I’ve always wondered what would happen if Peter Pan and the Antipeter Pan should meet. Would they annihilate each other, just like Matter and Antimatter will if ever they collide? Or would they bring about the Apocalypse, the end times, as it is supposed to happen when Christ and the Antichrist finally confront each other?
I’m sorry, what was that? What’s an Antipeter pan?
You know how Peter Pan is the boy who wouldn’t grow up? Well, the Antipeter Pan is the child who lost their childhood when they were forced to grow up. They are the children you see in public, using adult smarts to outwit their care giver’s adult supervision. Caseworkers and psychologists, employed by Social Services, have labelled this behaviour as pseudo adult.
The transformation of the Antipeter Pan, from childhood into adulthood, isn’t a natural one. However, it is as simple as the full moon transforming a werewolf from a human into a beast. All it takes is a fistful of abuse from their irrational parents and – hey presto! – a child transmutes into the Antipeter Pan.
Having scoundrels for parents, the Antipeter Pan must rely on themselves for all their parental needs. If they are the oldest sibling, they must parent their baby brother or baby sister as well.
Just like Peter Pan, the Antipeter Pan also has a fearsome foe. While Peter Pan is off in Neverland clashing with Captain Hook, the Antipeter Pan is stolen from their parents and forced to live in a foster home with their most vile enemy. Beware, the foster carer who will constrict their small victim in coils of discipline, squeezing until they shatter the pseudo adult shell, exposing the vulnerable child underneath.
The Antipeter Pan fights back, just like any adult would when told how to behave by another adult. They get defensive, certainly angry, won’t hesitate to use explicit language.
The foster carer can go on and on all they want about the importance of a child’s routine, the Antipeter Pan will use a grown up’s common sense to punch holes through the logic of the boundaries entrapping them.
To protect a child’s innocence, the foster carer will block their victim’s access to adult content, be it on a 40-inch Plasma TV right down to an iPad Mini. The Antipeter Pan despises being treated like a child; they have been taking care of themselves long before they were forced to live in a foster home.
Foster care is all about caring. So who can blame the foster carer for trying to intervene every time their victim pours a drink for themselves from a two litre juice bottle they can barely lift. The Antipeter Pan will scowl at their enemy, offended by the offered help. Damn it! They are independent and want everyone taller than themselves to know it.
The experienced foster carer can do wonders for the Antipeter Pan aged six and under. Placed into care at such an early age, the Antipeter Pan has had their supply of parental abuse cut short. Their pseudo adult shell is thin and brittle. The foster carer can easily peel away the flimsy shell until all that remains is a toddler craving adult supervision.
There is no such happy ending for the Antipeter Pan over the age of seven. Not even a life time of carer knowledge and experience can aid the foster carer in breaking through the unbreakable shell. Many years of neglect have encased these tweens and teens in a shell so thick and knobbly, that they can easily be mistaken for belonging to the crustacean family.
These older versions of the Antipeter Pan are not only proficient at adult smarts, they are also masters of intimidation, manipulation and bullying. Most foster carers – or a sensible adult – would avoid a sociopath. Why would anyone want to care for one?
These are the children no carer will care for. These are the children who become the foster care version of pass the parcel.
Myself, I’ve been doing foster care for over seven years and whenever I’ve cared for an Antipeter Pan, be it tween or teen, I’ve never once tried to remove their pseudo adult shell. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I admire it.
Take a closer look at the magical forces guiding the antisocial behaviour of the Antipeter Pan, and you will discover a cleverness and rapid witticism that will take most adults over 20 years to perfect.
I wish – oh how I wish, I wish upon a star –that pixie dust could be sprinkled on my brain, to swap my dim-witted neurons for the sharp witted neurons in the brain of the Antipeter Pan. I struggle to socialise with my fellow humans, yet I am a member of a race of sociable creatures. When I speak, I have no confidence in the words my mind clips together, as I consider all my thoughts to be worthless. When a discussion requires a clever response, I always think up a good one...an hour after the conversation took place.
I avoid going to parties, they frighten me.
Where I work, the supervisor and her bossy attitude can easily push me around. I can’t even stand up for myself; I have no self-confidence to stand up on.
Real people living real lives – no thank you; it’s all too intense for me. That’s why I always scurry away into my own private Neverland. A daydream world built upon my childhood obsessions I still obsess over as an adult: Japanese cartoons, Smurf collecting and Nintendo excitement. My internal world is a dragon bashing, Yoshi questing , gorilla racing go-karting world – overpopulated by tiny blue people.
I’m sure Peter Pan is envious.
Because of my social inadequacy, I believe pseudo-adult behaviour in children should never be removed: it should be preserved. If a child has a head start on irony, cynicism, and repartee, why would anyone want to take that away? It’s a gift. Why are you looking at me like that?
Consider fencing. It is a sport involving two opponents trying to stab each other with long thin blades. Not a sport children should be playing, but play it they do. Fencing should be dangerous, a child could easily have their eye poked out or their skin pierced by a foil, but it never happens as all the competitors wear a padded jacket and a helmet with wire mesh covering the face. Plus, let’s not forget, promoting good sportsmanship and sword fighting discipline has made, what originally involved Nobility killing each other in a duel, into what is now the safest sport in the world.
Like the swash buckling clashes in fencing, so too is the Antipeter Pan in my care.
They slice through my discipline with a blade of defiance – the edge serrated with sarcasm for a deeper cut. So I sheath that blade in the cotton softness of my devotion, to teach them that no matter how much trouble they are, they’re worth it.
They stab me with their stinging criticism, because when they see me hurt or angry they know they’re in control. So I place a pillow of empathy under their heads, to teach them that other people’s feelings are breakable and therefore must be handled with care.
I will do all this, yet still they are hostile towards me. So on a gentle breeze of praise I lift the Antipeter Pan up high, way above their beliefs warped by imaginary threats, to a new zone of experience often called safety and security – otherwise known as tender loving care. Keep them in that zone long enough, and eventually the Antipeter Pan will slide out of the armoured protection of their pseudo adult shell, handing over control of their lives to an adult carer they can trust. Accomplish this and at long last a child will finally get to be a child- the way it should be.
Best of all, when these children finally mature into real adults – not the pseudo ones – their mature minds will get the best performance out of the adult smarts they’ve been carrying inside their heads since infancy. Maturity and responsibility ensures they will use their faster and smarter wits for defence- never to attack. Where they will work, should ever they need to verbally strike back at their bossy supervisor and his unreasonable demands, I’m confident they will do so with inner strength while being mindful of the situation and considerate of other people’s feelings.
In the presence of this magical metamorphosis of pseudo adulthood into childhood, then a child growing up to become a mature and responsible adult, I no longer have to wonder what will happen if Peter Pan and the Antipeter Pan should meet. I know exactly what will happen. There will be no annihilation, no end times. The universe won’t implode. Rather, contact between the two would be anticlimactic as they would both cancel each other out.
Peter Pan will have no time to waste on Neverland, nor the luxury of entertaining his childish whims. He now has a foster child depending on him for all their parental needs. Such a big responsibility, the boy who wouldn’t grow up will be forced to grow up, and his self-esteem will rejoice and his confidence will soar, what with all the professionals he will now have to meet.
The Antipeter Pan, protected and loved by an adult carer they can trust, will no longer fear the world like they did when in the care of their pseudo adult. Instead, they will rediscover the world as a place of wonder to be explored- and explore it they will with childish glee.
Only when the negative and the positive cancel each other out will Neverland fall and Oz will burst. Everything in Narnia will melt away and all of Fantasia will be gobbled up by the Nothing.
All that remains in a realistic universe, governed by the laws of physics and hard facts, will be two souls, both young and old, living their real lives to the fullest.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem