Why Do Babies Have to Grow Up?

“I Won’t Grow Up” is a featured song in the 1954 Broadway musical, Peter Pan. The children, Wendy, Michael, and John, were not babies in the play, just children. Peter, although child-like, could not be considered a baby either. Everyone, except Peter of course, did grow up. When the adult Wendy and Peter met in the last scene, only Peter is saddened over Wendy’s transition into a young lady. Wendy realizes life offers more than childhood, although she retains fond memories of being a girl.

The scientific answer to why babies grow up is dull. It involves genes, chromosomes, mitochondria, and other cellular components. Babies grow up because Mother Nature made them that way. It is a better choice than ‘growing younger’, as the wizard Merlin in Camelot. When we ask, ‘why do babies grow up’, we are not seeking a scientific answer; we are seeking a philosophical or metaphysical resolution.

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10-months-old baby during winter stroll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A more fundamental question is why babies at all? Why could Mother Nature not replicate humans as they approach the peak of their mental and physical powers? The answer is that humans come into this world as babies not for their own sake, but for the sake of their parents. There is not greater bond than between parent and child; as there is no greater devastation than the death of a child, especially a young child. The bond on the part of the parent is created automatically at the baby’s birth. On the other hand, the bond of the child to the parent develops over the first few nurturing months and years.

There is something about a baby that elicits love from healthy adults. Emotions flow from strangers just at the sight of an infant. This allows parents who adopt babies to experience the same bonding as natural parents. Without babies, humans would never experience the most intense attachments afforded by their species. In most cases, these bonds are bi-directional and lifelong.

If babies are the source of such intense positive feelings, why do babies grow up? To answer this question, one must keep in mind that babies grow up gradually. A parent does not put the baby down in his or her crib one night and find a grown adult, complete with iPod, the next morning. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers mature and are ready for pre-school. Grade school, middle school, high school, college and graduate school, flow one into another. The baby, now a career man or career woman, visits his or her parents on holidays. Baby now has more gadgets than his parents, and also a better grasp of the latest technology. How did this all happen?

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A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents are always amazed by changes in their baby. First word, first steps, first report card are greeted as utterly unique events; as if no one in the entire history of this planet has had a baby who pulled himself off the floor to take his first steps. One of the seldom noticed benefits for parents of focusing on their ever-changing baby is that the parents tend to not notice the changes happening in their own bodies. While the baby is growing up, the parents fail to notice that they are growing old.

Adults, who do not have a baby, focus on their own aging bodies. Thirty becomes a major crisis as these childless adults realize that they are beyond their peak. They invest in diets, gyms, and supplements in the hopeless pursuit of staying young. Watching a baby grow up makes the parent forget about his or her own advancing years.

Adults, who have had a baby, eventually realize that their bodies have aged. However, this happens around the age of fifty rather than thirty. The children have left the nest, as the saying goes. Now the parents are in the same situation as the childless couple. With no children to worry about, the fifty-year-old parents start to worry about themselves.

Ponder this horrible situation. A baby is separated from his or her parents. The parents and child are reunited after twenty or more years. The baby is now full grown. Although the parents would intellectually accept this adult as their child, they would have to reform the emotional bonds.

Of course, this is not the rule. Children mature in sight of their parents. As the baby matures, the parent’s love is transferred to the new person who is emerging in front of their eyes. They will love their toddler, even if they never could stand a toddler they encountered in a supermarket. A baby’s gradual growth will expand the love and tolerance of the parents. A mother may become a baseball fan once she drives her son to Little League. If the baby is a girl, the mother will become a softball fan.

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Karrasch Family Portrait of four generations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a baby grows, his or her parents will be allowed a second childhood of their own. Dads will play with Legos. Mom will get into costume for Halloween. Easter egg hunts can be enjoyed by the parents as well as the children for a couple of years. In spite of the advertisements to the contrary, a child is necessary to visit Disneyland.

A baby has no real friends of his own. A child, on the other hand, effortlessly befriends other children of the same age. As a child expands his or her circle of friends, the parent’s social circle also widens. The parents of their child’s friends become their friends.

The real reason that babies must grow up is so that they also can become parents. This is not some continuation of the species point of view. It would be extraordinarily unfair if Mother Nature kept a baby forever a baby. After giving so much joy and hope to his parents, his friends, and the parents of his friends, shouldn’t the baby have the chance to be the parent?

Or we could take the scientific view. Babies are destined by evolution to grow up, reproduce, and grow old. Babies grow up because countless trillions of random events have resulted in a species that matures from a baby to an adult. A baby grows up for the same reason that water flows downhill. There is no reason. Everything is random and there is no purpose in life. If you believe this last paragraph, I feel sorry for you.

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