I am not a big fan of childhood. I don’t particularly miss mine.
And I don’t really envy my seven-year-old daughter hers.
I rather enjoy being an adult. I think I’ve said this before, but then being tedious and repetitive is one of the things you can get away with if you are an adult.
(Just try it as a child. You might get whacked on your bottom. You are certain to at least get a shouting that will ask you to stop nagging.)
So here I go again. I love the fact that as an adult, I can eat and drink pretty much what I want, when I want them, and however much of them I want. I have no homework. And I don’t need to be obedient.
Actually, that’s a lie. I can’t eat and drink pretty much what I want, when I want it, and certainly not however much of it I want. I do have homework. Sort of. If you’re an adult, you’d know what I mean. And I do need to be obedient. Well, obedient may not be the precise word for it, but, you know, you are an adult reading this, aren’t you?
No, that’s not it. The fun is, I can deceive myself — pretty much all the time — that all this is not a lie; that, as an adult, I can do what I want, nearly always.
I love the self-deception that adulthood engenders; I really fancy its conscious solipsism.
I’m not big on innocence — the sort of innocence that defines childhood — either. I am all for experience. I wish I had had more of it. And from before I started having it.
So it’s not that I look at my daughter and think: “How lovely. This is the best time of her life. What fun it is for her. Why can’t I have my uncomplicated childhood back?”
It is, as you can imagine, quite the opposite.
But there is the one instance when I feel like it might be fun to be a child again. I thought of it again — as I do every year now — this week when my daughter’s exams got over, her school year ended and a two-month vacation began.
I went to pick her up from school at 10 that morning. She erupted out on to the street like a tracer bullet with a misguided sense of direction. She couldn’t stop talking and planning. We gambolled in the car (most definitively not a stretch limo) on the way home.
The following day, she woke up and her face creased into a smile as she realised that the whole day — and days and days after that — stretched ahead of her with nothing regimented for her to do.
I look at her these days, the unadulterated pleasure of her hours, the manner in which she derives enjoyment from them, the way in which she looks forward to each day that is not so different from the one that will follow it, and think of my childhood.
I recall the same thrill at the end of the school year, the notion that grew stronger in those holidays that this life — the one without studies or daily drudgery — was the real one. All else — all the other stuff kept in abeyance till the beginning of the next school year — was no more than a bad dream.
You can deceive yourself as an adult. You can get away (well, mostly) with being tedious and repetitive. But nothing — not even a holiday — recaptures the goofy grin and the joy of the end of the school year.