop your career and have your fun – before you settle down.” The Peter Pans listened and pushed adult responsibilities back into the mid- to late 20s. Less than a half century ago most teenagers worked, wed and reproduced. Now they keep on playing “cops and robbers” – and call it Laser Tag or Paint Ball.
The kids who grew up with Little League through the summer, now gravitate to adult leagues for football, dodgeball, soccer, kickball and basketball with a full season’s schedule that encroaches on time with the family. Parents used to sit in the stands and watch their children play. Now the kids ascend the stands to watch mom or dad play.

The younger the child, the more sheltered from the harshest of life’s realities – but, Lost Boys wants to be sheltered forever. After two decades of family sitcoms, they meet real life situations and come away protesting, “That’s not how it happened on the Cosby show!” They fail to recognize that the witty repartee and wise insights of the show took a staff of screen writers weeks to develop. While the Cosby crew resolved major interpersonal issues in 30 minutes, real people may struggle with those same issues for years – often without resolution.

Like petulant 8-year-olds told it is time to stop playing and go to bed, they ignorantly declare, “I can’t wait ‘til I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want!” Perpetual Peter Pans want all the privileges and none of the responsibilities. They want all of the cash without any of the commitment to a career to collect it.

They pout and cling to the invisible magic wand that created everything in the land of Let’s Pretend. On the cusp of adulthood, they keep looking for the wand and ignore the shovel, the hammer and the hoe required to lay the foundations for a real house made with their blood, sweat and tears.

Today’s “big kids” want to have “backsies” forever – to never have to keep commitments or fulfill obligations. They live together because that means they can gather up their toys and leave just as they did when they played house as children. As adults, they avoid making a serious commitment of “til death do us part” – and never discover the variety, the rich freedom and the comfort of a relationship and a life established on the foundation of commitment and hard work.