“All children, except one, grow up.”
With this oddity of a statement, James M. Barrie begins his widely adored story of Peter Pan, the eponymous tale of the boy who remains to be the one exception to the proven law of aging. Wendy Darling, Peter’s lovely apple of affection, however, falls aimlessly into the category of “all children,” as I am quite certain you and I did well before we first heard accounts of Peter’s adventures, and — if we were anything like Wendy in our youth — believed them to be more than fiction.
But what Peter views as Wendy’s inability to keep a tight grasp on her childhood days of fairy dust and pirate maps is actually more of an ability to open her arms to what lies beyond the shores of Neverland: an endless expanse of adulthood, what we might call the “Foreverland” of tomorrow, filled with a solidity of hope that exists only outside the limits of her tender imagination.
From the age of two, Wendy always knew she was to grow up, for she once heard her mother say, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” while picking flowers with her in the garden. Perhaps this knowledge of her inevitable maturity is what enticed our dear Wendy to live as though childhood would never escape her. Not that she frowned upon every aspect of adulthood; she was actually very much taken with the romantic visions of being a woman. Wendy often fancied her mother’s evening gowns, and on the night Peter arrived, she even offered her mother her own bracelet, so a piece of her could enter that far away world of adults for a while. Wendy admired womanhood, for her mother wore it well; she simply did not want it to cost her a childhood nightgown made for dreaming.
Wendy could very well be considered a dreamer; it was she who believed in Peter’s physical presence at her window; she who believed in the possibility of flying; she who even believed that her mystical time in Neverland occurred in her waking reality. Although the flights through the night sky with Peter faded over the years, this ability to believe in the impossible remained with Wendy, even as she became a woman.
Her whimsical eyes … allowed her to believe that even the foggy London sky contained possibilities well beyond her vision.
Even though Wendy grew up to become an evening gown-wearing mother herself, she never lost her sense of wonder for the world. Her whimsical eyes, which once beheld the beauty of mermaid lagoons and the nearness of twinkling stars, allowed her to believe that even the foggy London sky contained possibilities well beyond her vision. She found a life as a wife and a mother, and the love for her daughter, Jane, surpassed even the wildest expectations that Neverland could fulfill. If Wendy had never had the faith to close the door on her childhood, she would have missed the opportunity to see Peter’s grand adventures through the eyes of Jane. But here lies the irony of Wendy’s dreamer persona: the belief in the impossible that so shamelessly defined her childhood was the very trait that enabled Wendy to grow up, for it often seems impossible to leave childhood behind.
Like Wendy, we must have the confidence to bid farewell to our storybook days of youth, but not to the faith with which we believed in them. We simply must use this faith, this innocent sense of belief, to walk boldly into the unwritten chapters before us. Perhaps it is time for you to trade in your college years for a new career, or maybe the moment has come for you to turn your carefree relationship into a commitment of marriage. Childhood is not the only Neverland; we often find ourselves living comfortably in our current situation, but we must believe that there is something more that waits around the bend — all we have to do is grow up.
We simply must use this faith, this innocent sense of belief, to walk boldly into the unwritten chapters before us.
Allow Wendy to encourage you to leave your Neverland in your nursery, whatever it may be, but never lose the wonder that it has brought you. Hold fast to your youthful dreams, for they enable you to believe in the dreams of tomorrow, too. Remember, Wendy believed in her dreams more than most other children, and it allowed her the faith to become a woman, and be the perfect mother to Jane.
So along with Wendy, may you develop the heart of a grown woman … but may it forever beat like that of a child.
How can you let your dreams of childhood propel you into a hopeful future?
Image via Teal Thompson