The Worst Witch once sang "Growing up isn't easy". Peter Pan said "Never grow up". And until recently always thought growing up was just growing older and gaining more responsiblity for more things...like the spread of that black stuff on bathroom ceiling and children (who spread faster than the ceiling stuff)
As a lion of some years and, as I look around, some responsibility, I had still never considered myself a fully grown lion.
Yes, the number of DIY jobs has grown (and, rather like in my teenage years with my emotions and my dress sense, my level of DIY skills is still waiting for it's spurt).
Yes, the number of children throwing me from floor to ceiling (hence noticing the black stuff) has increased.
Yes, I can now drive a (remote controlled) car and I own my own (dolls) house.
Yes, I am married but I still didn't think I was Grown Up. Which led me to thinking...When does one Grown Up? Especially as I'm told it's hard to do and recommended never try?
In order to answer this I decided to pluck the grey hairs of matter from the heads of those older than I and those I consider to have mastered this most tricky of life skills. I started with Auntie Jean (nearing 70) - the oldest person I could think of...and as I walked toward her, paddling in Grasmere Lake, no shoes and the bottoms of her trousers under the water line, I recalled something that made me think again. It wasn't that she was busy - she was also in full song - or that she was barking - although that is the case - but more that she'd only recently had a cast removed from her index finger due to an unfortunate incident at the bottom of a slide in a children's soft play. Whereby she had had to be dragged out of the ball pit by her grand children (6 and 3) and her daughter had had to take her to the Walk-In Centre (once they'd found her shoes). I surmised that she too had not found the secret to growing up.
Beating a retreat I stumbled on Grand Frank (nearing 65). I literally stumbled on him as he was hiding in the the grass waiting to jump out on his grandchildren in the guise of a tiger. And as I watched him crouched between the blades, only his twitching ears visible, I thought 2 things...
1) His grandchildren have the speed of gazelles, and therefore once this pounce has been executed, there's no way he will be able to stand up quicker than they will be able to pin him to the ground.
2) This is a man, who came over to our house to survey a DIY job done by dad, and in the 4 minutes he was there, he swung a hammer and pulled this back, and trod on an upturned nail and had to visit A & E for a tetanus.
No Growing Up here either.
And the more I thought about it the more I realised I was surrounded by non-grown ups...
Granda Pete who, not only travels the world wearing a tartan skirt and wooden shoes but who, recently, couldn't answer the phone because "he'd joined the French circus". And this shortly after making an appointment with his G.P. to discuss the problems he's having with his head, shoulders, knees and toe (I kid you not).
Mam, who despite being married, owning a house, driving a car and having her own children - can't always remember to put on underwear.
And Gran who still can't go to a public toilet without it ending in her running out shouting "Leave, leave, leave!"
But, what, might you ask, has prompted this philosophical look at life? Over the last year it seems to me that I have said goodbye to more people than usual - my usual being 0. I seem to have come to a point in life where, I am actually a grown up.
Those around me have indeed grown older, from Mu and her siblings to Grandas and Grannies and I find myself, for the first time stood between 2 generations for whom I am responsible. Now don't get me wrong - I don't feel solely responsible for the older generation in the same way I do for the younger one, but these moments of goodbye have marked a change. I think there comes a point in large Prides like mine whereby one generation starts to take on the responsibility previously undertaken by another generation. A point where we are no longer shielded quite as much as we once were, from the heart ache and turmoil experience by those around us. A point where we are needed to step up and hold the hands of those around us rather than wait for our hand to be held. Where we stand with others rather than behind them.
This point in our lives is not one where the older generation gives up, puts on their slippers and starts going bonkers (although for some lions in the Pride, this last part happened a while ago so it'll be hard to tell when that time does come). But it is a point whereby we are no longer children on the outside, watching and being told what to do in a situation. It is a point where we suddenly find ourselves right in the middle where the tears are the hottest and the pain is the sharpest and life is its realist. And we find ourselves handling it rather than being handled by it.
It seems growing up does not automatically happen when we have children or get married, or when there's no one to tell us not to each chocolate for breakfast. It doesn't automatically happen in the "hellos" or the "hoorays" of life.
We grow up in the "goodbyes".