Q315 Topic: Enabling Childhood

Millennials are looking for ways to enable the same fun they had as a kid in their adult lives.–Culturewaves Q32015 Report

“I won’t grow up — I won’t ever even try,” Peter Pan cheerily sang in the 1953 classic Disney cartoon.

Growing up, it was fun to sing along with Peter Pan and my childhood friends. It was a magical, carefree time. Of course, while I may have supported Peter Pan’s desire to stay in Neverland with his new friends and the Lost Boys, I always knew that eventually I wouldn’t have the luxury of lingering there with them. I would become more like Wendy’s grumpy father or loving mother, and I was OK with that.

Unlike Peter Pan, I grew up. I also discovered that life was not like the Disney movies that I was obsessed with as a child. The struggles of “adulting” are real. Not only do I have to worry about feeding myself, providing shelter and figuring out some way to pay of those pesky student loans, but I also have to navigate complex emotional and social paradigms. Along the way, I’ve had the responsibility of learning and shaping what sort of adult I would grow up to be.

It’s never easy. People from 13 to 90 are still trying to figure out exactly whom they want to be when they grow up. The thing is, not all of us know how to react under pressure, and we often seek comforts that help insulate us from the stresses of adult life. Singing along with Peter Pan isn’t enough. We can’t avoid adulthood. But we can make it more enjoyable by mixing in a bit of childish fun.

People are finding ways to channel childhood in ways that only creative adults could discover. For example, DisneyBounding encourages people to dress like their favorite characters to bring the childhood magic alive for a moment. It’s like a visit to Neverland, but it’s easy enough to undress and adapt back to proper adulthood after the small bit of escapism is over.

Disney isn’t the only company enabling us to be children once again for brief or extended moments. In Poland, adults and children can join a College of Wizardry, and LARP (Live Action Role Play) in the famous Harry Potter world. (Did I mention this also takes place in a castle?) Did you ever dream of becoming a gladiator in the Coliseum as a child? Some kids dream of being knights or soldiers. Boxwars caters to the childlike desire to engage in pretend battle. The Australian game gives adults the chance to blow off some steam on the battlefield — using cardboard weapons rather than iron and steel. Even mothers like Mary Darling would approve of that.

Maybe most adults are not ready to grow up, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do it. We recognize that a grownup can break away, even for short moments, and eat an entire cereal box of just Lucky Charms marshmallows — if that’s your thing. People are finding a nice balance between their adult lives, and escaping to the various platforms of their own personal Neverlands, where they can be just like Peter Pan and refuse to grow up for short moments.

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