J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was born on May 9th 1860. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates, a crocodile and, occasionally, ordinary children from the world outside of Neverland. The notion of a boy who would never grow up was based on J.M. Barrie’s older brother, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before he turned 14, and thus always remained a young boy in his mother’s mind.
Some psychologists believe that there is a ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’. Peter is mainly an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy and symbolises or personifies the selfishness of childhood and this is shown by Barrie through Peter’s constant forgetfulness and self-centred behaviour. Whilst yet to be recognised as a psychological disorder, the syndrome reports that an increasingly larger number of adults are presenting emotionally immature behaviours in Western society – they are unable to grow up and take on adult responsibilities, and even dress up and enjoy themselves as teenagers when they are over 30 years old. There are serious results when adults refuse to face up to responsibility.
Trying to stay forever young when you are an adult is not healthy. However, neither is being too serious and play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.
In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we’ve stopped playing. When we do carve out some leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But just because we’re adults, that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously and make life all about work. We all need to play and have fun – that is the way to stay forever young.