We as adults are aware that ALL children (except one) grow up. However, through a close reading of Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, it seems as though children, too, recognize their current state of “childhood” and realize that this is not a permanent phase. Often this recognition or realization comes through the reading of Children’s Books, which seem to point out the value of the childhood experience.
A recent study in New Zealand suggests that children can correctly recall experiences from when they were two years old. (http://io9.com/5870377/new-evidence-that-children-start-forming-solid-memories-when-they-are-2-years-old) This is apposed to the earlier held theory that conscious memories begin to form in children around the ages of three or four. The first passage of Peter and Wendy is in agreement with the results of this new study, as it states: “You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end” (55). By this statement, the author is suggesting that after a child is two, he or she knows that they must grow up. It is at the age of two that a child becomes aware that childhood is finite. This realization can be called “the beginning of the end” because it is here that one knows that the end of childhood is coming. This is illustrated by Barrie’s retelling of a scene from Wendy’s childhood. As Wendy is playing in the garden one day, she plucks a flower and takes it inside to her mother, Mrs. Darling, who puts her hand to heart and cries “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever! (55)” Barrie tells us that Wendy was two years old when this happened. Even though no one directly points it out to Wendy, we are told that she knew from this point on that she “must grow up” (55).
Interestingly, in Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis it seems as if Curtis feels that six, rather than two, is “the beginning of the end.” We see this as Bud shows apathy for his friend Jerry, who is six years old. Bud says: “six is a real rough age to be at. Most folks think you start to be a real adult when you’re fifteen or sixteen years old, but that’s not true, it really starts when you’re around six” (4). Bud points out that six is a real though age to be at because adults start to treat you differently and scary things start to happen to your body, like teeth loosening up on you and falling out. Bud also states that “it’s at six that grown folks don’t think you’re a cute little kid anymore, they talk to you and expect that you understand everything they mean” (4). However, we also find out that for Bud, the age of six was a very influential, and possibly traumatic time for him in his life. We find out that Bud was six when he came to live in the home for boys and that he was six years old when his mother died.
It’s interesting to note that Wendy identifies that adults are noticing that she will start to grow up soon when she is only two years old. However, Bud seems to think that adults will not identify that he is growing up until he is fifteen or sixteen years old. Nevertheless, Barrie seems to portray that two is the age when one really begins to grow up, and Curtis seems to portray that six is the age when one begins to grow up. Why could this difference be?