Growing Up Sucks

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Life's gonna suck when you grow up
When you grow up, when you grow up
Life's gonna suck when you grow up

But it sucks pretty bad right now"
Denis Leary, "Life's Gonna Suck"

In Ye Olden Days, cartoon characters were immortal. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse would never have to worry about paying a mortgage, raising a family, or collecting their pension... except for the odd one-shot gag, where the Reset Button was immediately pressed at the end.

This is no longer the case. Many modern Western Animation shows, and some books, insist on reminding the viewers that childhood doesn't last forever. Not only will this be implied throughout the show's narrative, the Kid Hero themselves will probably be all too aware of this fact, and refer to it openly, with varying degrees of acceptance or dread.

In addition, this will probably feature as a Plot point. The concept of "childhood's end" will probably be clearly illustrated, with the now-grown up character losing something that was fundamental to their happiness as a child. On shows based mainly in reality, this will probably take the form of the protagonist's group of friends going their separate ways after graduation. The child may lose his guardians, Mons, or even his powers, if these all come with a time limit or are directly linked to his status as a child. For example, children are assumed to be wide-eyed, curious, innocent and trusting; adults are usually portrayed as pragmatic, cynical and set in their ways.

Wistful Amnesia is often part of this growing up process as well. To maintain the Masquerade, various magical/scientific agencies will ensure that the hero remembers nothing of the adventures he had as a kid...or of the allies he made and The Mentor/guardian who looked after them, often delivering a less than idealistic moral on the transience of friendship.

In some works, this is invoked as the reason why Adults Are Useless; they have forgotten how hellish being a child can be, and blithely ignore all the attempt by the child to tell them, because they have convinced themselves that it was better then.

If the episode/chapter/title is "Growing Pains" that's your warning this Trope is in full effect.

Occasionally a child character will get to live as an adult for a while, Freaky Friday-style, taking full advantage of their increased power and ability to make their own rules. Inevitably the Aesop emerges that adults can't do whatever they want and have responsibilities that children don't.

May result in a viewer having a "Screw that!" moment, leading to selective Fanon Discontinuity.

Compare Virgin Power, where possessing easily-lost innocence of a different sort grants supernormal abilities.

See also: Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids, Kid Hero, Coming of Age Story, Competence Zone, Death by Newbery Medal. Contrast Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday which uses the advent of adulthood as the start of an adventure... unless you just want to be normal—then growing up still sucks. Contrast Not Growing Up Sucks, Old Flame Fizzle.

Examples of Growing Up Sucks include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Dragonball Z, Gohan is one of the most powerful characters when his "hidden power" is unlocked. Later in the Buu Saga he is terrible at first and cannot beat Buu even after his "special training". Vegeta lampshades this by claiming "he was stronger when he was a kid".
    • Though that was mainly because before that point, he neglected training in favor of studying for college.
  • In the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Ed becomes furious when he finds out that Mustang did not inform him about Hughes' death. Aunt Pinako tells him that he's acting like a child for complaining about it and thinking that Mustang kept Ed in the dark out of spite.
  • In Sakura Taisen, Sakura is reminded that as she grows up, her "spirit power" will fade and she will have to pass her beloved and long-fought-for sword to the next generation. The said reduction in "spirit power" is later the cause of Sumire's retirement, as well as Ratchet's withdrawal from field duty.
    • Though in the second OVA (written before Tomizawa Michie's temporary retirement from the franchise) implied it could be 10 or more years for Sakura, and she would be too old to marry at that point... so it's not exactly tied with childhood. Infact it seems to be more about using your powers (as Ratchet was part of the Star Division back in World War I and Sumire was the first to ever pilot a suit of spirit armor in the first OVA).
  • Azumanga Daioh does this consistently, starting with the cast's entry into high school and ending with their graduation, when the girls set off for different colleges. It's more optimistic than other examples though—Chiyo-chan notes "Even though we've graduated... we're still together. All of us."
  • Older Magical Girl series seemed to imply that their adventures and fantastic powers were simply metaphors to give them the strength to become... normal Japanese women and wives, who naturally shouldn't have powers greater than their husbands so they give them up. This seems to have created enormous cognitive dissonance, and some recent Magical Girls avoid this angle. This would, however, help explain some of the more questionable bits of Mai-Otome...
    • Notably inverted by Nanoha who, instead of giving up her powers and becoming a normal person, leaves the planet to become a legend. The fact that she has a relationship with an equally-powered woman might be of influence.
  • The .hack games and animes have tried to put this Aesop into the mix, in a manner that's somewhat painful. The original series goes into detail how the AIs are people too but then adds that previous protagonists have "grown past The World" and have essentially abandoned them to later genocide. Hey, they had to go to college.
  • Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann could undergo an example of this, even though he obviously gets adjusted to the ever-changing world around and the changes within himself. Name ONE instance where someone isn't affected even a little bit by the death of a mentor!
  • According to many Anime the reward for a young woman "growing out of" the Romantic Two-Girl Friendship, a relationship built on years of trust and communication, is that she has become mature enough to be with an Accidental Pervert that she has little in common with.
    • A striking example is Mahoraba, where Tamami loses her battle for the affections of Kozue to Shiratori. Sure, Shiratori is not really a pervert, but still...
  • Kurau in Kurau Phantom Memory spent most of her youth being taken over by her Rynax entity. After the disappearance of her Rynax, the human Kurau is faced with leading a more sedate life as a grown-up. She doesn't mind that much, but her fond memories of her Rynax-filled past still give it all a melancholic slant.
  • In Simoun all inhabitants of the planet Daikuuriku are born female and have to choose their gender when they're 17 years old by going to the "Spring". Since there is a war raging, the priestesses who pilot the Simoun aircraft are exempt from this, since once they have visited the Spring they will lose their ability to fly. Some of the characters take this as an opportunity to stay a "maiden" as long as possible, but in the end everybody has to undergo the transformation. A few manage to escape it though, but they are likely to suffer bad consequences.
  • A fairly common Fan interpretation of the first four (especially the first two) Digimon is that the chosen children must have some degree of innocence, but that they cannot get through the series without losing it.
    • In fact, this is pretty overt in the second series - the older children at first drift away from their lives in the Digiworld because they're too busy with things like bands and school that they deem to be more important. In fact, rather heartbreakingly, the villain Oikawa is motivated almost entirely by his all-consuming desire to enter the digiworld and have digimon himself - presented as an attempt to become a child again, or at least reclaim the feeling he had when playing with his friend as a kid.
      • on the other hand the series Distant Finale presents all the Chosen Children, now adults with children of their own but still maintining their digimon companions and visiting the Digiworld, and at least the spanish dub sugests that ALL humans have digimon companions, no matter age.
  • Used somewhat in an episode of Shugo Chara. After Ikuto breaks an X-Egg (a negative Heart's Egg), he goes on to say he doesn't feel bad about breaking Heart's Eggs and children's dreams because, as they grow older, children begin to think more realistically about their dreams and deem them impossible to succeed, ultimately giving up their dreams and losing their Heart's Egg (which is the place all people's dreams, wishes, and their 'would-be-selves' are located) and growing up to be dull, dreary, and tired faced adults who are living unhappy and unfulfilling lives.
    • And another example of this series that is hinted at, but not explicitly stated: once a child whose Heart's Egg has given birth to a guardian character grows into an adult who will be able to reach their dreams, their guardian character will go back into their Heat's Egg and back inside them to slumber because now the child has the ability and encouragement to become who they want to be on their own. While not 100% negative, it is sad to see a guardian character, who most kids become very close to and grow to love, say goodbye.
    • Not just hinted - a later story arc has Amu face this prospect after meeting Nikaidou's chara again. When asked if she doesn't want to grow up, she states that she doesn't really know.
  • The full version of the song included in Bleach's Ending 18 seems to indicate that growing up can be difficult and isn't the most important thing, but it has to be done.
    • In the filler arc, Momo Hinamori inverts this. She looks forward the day she grows up, because that's when she could stop being naive and prevents herself from getting crushed in case someone dear to her betrays her.
  • Naruto plays with this trope. Shortly after Naruto returns to Konoha in Part II, when Konohamaru shows him his perverted ninjutsu, he tells him that he's not a kid anymore and that he shouldn't use jutsu like that. Sakura is impressed, but also a little sad that Naruto is not the same person he was before... until Naruto then suggests that he's developed more effective perverted ninjutsu. While Naruto and many of his friends (especially Shikamaru) appear to be growing up in Part II, Naruto is personally determined not to grow up in a way that requires abandoning his ideals, like his commitment to bring Sasuke back.
  • Subverted in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Rika really wants to grow up. You can't blame her either
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena is basically one big metaphor for growing up. Said "growing up" apparently includes enduring terrible pain, sacrificing yourself for your best friend, then being erased from existence. Or something.
    • MAYBE subverted if you look at it from the angle that the reason all of these characters suffer so horribly is because they won't grow up and face their emotional problems. And when Utena does, she Ascends To A Higher Plane Of Existence and is shortly followed by her best friends. Or something.
  • Generally the entire third season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is about this, at least in the original version: most of the bad characters initially tell Judai that he can't win because he doesn't have the "darkness in his heart" associated with growing up and facing pain and loss. Judai goes on to win anyway, but when his games result in the loss of friends, he has a Heroic BSOD and becomes the Supreme King, and he's never quite the same. Some of these character arcs are retained in season 4, where a Darker and Edgier Judai shies away from his friends, but is eventually forced to battle again when his friends' memories and, eventually, entire existences are erased. We then get it hammered home in his final duel with Yugi, where he remembers to always have fun dueling no matter how old you get.
    • Shies away from them for about two episodes, because he's trying to be more adult and react appropriately to his responsibilities, only to find out he's a bit misguided on that (the bad stuff will still happen at the Academy, he just won't be there to stop it, whereas he thought it would follow him). And after that, spends six episodes helping his three closest friends still at the Academy figure out what they want to do with their lives and helping them get the courage to do it. Growing up involves not clinging to other people for support, and he helped them stand on their own two feet instead of everything revolving around him. He dueled fairly regularly throughout the season, too. I think there are maybe five or six episodes where he doesn't.
  • In Honey and Clover, the main characters go through a lot of spiritual growing pains throughout their late adolescence and early adulthood, having to make tough decisions along the way. Most of them appear to wind up rather well, but the main character is left with bittersweet feelings about having to let go of the last remains of his youth.
  • After the girls in Hidamari Sketch start watching part of the new version of Lovely Chocolat, their old favorite TV show, Sae notes that they're still watching it even though they're in high school. (and are therefore supposed to be out of the Fleeting Demographic). Upon hearing this, Hiro's hair falls flat, and she laments about how growing up is no fun.
  • The girls from Strike Witches gain their special powers when they're about 12 years old and lose them around their 20th birthday. Needless to say that this causes some characters quite a bit of distress.
  • Litchi Hikari Club is a very dark example of this trope. The club's disgust for the ugliness of humans goes to the point of resulting in their murdering a teacher (although in Zera's words, "We are not rejecting growth. What we reject is the fact that you haven't died.") But it gets worse, Jaibo sabotages the club and eventually sets into motion the events that result in their destruction because he is afraid that since he is showing signs of becoming an adult, his voice breaking and his beard beginning to grow, Zera will no longer love him. It makes Jaibo a very crazy Bishounen and it may for the best that he never lives to grow up.
  • This trope is a driving force in Loveless and Soubi overtly mentions it more than once when he claims that he dislikes anyone older than twenty. Ritsuka too often comments that adults are evil or at least uncaring.
  • Wandering Son is full of this. Friendships changing, people changing, new feelings, questions, puberty, the whole deal. The main problem is that the two protagonists are Transsexualism, and puberty is typically a horrid time when you're trans (many have described it as essentially being a living nightmare).
  • A recurring theme in Hayao Miyazaki's films:
    • My Neighbor Totoro, where Satsuki and Mei lose contact with the eponymous forest spirit after their adventure. The credits imply (and Word of God confirms) that Totoro and his friends kept watch over the girls as they grew up, but never showed themselves again.
    • Kiki's Delivery Service, where Kiki loses her ability hold a conversation with her cat familiar Jiji. She initially takes it as part of the larger problem of losing her magic, but when she regains it she finds that she still can't speak to him. The loss is thus implied to be simply a part of growing up. (The Disney translation decided that was too depressing and added a line of spoken dialogue to avert this trope.)
    • Spirited Away, where Chihiro's memories of interacting with the river spirit Kohaku were suppressed as she grew out of infancy. The movie also heavily implies that her whole adventure in the spirit world begins fading from her memory as soon as she leaves it.

Comic Books

  • Played straight at first in Ultimate Spider-Man in which the fifteen year old Peter Parker is told by Nick Fury that he will belong to him once he turns eighteen. For some time he assumes this means he will be a prisoner but when he later confronts Fury, he learns that the man actually meant he will be a member of The Ultimates, a famous team of government funded superheroes, which obviously means Peter will have a well paying and exciting job waiting for him that will also allow him to keep his personal vows. Although the implication remains that all superheroes are being strictly regulated and have fewer civil rights than nonpowered individuals.
  • Every Christmas, Archie and friends get a visit from a fun-loving elf named Jingles whom only they and people younger than them can see. Because the grown-ups don't believe in Santa Claus and other such creatures, they can't see him.
  • The National Lampoon did a telenovela-style comic "Too Old For Menudo" - we follow a member of the Boy Band who, on the eve of his 16th birthday, leaves the band in accordance with their policy. The next morning he looks to be in his mid-50s, and can't get a singing gig anywhere.


  • Baby Geniuses does this by turning the babies-becoming-toddlers into not-geniuses but... *shudder* let's pretend we don't know anything about those movies, okay?
  • Played straight in the movie Tom's Midnight Garden, with Anthony Way. The movie emphasises all the drawbacks of growing up, and the way some of the adult characters talk, one would think they were describing some terminal illness. Subverted/partially averted in the book, which discusses the drawbacks of growing up, but also some of the benefits.
  • The most extreme example would be in Logan's Run, where upon reaching your 21st birthday (30th in The Movie), you are sent to your death.
  • A touching scene from Toy Story 2 shows this trope from a different angle when we learn the past of Jessie, a toy cowgirl. She started off being Emily's best friend, but as the girl grows up, Jessie is forgotten and eventually donated. Being reminded that Andy will eventually outgrow him is enough to temporarily convince Woody that living on display in a toy museum is better than being loved temporarily by a child.
  • Subverted in The Land Before Time 2. Throughout the Film, Littlefoot is constantly seeking respect, trust and freedom from his grandparents which is denied because he is too young. He then tries to raise Chomper, a baby T. Rex as a parent would. After doing this, he of course learns why his grandparents sometimes forbid him to do things, but he still remarks at the end that he cannot wait to grow up.
  • In The Purple Rose of Cairo, Cecilia finds love with a film character who leaves the movie to enter the real world. Later, the real actor who plays the character shows up and convinces her to dump the magical character for him. Then, he leaves her as he faked his interest in her just to get her to leave the magical character so as to avoid any harm to his career in having the magical character around.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John Connor starts to see the Model 101 as a friend / father figure but in the end, has to give him up so the technology needed to make SkyNet can be destroyed.
    • Compounded by the fact that it didn't work!
  • Subverted in Labyrinth, where Sarah puts away her childish things... which do not include the magical people she met.
    • A little deeper than that. "Should you need us..." Growing up does not mean you abandon the fantasy things you love, but just realizing they are fantasy and you can't let it get in the way of what's important.
  • Another Disney Channel Original Movie, Don't Look Under the Bed, showed abandoned imaginary friends turning into boogey men. Boogey men with mouths full of fangs and long, yellowed fingernails that dragged children under the bed and trapped them in the underworld. So...yeah.
    • However it's stated that usually when kids grow up imaginary friends find new kids to be friends with, only when they're abandoned before they're ready do they turn into boogey men. Making it "trying to grow up to fast sucks".
  • In Finding Neverland, James Barrie firmly believes that life is better as a child than as an adult, and tries to stop Peter Llewelyn Davies from growing up so quickly. Given how much more fun James has acting like a child than acting as an adult, he has a bit of a point.
  • The film Hook, an unofficial sequel to Peter Pan, zigzags the trope by showing exactly why, while Growing Up Sucks, it's a necessary part of life. Instead of whisking Wendy's granddaughter away to Neverland, Peter instead chooses to stay in the real world with her, and finally grows up, forgetting his adventures in Neverland and becoming a rather boring lawyer with a family of his own (married to Wendy's granddaughter, natch). He then returns to Neverland to rescue his children from Captain Hook, and has a grand time reliving his childhood adventures, but eventually realizes that he can't get this life back, and his children need him to be a responsible adult. On the other hand, he also comes to a realization that being a stuffy adult is not actually being "responsible", and that he still needs to retain some childlike enjoyment of life (as symbolized by his trashing his cell phone).
  • The long-in-development Mary Poppins Returns shows Jane and Michael from the original film all grown up, and with apparently no recollection of Mary Poppins' magical abilities, or their adventures together.

Korean Animation

  • The Korean animated film Mari iyagi (My Beautiful Girl Mari) is about the beautiful Dream Land the main character and his friend would go to to escape their boring hometown as children. There, they meet Cute Mute Mari and a humongous yellow lab. In the dreary, rainy "present" the main character is returning to his hometown to "find something," but he can't quite remember the dream world nor Mari, his first love.


  • Possibly Older Than Feudalism. The expulsion from Eden in the book of Genesis is a Growing Up Sucks story, as Adam and Chava/Eve take on new knowledge and freedom, but lose the childlike state of being eternally babysat. And it's been suggested the tale is actually a metaphor for humanity's shift from the animal-like hunter/gatherer life to settled agriculture.
  • One of the most famous happens toward the end of House At Pooh Corner: "Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last..."

Christopher Robin: I'm not going to do Nothing any more.
Pooh: Never again?
CR: Well, not so much. They don't let you.

  • In His Dark Materials, the changeover from childhood to maturity is marked not with a loss of the child's powers, but that of their daemon—they lose their Shapeshifting ability and remain in one form for their rest of their life. Given that the daemon is an anima/animus of the child, however, this development is directly linked to their bonded human rather than the daemon. Most likely a metaphor for "becoming set in your ways", the lack of prejudice and adaptability children are supposed to have being sacrificed for the reassurance of a firm identity - and this is treated as a joyous occasion by the two main characters.
    • If anything His Dark Materials subverts this hard. The entire theme of the series is pretty much "Growing up has its compensations."
    • Although Lyra does lose the ability to read the alethiometer, and of course only grown-ups are vulnerable to the Spectres.
  • Narnia: Children eventually outgrow permission to visit Narnia, because, according to Aslan, the point of meeting him in Narnia is so they may grow to know him by "his real name" on Earth.
    • Everyone gets to return in the last book, however, because they've died in an accident in their world and arrived in Narnian heaven. Everyone, that is, except Susan, who refuses to believe in Narnia any more, and wasn't with them when they died, though she'll probably join them once she does.
      • Maybe, as Susan wasn't a 'friend' of Narnia anymore because of the infamous 'lipstick and nylons' quote. Two schools of thought exist, one that CS Lewis wanted to punish her for entering sexual maturity and preferring that to Narnia. The offical one was she became shallow, vain and attached to material things. Of course C.S. Lewis himself said that Susan might well get back to Narnia someday; 'In her own time, and in her own way.'
    • Interestingly, in a Truth in Television subversion, C. S. Lewis comments that the desire to be "grown up" is itself a mark of childhood:

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

  • Peter Pan is the proverbial boy who refused to grow up. His Lost Boys remain young and immortal as long as they're with him. (And as long as they can keep from regaining any memories of their former lives in the real world.) At the end of the story, Wendy returns to the real world, grows up and has a family. When Peter Pan comes calling again, he informs her that she is too old to go back to Neverland and whisks her daughter away instead.
    • Note that Peter Pan plays with the idea that, while growing up sucks, not growing up also sucks (your friends leave you, and eventually die; you have perpetual forgetfulness and no family). It's hinted, when the Lost Boys leave, that they would have left at some point anyway; to quote the opening sentence, "All children, except one, grow up." In other words, while Peter urges everyone to stay with him and forbids growing old, no one but himself is capable of permanently resisting age—and, if you look at it another way, everyone but himself is capable of growing up.
    • The original version of the story (Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens) has Peter run off while still a baby and get "raised" by birds (not of course growing up), and then meeting the fairies of Kensington Gardens, often joining them for playtime after the park has closed. He pleases the fairy queen so much that she grants him a wish, which he bargains down to two smaller wishes. He uses the first to visit his sleeping mother, flying in through the window she always leaves open for him. She looks so sad that he almost wakes her, but then decides to go back to the gardens to tie up some loose ends. But then he takes so long saying goodbye to all his friends (possibly due to the Year Outside, Hour Inside effect often attributed to fairy realms) that when he uses his second wish to fly back to his mother, he finds the window closed and barred, and his mother sleeps with her arms around a new little boy. "In vain he beat his little hands against the panes. He had to fly back, weeping, to the Gardens...." Thus he grew up (got a heart-rending lesson in the consequences for immature behavior) and, as a consequence, was never able to grow up. The last two lines set the tone:

"It is Lock-Out Time. The iron bars are up for life."

  • Gender-specific Growing Up Sucks - almost every Pony Tale in existence had at least one female character who "grew out" of her love for horses - usually, gender bias is in operation and only the male characters actually make a career out of equestrian sports, while for the girls, their pony is just a "child substitute" they'll get rid of once they discover boys.
    • K.M Peyton was one writer who did this to death, with the heroines giving up horses to become wives and mothers. Generally, the horse is seen as a substitute for a boyfriend. The Pennington/Fly-by-Night series is pretty blunt about it as well - one character reflects that she preferred horses who were wild and unpredictable, and that's how she likes her men. Thanks for that image, Ms. Peyton.
    • A specific example of this is "Jill", a series of pony books written in the 1950s and definitely a product of its time. She's portrayed as a highly capable, intelligent girl with a gift for dealing with horses. Once she leaves school, though, her mentor Captain Cholly-Sawcutt (yes, that is his real name, honest) sternly informs her that she's too old to be playing with horses all the time, and as a girl she'll never make it in the competitive field. To which Jill replies that he's absolutely right, and she'll get stuck in at her typing classes so she can be a "top notch" secretary, the only proper job for a woman. Sigh.
    • A rather melancholy entry in the "Adrian Mole" diaries has Adrian pass by the field where his on-again, off-again (very much off at that point) girlfriend Pandora used to ride a pony she now scarcely visits. The implication is not just that Pandora has left behind her pony Blossom, but also her adolescent first love Adrian.
    • Some Truth in Television here, as plenty of girls do give up (or are forced to give up) horses for boys, college, or marriage and a family of their own. Many of them return to the sport later if their time and resources allow it. Some wind up moving to a city and cannot keep horses any more, but go back to riding in midlife.
  • In the Mary Poppins book series, everyone in the world is born with the ability to communicate telepathically with animals and to remember the strange spiritual journey which led them to their moment of birth. People lose this ability and forget everything that happens to them in their early infancy once they begin talking. (Mary Poppins has somehow managed to retain both her early memories and abilities, which is how she communicates with both animals and with the younger, pre-toddler-age Banks children.)
    • It's always vaguely implied (and definitely Fanon) that while the Banks family and the world they live in is human, Mary herself is supernatural. A popular theory is that she's a fairy of some sort, temporarily exiled from her usual world (which is why she comes and goes from the Banks' lives like she does). It would certainly explain a lot about her, if it's true.
  • Joyfully subverted in Good Night Opus where the story ends with Opus returned home after his fantasy journey and telling about it to his Granny. Thus informed, Granny finds a Pegasus coming to her bedroom to take her on her own trip.
  • Partial aversion: "Robbie", a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, has young Gloria, who gets a robot nursemaid named Robbie. When publicly available robots were the newest craze, her mother basked in the prestige of owning Robbie. However, anti-robot sentiment quickly rises throughout the world and suddenly Mrs. Weston becomes concerned about the effect a robot nursemaid would have on her daughter, since Gloria is more interested in playing with Robbie than with the other children. She eventually badgers her husband into returning Robbie to the factory. Gloria refuses to forget about Robbie, constantly badgering her parents about him. Finally, one day during a tour of the factory, Robbie saves her life. Her mother gives in at that point and agrees that Robbie can stay "until he rusts". It is a partial aversion because the story mentions that many years later Gloria had to give up Robbie as privately owned robots were outlawed on Earth, but by then she was grown up and was supposedly not as attached to him.
  • This is often added as an Anvilicious coda to adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and such.
    • Although at the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the story turns to Alice's older sister who thinks fondly about her younger sibling and how she'll grow up one day and even though she won't have fantastical dreams anymore, she'll be able to give other children fantastical dreams and "make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale". It's not so much Growing Up Sucks as Growing Up Is Inevitable But It Doesn't Have To Suck If You Don't Want It To.
  • J. K. Rowling gave this as the reason for killing off Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • Piemur, a boy soprano in the Dragonriders of Pern series, finds that growing up sucks for fundamentally biological reasons—his voice breaks and he loses his central position in the Harper Hall choir, and is transferred into the drum tower (basically the communications centre for the then-technology scarce Pern) until the Master Harper, Robinton, can decide on his future. While Piemur does remain critical to Harper Hall operations, it's mainly in his later role as an adventurer/spy, rather than as part of the sheltered, music-centred life he'd enjoyed until then.
  • In A Coming of Age by Timothy Zahn, people are born with powerful telekinetic powers, and lose them at puberty. Adults keep them in line by controlling all technology and knowledge (even reading), but kids can fly under their own power, so it's clear who has the better end of the deal.
  • At first this is thought to be played straight in The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, where two of the main characters desire to become adults so they can have more "power" (in society) and two of the "villains" want to become children because they didn't have a happy childhood. But this suffers a radical subversion at the end, when one of the children becomes an adult and live happily (even having some years of his life skipped) while the adults who become children found childhood "boring".
  • Partially (and grimly) subverted in Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum. Three-year-old Oskar deliberately stunts his growth, by hurling himself down the stairs, in an attempt to avoid the horrors of the adult world. He also uses his titular toy drum to shield himself from these horrors. In the end, a blow to the head causes him to age instantly, becoming horribly malformed.
  • Pippi Longstocking doesn't want to grow up, and eats "krumelur" pills to remain a child. Whether or not it works is never revealed.
  • Pretty much the main theme of Stephen King's IT, along with The Power of Friendship.
  • A staple of William Wordsworth's poetry and philosophy, especially "Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood." He takes Plato's idea that the soul pre-exists the body and says that at our birth we know and understand everything, but we forget it all as we grow older, which results in losing our sense of wonder at the beauty of the world. Sounds depressing, but actually the way Wordsworth presents it is pretty hopeful, since he believes that it is possible to retain childlike innocence and wonder.
  • The Catcher in The Rye is another classic example. The title refers to the main character's urge to keep kids, especially his little sister, from growing up and losing their innocence. He mishears the words to "Coming through the Rye" by Robert Burns and imagines himself standing by a cliff at the edge of a field of rye where children are playing, and if any of them get too close to the cliff, he catches them. Of course in the end he realizes that you can't protect kids forever—but he must not have handled it well, since he's narrating the story from inside a mental institution.
  • The Little Prince is filled with examples of this trope. One of them is the phrase : "All grown-ups have been children, but very few remember."
  • In The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens loses his powers after he has grown-up and fulfilled the prophecy.
    • But it's made clear that adulthood is when he gets to explore the world and find a real identity for himself. I think the Aesop here is more 'growing up is difficult but necessary, now get on with it'.
  • Definitely a theme in The Thief of Always. At one point Harvey wishes for a miniature Noah's ark, a relic from his childhood, and House promptly gives him an exact, flawless copy. However due to his curiosity he ends up losing it in the lake. He does manage to save a few figurines (or rather, Lulu salvages them for him) from the lake, but as soon as he leaves Hood House they disintegrate. Considering that Hood House is a Lotus Eater Machine and the lake is where the transformed children are kept after Hood takes their souls... What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic indeed.
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books almost universally end up with an Esoteric Happy Ending thanks to her use of this trope. The children in her books, live dull, dreary lives, until encountering some unusual place, friend, or ability—which they lose at the end of the story, accompanied by Anvilicious Stock Aesops. Snyder manages to Lampshade this in The Changeling, when one of the little girls informs the other that "all babies are born with magic but lose it" as they get older. And she inverts it in the Green-Sky Trilogy (which became the video game Below The Root) by postulating a culture where babies are born with psychic powers they're supposed to keep and improve on as they mature. The fact that successive generations are losing these abilities at earlier ages is one of the first ominous signs that something is really wrong.
  • Robert Heinlein's Juveniles tend to be like this. His last book that was suppose to be a Juvenile was Starship Troopers. Podkayne of Mars is almost as bad, as protecting the Venusian fairy gets Podkayne killed (although it does shock her brother out of his sociopathy).
  • Quantum Gravity is a Coming of Age Story for both Lila and Zal, who both go through some serious bad things as they grow up. Malachi wants to protect Lila from growing up. By the end, it's a subversion.
  • In The Ugly Truth, the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Greg has a talk with his grandmother where he learns that the ugly truth is Growing Up Sucks. And once you do grow up, all you do is get old.
  • Somewhat averted in Neil Gaiman's short story "Chivalry" where the reader realizes that if you look carefully you can still see the wonder of your childhood through a patina of dust.
  • A major theme throughout The Pale King, but especially prevalent in Chris Fogle's chapter.
  • Prominent in H. G. Wells' 1911 story The Door In the Wall, where the narrator's childhood friend, now a stuffy lawyer, laments over the green door to Eden that he cannot enter now that he's grown up, and as it appears less and less frequently, all the regret over not making the decision to enter the door leads him to commit suicide by walking into a deep construction dig.
  • Lamis, Ikram, and Houd hate leaving the nursery in A Dirge for Prester John, especially since their lives from this point on will be determined by lottery and they will likely never see each other, their mother, or their nurse again.

Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer- this is pretty much the major theme of the second season, if not the entire series.
  • An episode of Dinosaurs featured Robbie challenging his father for dominance. He discovered that adulthood came with a whole bunch of hassles, and his father agreed growing up wasn't worth it. The only thing that Earl considered worthwhile enough about adulthood to reclaim his mantle and responsibilities? Sex.
  • One of the recurring minor themes of Freaks and Geeks.
  • "Undeclared" - Episode: "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" - Steven and his dad are talking. Steven asks why he needs a job, and Steven's father informs him that Growing Up Sucks.
  • Community has a version of this, when Troy realizes that growing up means you're just as dumb as your younger self, but with more responsibilities.
    • Both Troy and Abed devote extraordinary amounts of time and energy to subverting this trope. After building and entering a blanket fort:

Troy: You thinking what I'm thinking?
Abed: We're too big for this, aren't we?
Troy: (disappointed) Yeah...
Troy: Bet if we went two pillows higher in the corner we could vault the ceiling, bump up the square footage. Make this a blanket fort for men.

  • Power Ranger:
    • Apply some Fridge Logic to Power Rangers Turbo and you get this. Not too long after Tommy, Katherine, Tanya, and Adam graduate from high school, they pass the torch to T.J., Cassie, Ashley, and Carlos. The point was supposed to be, "You've done your duty, now go to better things." However, since they had the rug pulled out from under them pretty quickly by getting stripped of their powers, it made it look like turning 18 made them completely useless, a la Menudo.
    • Even worse is Mora from Power Rangers SPD, a Perky Female Minion and Mook Maker for General Gruumm. When introduced, she seems to be a Creepy Child, but is, in fact an adult who hates being adult. Her childlike body is a boon from Gruumm, and he can reverse the process, restoring her to her true age as a punishment.
  • Epitomized in this monologue from Night Court: " I don't know what's real anymore. When I was young, my mother told me Santa Claus was real. But when I got older... she told me he wasn't. One book says Jesus is real; one book says he isn't. We're living in the greatest country in the world... and we're murdering each other in the streets. What did they expect when they made us believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny then gave us the nuclear bomb to play with. Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle is a lie like all the rest, the astronauts killed the man in the moon, growing up took care of the rest."


  • "Grow Up" by Simple Plan.
  • A major theme in Nightwish's work from Century Child onward. A recent major example is I Want My Tears Back on the album Imaginaerum.

Where is the wonder? Where's the awe?
Where's dear Alice knocking on the door?
Where's the trapdoor that takes me there,
where the real is shattered by a Mad March Hare?
Where is the wonder? Where's the awe?
Where are the sleepless nights I used to live for?
Before the years take me
I wish to see the lost in me.

  • One of the most famous examples is Menudo. In order to keep them appealing to young girls, they kept the band members young. They did this by putting a kill switch on all members' time in the band. Usually it was turning 16, but also getting too tall, beginning to shave, or having your voice change guaranteed you'd be bounced out of the band, no questions asked.
  • The song "Puff the Magic Dragon" ends with Jackie Paper growing up and abandoning his imaginary(?) friend, leaving Puff alone and in sorrow.
    • The official book adaptation by the songwriters addresses the downer ending by the adult Jackie Paper introducing his daughter to the dragon.
  • The Filk Song "Omoide wa Okkusenman" ("Memories are worth 110 million;" based on music from Mega Man 2) is about the singer's childhood memories, from specific events (eating curry) to more general nostalgia (pictures of him with his friends, and the name of his first crush written in a faded and lost diary), and how they're fading away from him as he settles into the monotone routine of adult life. The animation depicts him as a desk-working salaryman.
  • "In This Diary" by The Ataris

"Being grown up isn't half as fun as growing up. These are the best days of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you'll finally get it right."

  • "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds
  • "The Logical Song" by Supertramp
  • "Back in the day" by Ahmad
  • "Playground in my Mind" by Clint Holmes

"When this whole world gets me down and there's no love to be found, I close my eyes and soon I find, I'm in a playground in my mind...

  • "Boys of Summer" and "End of the Innocence" by Don Henley
  • "I Wish I was a Little Boy Again" by Lynn Anderson

"But girls grow into women, and boys grow into men, and the world of make-believe all to soon must end, and I blame that awful change for the shape my life is in..."

  • "Green Green Grass of Home" by Porter Wagoner/Tom Jones
  • "This Used to be my Playground" by Madonna

"This used to be my playground, this used to be my childhood dream, this used to be the place I ran to..."

  • The song "Photosynthesis" by Frank Turner has an interesting twist on this kind of subject; the song basically goes into how the singer has accepted that he's getting older and watching fads pass by and friends grow up. However, he doesn't see what's so great about all the things that come along with being an adult, like mortgages and ditching all your dreams. Although he thinks it's fine if you like that stuff, he'd rather stay a kid at heart. The title of the song comes from him telling the listener that, if all you do with your life is sit around and photosynthesize, then you deserve every moment you waste, just thinking about when you're going to die.
  • "Photograph" by Nickelback.
  • "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" by Tom Waits, also covered by The Ramones.
  • "Life's Gonna Suck (When You Grow Up)" by Denis Leary. It can either be taken in rather humourous way, or a slightly depressing way.
  • "Field Of Innocence" by Evanescence.
  • Subverted by the Barenaked Ladies song "Babyseat" in a way similar to Frank Turner, which says that idealism is not just for kids, even including the line "If you think growing up is tough, then you're just not grown up enough."
  • The MGMT song "Kids" is about how, in the grand scheme of things, childhood is completely pointless and yet it's depressing how natural it is to transition out of it. All the while it is sung to a light and fun yet trippy electronic beat.

Memories fade, like looking through a fogged mirror.
Decision to decisions are made and not bought
But I thought this wouldn't hurt a lot.
I guess not.

  • The Offspring's song "The Kids Aren't Alright" shows how a group of childhood friends get all f'd-up after they grow up.
  • "I Won't Grow Up" from Disney's Film and musical of Peter Pan.
  • "Pretend" by Lights.
  • Billy Dean's song "Billy The Kid" is about him wishing he could revisit his childhood and lamenting the fact "there's only so much you can do as a man".
  • Bucky Covington's song "A Different World" reflects on simpler times, with such lines as "No bottled water. We'd drink from a garden hose".
  • The song "Forever Young" by Alphaville could be seen as this.

Sooner or later
They all will be gone.
Why don't they stay young?

  • "Older" by Colbie Caillat
  • "Twenty Years Ago" by Kenny Rogers
  • Doctor Steel's other primary motivation, besides revenge. Sung about in "Childhood Don't A-Go-Go."
  • "Christmas Through Your Eyes" by Gloria Estefan
  • "American Honey" by Lady Antebellum - narrator Hillary Scott states a desire to return to childhood and the innocence of youth.
  • Taylor Swift's song "Never Grow Up."

So here I am in my new apartment
In a big city, they just dropped me off
It's so much colder than I thought it would be
So I tuck myself in and turn my night light on
Wish I'd never grown up
I wish I'd never grown up
Oh, I don't wanna grow up
Wish I'd never grown up
I could still be little
Oh, I don't wanna grow up
Wish I'd never grown up
It could still be simple

  • Averted to some extent in the song Those Were the Days

Oh, my friends, we're older but no wiser
for in our hearts the dreams are still the same

I miss those days and I miss those ways
When I got lost in fantasies,In a cartoon land of mysteries
In a place you won't grow old, in a place you won't feel cold

Tabletop Games

  • In Tabletop Game/Changeling: the Dreaming from the Old World of Darkness, growing up means losing touch with one's faerie side, and inevitably succumbing to the cold, cruel, dull grip of Banality. Never mind that the world of changelings isn't all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, and that with all the other supernatural creatures out there, life in the World of Darkness is anything but dull for mortals...
  • Engel also has this... Although the Engel believe themselves to be Angels sent by god, the truth is that they are children enhanced by nanites and surgery to be superpowered defenders of the people. As they grow older, it becomes harder to pass as sexless celestial beings, and the brainwashing wears off. So before this happens, the church returns the Engel to Heaven...funny thing is, without all the drugs and hypnotic suggestion, the gates to Heaven look a hell of a lot more like a furnace.


  • One of the main themes of Avenue Q, best encapsulated in the song 'I Wish I Could Go Back To College'. The writers even said in the book that they chose Gary Coleman to be a character because they thought he was the epitome of someone who hit the high point of their life when they were quite young and saw it all go downhill afterwards.

Video Games

  • The Kokiri forest of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is entirely populated by children living with their fairies, watched over by the Great Deku tree, and free from monsters and the issues of the rest of Hyrule, making it practically a metaphor for childhood. Naturally, Link has to leave fairly early on in his adventure. This trope is featured to some degree in the ending, where Zelda sends Link back to the past to give him back his childhood years, but Navi, his fairy companion for the entire journey, leaves him.
  • In the Neverland level of Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, Wendy faces the same issue of wanting to go back to London that she did in Peter Pan. While Peter is upset about the prospect of never seeing her again, he's even more concerned about her forgetting about him as she grows older, but Sora suggests that the most important memories are never gone for good.
    • Rather ironic too, considering that in the book it was Peter who forgot Wendy after she left. He forgot Hook too, after he killed him.
  • One of the recurring themes of Kira Kira, and the cause of the Genre Shift in the third chapter in some routes.
  • In Fallout, if an inhabitant of Little Lamplight turns 16, he or she is forced to leave the relative safety of the caves and go to Big Town, a place plagued by raiders, slavers and Super Mutants. They don't refuse because they have been fooled by the others into thinking it is a great place, possibly intentionally (since they do have scout and foraging groups).
  • In Clock Tower 3/4, Rooders' powers begin to fade after age 15, which means one would essentially lose their powers by age 20. Being constantly stalked by psychopath killers and "the forces of darkness", growing up almost invariably means you'll be defenseless against them. Considering said stalkers can find out you have Rooder blood and would like to prevent you from having offspring who can fight them back, your life will be incredibly fun from that point on. Did I mention the souls of the people killed by the subordinates will be forever tortured in order to nourish them and make them nigh invincible?

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Done fairly subtly in Lonelygirl15: Bree is initially seemingly obsessed with her stuffed toy animals, to the point where they're treated like characters in their own rights. They feature less and less as the series goes on, with Bree eventually admitting that she's probably getting too old for them in "Training Hard".
  • The Nostalgia Critic gives a bit of a deconstruction. Every portion of his life has failed in some way, so he as a child wanted to be a teenager, he as a teenager wanted to be an adult and he as an adult wants to be a child again. The result is that he's come to the conclusion that things just suck in general.

Western Animation

  • The Fairly OddParents: Timmy will automatically lose Cosmo and Wanda—and his memories of them—when he reaches his eighteenth birthday... if he doesn't screw up before then. This adds a melancholic note to the series by underlining the fact that Timmy, while clearly loved by his godparents, is not unique but rather just one of a long list of godchildren they've cared for.
    • Actually, one episode implies that he is unique. While Cosmo and Wanda have a hallway in their miniature castle dedicated to their past godchildren (good and bad each), they have an entire room dedicated to Timmy. Of course, one could also argue that they may do this for whatever child they're currently caring for, and Timmy will just become another single portrait in a hall.
    • In the Trapped in TV Land movie, Timmy is shown to grow up to be almost exactly like his cheerfully oblivious father, turning the care of his kids over to an insane, Vicky-esque robotic babysitter, though the memory wipe may be to blame for his failure to learn from his father's mistakes. On the bright side, guess who his children's godparents are?
    • The Live Action Adaptation, A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!, shows him continuing to act like a child, despite having now aged to 23, and somehow still keeping his fairies.
      • It was shown in the episode where he wishes himself into an adult that an adult who acts like a child can have fairies.
  • This is the core and the major source of Dramatic Irony in Kids Next Door. Especially ironic is the fact that not only do they grow up and out of their roles as KND operatives, they turn into the enemy (teenagers/adults). If they submit to the mandatory mind-wipe, their best possible future is to become harmless and lose their Competence Zone pass - yet there's always the possibility they'll end up as villains anyway. There are some exceptions, however, as seen in "Maurice" and in the finale, but regular Operatives don't know this. Bear in mind, this will happen to EVERYONE, even the main characters. Except for Numbuh One.
    • Many children in the show consider this inevitability, and decide to betray them now rather than later.
    • In the series finale, adulthood is stated to be a disease. To hammer the point in even further, the adult versions of Sector V are portrayed as live-action actors rather than animated characters.
    • However, some characters like Numbuh One's dad, the former Numbuh Zero, present the idea that growing up to be good parents to the current children is good and important enough for them to give up their adventures as KND operatives.
  • The premise for Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is that Bloo, Mac's imaginary friend, can live there and won't be put up for adoption so long as Mac keeps his promise to keep visiting Bloo. In this case the sword hanging over Bloo's head is that, should Mac ever stop coming and/or grow out of needing an imaginary friend, Bloo will be given up for adoption. As fates go, this isn't especially cruel since adults can still see and visit their old imaginary friends (there's even a "class reunion" day for it!), but pretty much every adult has eventually put their imaginary friend up for adoption, and since imaginary friends live at least(?) as long as real people, they can end up seeing many different owners. The only exception is Madam Foster, owner and founder of Foster's Home.
    • Though Madam Foster and Frankie both seem to believe that Mac may possess the qualities to stay with his imaginary friend forever as well.
    • At least he won't dissolve into thin air once Mac gives him up, which is often used in series with premises like this.
  • The fifth season of Daria featured lots of this. Both Daria and Jane explicitly stated in "Prize Fighters" that they were growing up and as such, were worrying about things and doing things they never used to. "Is It College Yet", The Movie which ended the series, also featured Daria, Jane, and some of the other cast members graduating and leaving for college, though they had a bright outlook for the future.
  • In Johnny Test, Dukey precisely says "Growing Up Sucks" while explaining pimples.
  • Kim Possible really wants to make sure we're depressed about growing up judging by how both Series Finale address the issue. So The Drama deals with Kim and Ron growing up and apart. Ron even starts to go into a monologue about how "Maybe I don't want to grow up". Their Relationship Upgrade at the end makes for an optimistic upswing though. "Graduation" deals with... graduation, and the uncertainties of the future. While dealing with some rough patches there is still an optimistic ending plus positive points from the Word of God.
    • The key theme of the Grand Finale is Ron seeing graduation as "the end of the world". An Alien Invasion seems to back him up on this, but what he's really worried about is Kim shooting off into a glittering future and leaving him in the dust.
  • Teen Titans: Beast Boy has to let go of childhood in the Series Finale appropriately titled "Things Change".
  • When the Winx girls and their pixies sneak off to Earth in season two, they discover that only children can see pixies. The 4Kids dub added the layer to it that humans are born with magic and eventually grow out of it.
  • An episode of Recess had T.J. bonding with the Kindergarten kids. The rest of the main characters remind him that one year later they'll leave this life.
    • Another episode has Mikey getting obsessed with a Barney Expy so his mother can take care of him longer.
  • On Moral Orel, Clay explains adulthood to Orel.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Grandma's Kisses" deals with SpongeBob trying to lay it out to his Grandma that he's an adult and no longer needs kisses after an embarrassing public incident. He and Patrick go to Grandma's house to show her how manly they are with false sideburns. When Patrick starts getting spoiled by SpongeBob's Grandma. She unintentionally lures SpongeBob back to childhood by feeding him steamed coral while Patrick gets cookies, reading Patrick a kiddie book while SpongeBob is given a boring book on routine active maintenance, and breaking the straw by giving Patrick a sweater with loving in the stitches while SpongeBob gets office supplies... and they weren't even wrapped up. After this he abandons his masculinity to be Grandma's baby again, but Grandma tells him that no matter how old he gets, she will always love him like she did when he was a baby.
  • Many parents were very angry when Nickelodeon announced that they will be introducing a new Dora the Explorer series, set with Dora being 12 years old instead of 8. The main reason is because she's left her rural area to go to a city, abandoned her adventures, and become more feminine.
  • South Park has "You're Getting Old", where Stan turns 10 and realizes how shitty things are progressively getting to the point of seeing and hearing nothing but shit, a disorder called by a doctor "Being a cynical asshole". This leads to an end of his friendships and with his mother divorcing Randy after not being able to take his shenanigans anymore, moving away from South Park
  • Implied in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic with Spike receiving more gifts, which causes him to get older. Not only that, but he becomes nastier, until he finally acts like Godzilla or King Kong as an adult. Thankfully, this is easily reversed by giving up the gifts.
    • It was not so much that he was receiving gifts that was causing him to grow rapidly, but rather the fact that instead of remaining thankful for what he had, he went out and started demanding presents from everyone until he just started taking everything that wasn't nailed down-- and then some.
    • Also, even though his dragon magic-induced growth spurt was reversed by the episode's end, many fans still predict a Tear Jerker outcome when he someday grows up biologically (even if it's unlikely to actually be chronicled by the show, if for no other reason than because of time limits).