I don’t like filing paperwork, managing finances, dealing with insurance companies (Satan’s left testicle), and keeping track of every minute scrap of paper that must be set aside for tax purposes. That is, however, part of that strange amusement park called Grown-Up Land that I thought would be so awesome as a kid yet now I often wish so terribly to leave. How often did my young, impertinent self proclaim to a frustrated adult, “Well, when I’m a grown-up…”. Was I blind to my mother’s stress? No, I just think that I believed, as all kids do, that adulthood was easier and more fun because you get to do what you want like buy candy and MSG-laced Doritos when you really should be buying fruit and…something green and leafy. Children don’t really know about Grown-Up Land because you can’t understand it until you get an entry pass. And, that only happens when you reach adulthood.
Of course, there is that express lane into Grown-Up Land which no one wants to stand in even if they think they do–teen pregnancy. The rides that come along with a new baby regardless of a parent’s age are designed to break a person and teach one crucial lesson : “You are not the center of the universe! If you aren’t a grown-up yet, then grow up now! You’re responsible for a human being’s well-being and happiness.” There’s the Colic Carousel, Sleep Deprivation Double Shot, and the Collaboration Cliffhanger. In fact, the Collaboration Cliffhanger is a ride no one is dying to go on, new baby or not. Getting married couples on that ride is tough because they have to survive the Communication Chairlift first. Of course, Grown-Up Land does have the Tunnel of Love and Fetish Fireball so it’s not always a bleak place.There are rewards for surviving rides like In-law Hayride and Tax Tornado.
There is a relatively recent cultural phenomenon wherein men in their late 20s and 30s try very hard to hold onto their adolescence, and they continually try to escape from Grown-Up Land as if it were Alcatraz. There is no escape from this place for adults so one sees them attempting to ride the same rides over and over again avoiding specific ones. Their profile seems to be the same. Married or not, these men seem to love the In-law Hayride. They will often fall asleep on this ride and demand to ride it repeatedly. If they are married, then you will frequently see their wives crying and begging the ride operator to let them off. The longest line in Grown-Up Land is formed by these guys, and, no, surprisingly it’s not for Fetish Fireball. They want to go on the solo ride Gamers Mountain again and again and again. After that, they’ll hit Fountain of Fun food court, followed up by the Lazy River for some sleep. You’ll find their wives and girlfriends commiserating across the park at How To Be Happy Hollow. A few of them are stuck on the Passive Aggressive Power Surge, and the married women with children might never get off Wipeout. It looked fun in the beginning, but now they all just really want to ride the Collaboration Cliffhanger as awful as that once sounded. If they’re ever going to stop riding the Debt Black Hole and stand in line for Money Management Madhouse, then someone has to stop the cycle and ride a different and new ride. No more In-Law Hayride! Please, God, no more In-Law Hayride!
What if that ::gulp:: other part of Grown-Up Land is opened up to you? Special Needs Circus? Everyone hears rumors about what’s under the Big Top, but no one wants to visit. There are weird noises and strange crying sounds. People often go in and never return. Everyone’s heard rumors about the rides in that part of the park: Health Insurance Helter Skelter, Prescription Pendulum, Diagnosis Dive Bomber, Family Freefall, Spousal Spin Out, IEP Kamikaze, Bully Bumpers, and the In-Law Mechanical Bull. Wait…what? The In-Law Mechanical Bull? There are more in-law rides? Does this park know no end? No, it doesn’t. There’s also the In-Law Jump and Smile, In-Law Octopus, In-Law Twist, In-Law Shoot the Chute, In-Law Sky Swat, and, of course, the In-Law Black Hole.
Why we were dying to get into Grown-Up Land as children, I just don’t know. Grown-Up Land is one of those closely guarded secrets, but it shouldn’t be. If we were better prepared for what life in Grown-Up Land was actually like, then we might spend a lot less time standing in line and more time riding the rides we want. Sure, we all have to ride the Tax Tornado. Most of us, at one time or another, have to participate in a ride or two that we wouldn’t choose–The Corporate Love Fest Fun Slide, anyone? There is, however, a ride that if one learns to like early enough in life, then one’s experience in Grown-Up Land can be rewarding and fulfilling no matter what part of the park is opened up to you–The Delaying Gratification Gravitron.
Delaying gratification is one of the most important psychological tools for healthy cognitive and social development. What does it mean to delay gratification? Essentially, it means that one voluntarily postpones immediate gratification and persists in goal-directed behavior in favor of a later outcome. In other words, “I will reward myself after I have completed this task.” When people don’t know how to do this, they tend to struggle with self-control and a host of other problems that affect their general success in their job as well as their relationships. The result of this is what you see in the present phenomenon known as the “man-child”. He is portrayed in movies and sitcoms as an intelligent, technologically savvy dude who either still lives with his parents or with an equally lovable but idiotic man-child. He can’t maintain a stable relationship or job, but this is what makes him funny. His humor and intelligence always save the day, and someone else always pays his way because he always knows the answer. Oh, and he’s kind of an asshole, too. I know women married to this man. They refuse to grow up and embrace adulthood. They still secretly want to go back to Mom and Dad, and they want their wives to take care of them. At the same time, they resent it. By the way, they are almost all exclusively gamers. There is no sense of “reward time” as in you need to do your job, take care of your familial obligations, raise your children, tend to your relationship with your wife, and be present, and, only then, do you reward yourself. The gaming comes first. The gratification is always #1 on the list. These men do have jobs, but that seems to just be a hassle. They work in order to get to the good part–the gaming. The wives? Oh, well, they’re there for the sex, of course! These guys never learned to delay gratification and were probably products of the Self-Esteem Movement. Incidentally, the founder of that movement has now come forward and said to scrap it all. Self-control, self-discipline, and delaying gratification are what is needed to raise a healthy child. Go figure. Delaying gratification is an ever present problem in my own marriage, and I am consistently pointing out the Delaying Gratification Gravitron to my own husband who reluctantly stands in line for his turn. I, on the other hand, was raised by a pathologically strict parent who taught me to delay gratification to such a point that I never gratified myself. My job is then to actually stop working at a set time and learn to relax. Balance and moderation in all things is important.
There are ways to make our experience of our life in Grown-Up Land wonderful even if you’re in the Special Needs Circus or living with a man who won’t get off the In-Law Hayride. I did something last week to make my issues with filing better. I have a ridiculous amount of a paperwork to file and have on hand at all times because of Grace’s ongoing issues. I hate cluttered surfaces, and these files were just sitting out in view. It was driving my Swedish sensibilities to the brink of insanity. I no longer have an office having given up my space so that my daughter could have her own bedroom. So, I decided to buy pretty file folders and filing boxes so that I might actually enjoy the process of handling the paperwork. Guess what? It worked! It looks so lovely, and I enjoy looking at my little space now.
Grown-Up Land can be a tough place because, strangely enough, we raise our children there although they don’t know it. They do, however, enter into adulthood with a bias based upon how we behaved and what we told them about the rides in Grown-Up Land. Even the kids with special needs have to go to Grown-Up Land one day, and that epiphany is enough to make any parent with a special needs child want to ride the Denial Turbo Drop incessantly. All is not lost though. There’s something else in Grown-Up Land, too–the Resource River. It flows throughout the park twisting and turning through every dip, corner, and valley. The sound of its flowing waters are heard throughout every corner of Grown-Up Land. Whenever anyone gets lost, they need only find the river and follow it. It will always lead them to a familiar place wherein they will find help. Often getting lost in Grown-Up Land is what leads us to the Friendship Ferris Wheel, Relationship Rainbow, or, even better, I Want Something Better Island which is a park within the park. People go there and return transformed with a grounded sense of identity and purpose. Surprisingly, there are abundant resources in Grown-Up Land. There’s even the Rescuing Red Baron when you get into trouble. Who knew? I guess Grown-Up Land isn’t such a bad place after all. Now if only I could get off Dirty Laundry Matterhorn...
Delay of Gratification in Children Mischel, Walter; Shoda, Yuichi; Rodriguez, Monica L Science; May 26, 1989; 244, 4907; Research Library pg. 933
The Trouble with Self-Esteem, New York Times