It’s easy to dismiss the purchase of adult toys as an unimportant fad. But the appearance of the “kidult” is troubling in several ways, as it speaks to the state of a decadent culture that embraces childish and immature things. The kidult idea is also part of the postmodern desire to be what one is not. It is a revolt against the Creator and the desire to be the fantasized creator of one’s own identity.
A few years ago, the tendency of young people to postpone adulthood and to live as eternal teenagers was criticized. Young people were encouraged to become “adults” by assuming at least some of the tasks and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals. Now a new word is circulating describing another postmodern nonsense: the “kidult”.
This curious mixture of child and adult is the opposite of the “adult” teenager. It consists of mature adults who assume some of the attributes of children. A new niche market has opened up to cater to these now “adults”.
A hot new trend for this demographic is adults buying toys for their own entertainment.
Kidult-Toys “R” us?
It’s not just adult coloring books anymore, but all kinds of stocking stuffers. Toy companies develop special lines of products that appeal to children. Legos now has over a hundred kits explicitly designed for adults. Stuffed animals, dolls and action figures are all the rage among 18+. McDonald’s recently jumped on the bandwagon by offering Happy Meals for kids, with a free toy inside.
Many claim that the new trend is an effect of the pandemic. The stress and insecurity of withdrawing from society has driven many Americans to want to reconnect with their past. They long for the distant past of a childhood where things are often simpler. But unlike the old nostalgia-based adult toy sales, new toy shoppers are actually playing with them.
The surge in sales is also linked to a feeling of entitlement. Adults give each other toys to make up for what they never had in childhood. They sometimes indulge in shopping to satisfy the fantasies of their inner child. Doll owners like to appear on social media in matching outfits. Toys are found at celebrations like birthdays, showers and corporate events. Toy companies are right behind the kidults, keeping up with demand with new teddy bears and Captain Marvel action figures.
A significant share of the toy market
According to market research firm NPD Group Inc, toys for the over 18 now make up 14% of the US toy market, up 9% from 2019. the wall street journal An article reports that sales of kidults reached $5.3 billion, surpassing even toddlers in sales value. Only customers aged 12 to 17 bought more toys. Manufacturers like kidults because they tend to buy more expensive items and keep larger collections. They spend freely since they are not limited by allowances.
It’s easy to dismiss the purchase of adult toys as an unimportant fad. In a free market, people can buy whatever they want. How people entertain themselves is their business. Additionally, if toys reduce stress in people traumatized by the pandemic, then the trend should be encouraged, not fought.
Childhood as a period of transition
However, the appearance of the kidult is troubling from several non-economic perspectives. It talks about the state of a decadent culture that embraces childish and immature things.
Childhood is a transitory state through which everything passes. It can be a time of innocence and bliss where everything is full of wonder and freshness. However, it is not meant to be forever. Children are safe from many dangers, so they can have the opportunity to build character, establish good habits, and grow in the love of God that comes naturally to them.
These formative years also have a negative side, in which children show immaturity, irresponsibility and weakness. Children experience quirks, moods and temper tantrums that need to be overcome. Childhood is a time of intense preparation for life, and its lessons must often be learned in the school of hard knocks.
Before toys were declared gender neutral, toys served as serious tools through which children could imagine their future lives. Girls often imagined their dolls as children. The boys envisioned their future professions with tool kits or uniforms.
However, the goal of childhood should always be maturity and dignity. The child aims to be a responsible adult capable of going all the way without the stupidity of youth. It is the responsibility of the adult to set an example for the child by setting standards of excellence, building families, developing the arts, and worshiping God. In the past, young adolescents were given responsibilities or odd jobs as “little adults” to accelerate the process of reaching the fullness of their human development.
The Kidults reverse this maturing process by pushing themselves back into a world that is no longer their own.
To be what we are not
The kidult expresses the postmodern obsession with leaving everything undefined. Everything should be an amorphous mix without commitment or clarity. The kidult is neither a child nor an adult but something in between.
Ironically, such pastiche arrangements reflect few of the qualities and most of the flaws of the mix. The metaphor of a tall adult inside a child’s clothes highlights the tragic illusion of a child’s life which cannot fail to lead to frustration and stress.
The kidult idea is also part of the postmodern desire to be what one is not. It is a revolt against the Creator and the desire to be the fantasized creator of one’s own identity.
Happiness comes from being true to yourself. This could lead to suffering and hardship. This often requires letting go of past attachments like toys. However, those who live by their nature will always feel the satisfaction of finding purpose and meaning.
Indeed, life is a process in which each phase has its purpose. Saint Paul expressed this truth well when he said: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood like a child, I thought like a child. But, when I became a man, I put aside the things of a child (1 Cor. 13:11).
The world is collapsing and desperately needs adults. It’s time to put the toys away.
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