Adulting After Narnia

Screenshot from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was grow up so I could make my own decisions and start having some fun, alreadygeez. Adults had it all. They had money and cars, got to choose what they would be, where they lived, and how they were going to spend their time. Of course, if I had paid even a little bit of attention, I would have seen that my dad’s sometimes two and a half hour commute to and from New York, the work phone calls he got during dinner, and my mom’s exhaustion from dealing with five unruly and needy (and sometimes ungrateful) children, I might have noticed that the adults in my life weren’t really choosing very much in their lives at all. They did what they had to do to make life safe and comfortable for us children, catching only moments where they could actually do what they wanted; and even then, what they “wanted” was limited by what was best for the family.

As the millennials would say, adulting is hard. And they’re right. The first inkling I had of this (remember, I completely ignored what my parents were experiencing) was the time that Peter and Susan had aged outside of Narnia. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—they were the High King and Queen of Narnia—how do you age out of that? And yet, Aslan said that they couldn’t come back. They were too old. When you’re an adult, certain things that are available to you as a kid are no longer available. Now, the Toys “R” Us commercial whose jingle included, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toy’s R Us kid…” and a song by The Ramones called, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” started making sense to me.

At some point, we must become Professors who help little ones negotiate and interpret their experiences.

When the Pevensies were children, they could go to Narnia whenever they were needed. They had the right skillset to achieve the goals that Aslan had for them—a spirit of adventure (even if some had to grow into it a little), openness to the impossible, malleability, and faith. I’m not saying that adults don’t have these qualities, but kids have easier access to them because they need to for their survival. I hope that I haven’t lost these qualities as an adult, but I fear that some of them are dulled.

Like the Pevensie children, our childhood world is full of magic and adventure. The Narnias that we found as children, trapesing through forests filled with fairies and elves, exploring ditches that became vast deserts, running down city streets with danger at every corner and in every alleyway, we were building the foundation of who we would become, how we’d solve problems, how we’d interpret the adventures we’d be faced within our grown-up lives.

But, as it says in 1 Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” I would never claim that what the Pevensies did in Narnia was childish; they defeated the evilest of evil queens, restored Cair Paravel, brought a long-lasting peace to the world—even the best adults in our world don’t manage feats like that. But, perhaps that’s the point. If Susan and Peter had been allowed to go back to Narnia in their adulthood, they may never have invested in our world the way our world needed them to.

Adulting is hard.

Susan didn’t do anything worthwhile with the experience that she had been given in her youth—she seemed to have entirely forgotten it. We know that Peter grew to be a good man, most likely in part due to the formation he received in Narnia. The worlds we imagine prepare us for the mark we’ll make in the future, but we have to use what we’ve been given and remember the lessons we’ve learned.

I will admit that I do sometimes, half-joking with myself, look for portals to Narnia. The thought of escaping to another world where the adventures are completely different than the ones I find here is attractive. And, as a Toys “R” Us kid, if I find LEGOs around, I’m going to build something. But, there’s a recognition that growing up does mean putting some things aside—it means taking Narnia with me in my heart, still enjoying the stories, but knowing that my priority is now to provide opportunities for my kids to seek other worlds that will shape them. At some point, we must leave our lives as inhabitants of Narnia behind and become Professors who help little ones negotiate and interpret their experiences. We “age out” of living in other worlds, and work hard to make this one better.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry