I disagree a bit – kids do need to be looked after. But it is true that you have limited influence on who they become in the end: That will increasingly depend on their own decisions. Each child is an individual, whether you want it to or not.
I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Over the last years, I have noticed that I am beginning to grow up. It has kind of accelerated after I hit 50, it seems…
“Growing up” is really a very vague concept. When are you a grown-up? For much of history, childhood was very short, in so far as it existed at all. There were infants, and then there were small, stupid workers. But you generally were not considered grown-up until you were able to reproduce. That did not stop girls in particular from being married off as young as 5, although more commonly around 9 years old. The notion that pedophilia was wrong, rather than just impractical, is fairly new. The word itself was unknown a hundred years ago, but we have had some idea about this for longer than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans, however, did not. Judaism stood out in this area by not actually shipping the girls off for marriage until their first menstruation (which was generally later than today, due to less nourishing foods and vitamins).
Today, we have almost certainly gone too far in the opposite direction. People are now “kids” until they graduate from college, and are not expected to take responsibility for their own lives until then. (Kind of hard to do in a capitalist society without money, really.) Needless to say, most people won’t be celibate that long, but are discouraged from forming a family. By the time they take their place in adult society, they have a decade’s practice of fooling around. To everyone’s great surprise, some of them continue to do this after they marry and/or have kids, and acrimony ensues.
But there is another meaning of growing up, and that is internally. Some people don’t really much care about what happens inside their own mind, much less others, but in that case you would probably not be hanging out here. So…
Ryuho Okawa (of Happy Science fame) says that you are fully responsible for your own life from around the age of 30. Â He bases this on both his own experience and Jesus Christ, neither of which started their religious work until the age of 30. Even then, one may notice, Jesus’ mother managed to get him to perform his first miracle by putting him in a situation where she would be regarded as a weirdo if he didn’t. Or that is one way of seeing it at least. He warned her at the time that she could not expect to have any say in his life anymore, and from what it seems, she didn’t after that one time.
It is a gradual thing though. We start shaping our own lives much earlier. Jesus asserted himself when he was 12 and stayed behind in the temple, although we don’t hear of any further such episodes. But for the rest of us too, it is common that some sense of identity awakens late in childhood or at the onset of puberty. In my case, I discovered my free will the summer when I was 15, I believe, shortly before leaving home for high school. So that was convenient. I read a small tract by Elias Aslaksen, a Norwegian preacher of Truth, where he convinced me that nobody can lift our hand to strike or open our mouth to speak. We are not responsible for what others do to us, but we are responsible for how we react. What we do depends on what we think, how we see that which happens to us. The way we see things can be completely opposite, depending on ourselves.
In a matter of minutes, my life turned around. Of course, in the heat of emotion this insight was often forgotten, but not permanently. Gradually, my power over my own body increased. It still does – it is still not complete, even at this age. I’d like to be able to say with Confusius (Analects chapter 2):
The Master said, “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.
“At thirty, I stood firm.
“At forty, I had no doubts.
“At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.
“At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.
“At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.”
Intriguingly, reception of Truth is what I am “specializing in” now, I guess. There is still so much Truth to absorb. But I really wish to arrive at having no desires that transgress what is right. At that point, I suppose I may call myself a grown-up, even spiritually.