Peter Pan Syndrome: Check Your Symptoms.


I have just realised from the high number of search engine results sending readers to this article that the term “Peter Pan Syndrome” is actually a medically recognised term. I would like to underline that I am not a member of the medical profession, that this post is purely humorous, and is not in any way, shape or form a medical diagnostic tool for the condition in question.

At the supermarket, my seven-year-old neighbour had a new figurine in his hand. I didn’t. He waved it at me triumphantly as he walked towards the cheese counter with his mum. My eye strayed to the display of miniature Playmobils, and I tugged at my mum’s sleeve. “Mum, mum, I want one too. Pleeeeease?” I stuck out a trembling lower lip and looked at her through lowered eyelashes. “You haven’t bought me a figurine for ages“. My mum smiled, rolled her eyes, and acquiesced.

You probably see nothing exceptional about this spoilt brat scenario. However, if I add that it was played out just two weeks ago – within spitting distance of my 45th birthday – you may just change your opinion slightly.

My figurine holding my lollipop for me whilst I type my post.

My figurine holding my lollipop for me whilst I type my post.

I have a condition that I have come to call “Peter Pan Syndrome”. As far as I know, there is no cure. This little-understood syndrome has been part of my life since the end of what most adults call childhood. At that moment, although my body continued to age, my mind didn’t. Everyone around me was growing up, and showed worrying symptoms of adulthood. They started doing weird things they’d always hated, like wearing shirts and ties. Partaking in animated political debates. Eating spinach without being threatened with an early bedtime. Watching meaningful, subtitled black and white films played by actors who talked like Pingu.

Meanwhile, I was becoming a kind of human jelly bean: an adult-shaped outer shell harbouring the psychedelic, malleable and gelatinous imagination of a ten-year-old. As everyone else started climbing the respective career ladders they had mysteriously decided on years beforehand, I looked up at them with scared incredulity: was I the only adult who still had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up?

Now, what about you? Do you show signs of Peter Pan Syndrome?

Here is a small test for a preliminary diagnosis. When you look at this photo, what do you see? Don’t read on yet (only grown-ups cheat).

What do you see?

What do you see? (This is my own photo, and yes… you can.)

  • If you saw a closed gate with a ripped mosquito net, you’re a real grown-up.
  • If you laughed because you saw a little man with a wacky flame hairdo, cute eyes, a zany nose and a padlock mouth, welcome to the club: you’ve got Peter Pan Syndrome.

Read on for further telltale signs that your childhood rules your world:

  •  You check if your shadow really never leaves you and take pictures of it when it gives you legs up to your armpits.
  • Every autumn, you jump in the drifts of fallen leaves and kick them in the air as your embarassed kids look on. You pick up conkers and play secretly with them in your coat pocket, and you’re sad when their shine disappears. You take photos of your feet in piles of leaves, because you know you’re going to miss autumn before it comes back.
  • The choice of family TV viewing is difficult because you want to watch Despicable Me again, and the others give you the choice between a TV documentary about Tibetan yacks or a boy-film full of gun-toting, monosyllabic bad guys. You go into a sulk and go to bed.
  • Your idea of a good evening is pulling on your Mr Men PJ’s, curling up in bed with a bag of Liquorice Allsorts and escaping into your childhood via a favourite story told by one of your favourite authors: Roald Dahl, St Exupery, C.S. Lewis or E. Nesbit.
  • You cherish and stroke the 1952 copy of Peter Pan that your parents gave you when you were small, sniffing the paper and gazing in awe at your clumsy handwriting on the fly cover. Then you remember that J M Barrie invented the name of the girl who moved in on the love of your life, and you trip out on the idea of writing an alternative end to the story, in which Tinkerbell feeds her smarmy, know-it-all nemesis to Captain Hook’s crocodile.
The first picture of my most prized possession: a 1952 edition of Peter Pan given to me by my parents when I was small.

A snapshot of my most prized possession: the 1952 edition of Peter Pan my parents  gave me when I was small.

  • You measure time according to the number of “sleeps” required until the event in question occurs.
  • You still draw ketchup smiles on your fried egg, and use your chips to give it hair. You keep the yolk till last. Then you spike it with your knife, imagine that the running egg yolk is lava coming out of a volcano, and save the remaining inhabitants of Pompeï peas from drowning in it.
  • You open the front door to the infant school carnival posse, and the kids promptly point at your feet and crease up with laughter. You realise that you are wearing your favourite slippers – huge furry monster feet with fake claws on the ends.
  • You love playing Lego and Playmobil with your children, but they kick you out because they have issues with Michael Jackson dangling his son over the balcony, or object to the Indians delivering horses to the castle so that the evil Prince can make his own horsemeat lasagna instead of buying it frozen from Findus. Some kids are such politically correct conformists.

One of my creations, vetoed by the under-tens jury: MJ and his baby on the balcony (my photo).

  • You want to go to Peru one day so that you can to go to the Home for Retired Bears in Lima, and finally get to meet Paddington’s aunt Lucy.
  • Your musical idols are Robin the Frog and Baloo. You sing “Half-way down the stairs” in a squeaky voice to while away the time in traffic jams, and are partial to a group rendition of ‘Mahna-mahna” from the Muppets with your PPS-struck siblings (note to my siblings: I malove-malove you).
  • You still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Normal: Peter Pan Syndrome sufferers don’t grow up.

Is there a treatment for Peter Pan Syndrome, you ask? I don’t know… and to be honest, I don’t want one. I can’t imagine life without one foot anchored firmly in childhood. So if you enjoyed this, clap your hands… and say that you believe in fairies.


73 thoughts on “Peter Pan Syndrome: Check Your Symptoms.

  1. Oh no, I have Peter Pan Syndrome, too!! I had to look back at the photo twice to see what it really was, 🙂 “Gate?? Mosquito net??? Where? Behind the little man?” 😀

  2. apart of the Playmobil thing (must have been after “my time” so I don’t really know it) I think I must have this syndrome too…. cute photo of that man with funny hairdo and and earring in his nose.
    And love the MJ dangling game… but I can understand your kids, one day they will probably call in the social workers…

    • Can you believe that Little My has ousted the Playmos from her room because she’s “too grown up for that now”? She magnanimously offered to leave me her Playmobile house for my bedroom. I have accepted. Now I’m off to the garage to sneak those figurines back.

  3. Great post. As I read it I was thinking of all the other “peter pan things I still do”. I will keep them to myself in order to pretend I am half way grown up.

  4. I don’t have as many symptoms as you but I’ve definitely got it. Each symptom I identified with made my bottom lip come out further. Loved the jellybean metaphor. And what’s with the constant ticking off of WP? Have they been giving you a hard time?

    • I’m sorry… I would scan you a bit of Enid Blyton for easier vocabulary, but her books bring me out in a rash. Try the online version of “The Sun” or “The Daily Wail”, rumour has it that their vocabulary rarely uses words containing more that two syllables – ideal for beginners 😉 PS. Don’t forget to tidy up when you’ve finished, or you won’t get any Smarties 🙂

  5. I saw the man with the weird hair. Mrs Sensible told her 5 year old niece that I was Peter Pan back in 2003, she was very disappointed when I wouldn’t fly around the room.

    We are obviously kindred spirits.

  6. Very happy to know I’m still affected by the Peter Pan Syndrome…
    Where did you take this picture ? Around Gargamel’s junk yard ? It’s real good.
    You should send this sort of picture to magazines for a prize. Go to :
    Poutouns, Papounet.

    • Hello Papounet 😉 I had absolutely no doubts that you were a happy sufferer of PPS. I’m glad you like the photo – I took it when I was at Villeneuvette with my parents a couple of weeks ago. I may give your idea a try – I’ll go and check out your link as soon as I’ve finished working for PF. (No work on Sunday, my bottom).

  7. I saw a cute little face and went “awwww!”. But I see faces EVERYWHERE! I had to scroll back up and look reeeeally hard to find the mosquito net.

    I buy Kinder Surprises for the toy. I’m not even particularly keen on the chocolate…

    • The little face will be all embarrassed when I go and tell it how much success it had. I hate Kinder chocolate, but I always volunteered to put the toys together for the kids. then they had to persuade me to give them back 🙂

  8. Can you hear me clapping from here, MM? Yes, of course the picture was of a face and though I predate the Playmobil era by some considerable time, I ticked off a fair number of items on your list. This summer in France I reread most of Harry Potter as I don’t have copies in the UK. Sob…

    DH is like Helen and reckons he was born middle-aged, but somehow we make it work. 🙂

    P.S. I failed the egg yolk test as I always dip my chips in the yolk.

    • I did hear you clapping- that’s why I’m still alive to reply. I’m, MM, Tinkerbell for short 😀 It’s good to have a real grown-up in a couple; PF was born all grown-up too, but occasionally does silly things – but only with people who won’t tell.

  9. Ha ha, I’m definitely a PPS sufferer. We’re a Sylvanian house rather than PlayMobile but we spent a happy afternoon today at Sylv-Fest with the little beavers, gerbils and puppies having a jolly time camping, singing and dancing – shortly before they were knee deep in mud, drank too much and got caught making out with all of One Direction…

  10. I believe, I believe! Definitely a PPS sufferer, though don’t see it as an affliction! Who wouldn’t want to dance and kick up the autumn leaves, throw snowballs, build sandcastles and play with playmo’s??? The face in your photo put a smile on mine straight away… who wants to be a grown up! Not me… ‘look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife…’ 😀

    • TAC, welcome to the playgroup. Kick off your shoes, and no fighting with PN for the tricycle now he’s got his licence too. I wanted to put the “bare necessities” on the end of the post, I loooove that song!

      • 😀 love ‘oobie doo, I wanna be like yooouu…’ too, going to have to watch Jungle Book now, that’s it… Friday night my mum and sister are coming over and we’re watching it! They love it too so there’ll be no argument! As for not fighting over the tricycle with PN, I think I should go first, who knows what bad habits he’s picked up from Italia! 🙂

  11. Pingback: I am a Peter Pan and (ironically) I think age matters | coppergal

  12. Oh, you’re good! This was brilliant and I LOVED this phrase ” Eating spinach without being threatened with an early bedtime.” because YES! What the hell is that?! I still celebrate my new found adulthood and the fact that “no one is making me” by eating dessert every evening. And yes, the irony’s not lost on me. I look forward to following your blog!

    • Thank you, Katia (MM jumps up and down in kitchen wearing her imaginary happy hat, as all serious non-growns-up do). Spinach is one big mystery for me- it has no flavour, no consistency, and looks like the contents of babies’ first nappies. How anyone can eat the stuff is beyond me! Do come back to visit again, I’ll let you play with my figurine (or maybe I’ll bring it round to your blog -I’ve already been to visit).

      • Thanks for being such a good sharer. I don’t know if I’d be prone to give up my figurine that easily. 🙂 Do bring it over next time!

  13. I am such a child that when I go to parties, you can usually find me playing with the kids over talking to the adults. Life was easier when I was a child. I prefer to stay there. 🙂

    • I check that box too – PF has to dig me out of the playroom on occasions. Keeping one foot in childhood is a necessity for any grown-up who doesn’t want to end up cynical and disappointed by life 🙂

  14. I’m torn … it’s not the threat of early bedtime that leads me to eat all my spinach, but the creak of old bones.
    That having been said, I do still set up Elmo photo shoots with Kiddo, and she caught me playing alone with her Lego Friends the other day … it was a tad embarrassing, but I’m over it.
    Is it true there’s no cure?
    Brilliant post!

  15. Mom , mom , mom … ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

  16. I am unable to resist the beach and its magic. Often, when I was in my fifties, I would take my five-year old godson with me to play in the sea and the sand. Usually, we made sand castles, busily filling our little pails with water to pour over the granules and form them into towering turrets. One day, while on my hands and knees kneading a particularly (what I thought) glorious tower, a pair of masculine feet stood in my way. Looking up, I saw a young man smiling down at me. “They say childhood is better the second time around,” I said, to which he replied,” I came over to see if my son could play with you two.” So, we ended up, all four of us, doing our Peter Pan thing.

  17. I really really need some friends who understand all this. Please if anyone wants to could you please email me?

    I don’t have any friends. It’s a long story but the people who were my friends forgot about me a long time ago it seems. I’m so lonely. I identify with “Peter pan syndrome” hugely. I love toys. My mum doesn’t like when I buy toys. She says it’s a waste but to me it isn’t. I live at home with my family. I have my own room where I can be a child. It’s lovely. I feel like no one understands this but clearly the person who wrote this does. I get easily excited. I am currently looking after some caterpillars I got. Soon they will be beautiful butterflies. I wish I could fly away with them sometimes.

    Please if anyone reads this and is going through the same thing please message me. I would really appreciate someone to talk to. Thank you.

    • Hello, Neverlands child. Welcome to the blog!
      When I wrote this post I wasn’t aware that my title was in fact a term that is used to describe a real syndrome.
      I only realized when I noticed a surge in visits for the post, but very few comments – all the visits had been googled “Peter Pan Symptoms”. I immediately put a disclaimer on there because I’m not a specialist and don’t really “suffer” from having one foot in childhood. The other foot is firmly anchored in real grown-up life, but the two aren’t incompatible 🙂
      You don’t appear to be happy about keeping one foot in childhood. It’s nothing bad – far from it! Even Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is remaining an artist when you grow up”.

      I think that you should start your own blog (if you’re an adult – you don’t say how old you are) – it is a great way to get in touch with people from all over the world. You could write about your butterflies!
      Then try to limit your time inside and try to get out to meet new people and see what they enjoy doing – you don’t have to be lonely. If you spend all your time in your room, nobody will know that you are there! 😀
      So hang on in there, have confidence in yourself, and give yourself time to get out and meet new people – don’t rely on “old” friends because there are so many other people out there to meet!

      • Pokemon GO, the new game that forces you to walk to play, is incredibly fun AND you meet a lot of nice people of ALL ages… some people who play aren’t very nice, but the nice players are pretty easy to spot vs the “savage” ones, as they’re usually loud and clearly obnoxious. I know I’m late in replying, but since the game JUST came out, I figured I’d comment about it. as a PPS sufferer I haven’t left my room in my moms house in 10 or so years — until this game came out and I began playing.

      • Hi Dayna, sorry I took so long -i’ve just found your messages. There are so many people playing that game – incredible! I’m glad that it’s provided you with a fun way to get out of the house and meet new people. There are always a few oddballs around – just leave them to themselves because they are outnumbered by the nice guys. Make sure you look where you’re going as you play – there have been a good number of accidents due to Pokemon Go players tripping and even falling off cliffs for two people!

  18. i have pps and live a happy life im 55 yrs old and have always played with younger boys and prefure to be open about my symdrome im gay but this has nothing to do with my pps i love role play with other adults that like having a young acting boy around them . i love rolerblading and have 2 scate bords if you want to know more about me leave a contact and i will email you

    • Hello, Cody, and welcome to the blog! You are the second person who really has this Syndrome – I didn’t even think it existed for real when I wrote this post…
      Acting, rollerblading and skateboarding are activities that many “grown-ups” enjoy. If you look at the comment above yours, there is a fellow PPS -er who would maybe appreciate an email from you!

  19. Hi Guys
    well i typed up a nice long Email to the other person and sent it but the address dose not exist
    very sad !!
    Hope to find other people that realey DO have “pps” one day
    its not a game or a fantassey for me it is a real thing i live with.!!
    i want to be and stay a young boy and live my life that way, . so far im dooing well .
    if any one who wants to contact me and are genuwinely have pps thay can contact me

    • Hi Cody,
      The address the comment arrived from is the same address, so I think it must be valid. Try again and check that you haven’t copied and pasted the full stop (period?) at the end of the sentence where she gives her email? Hope that you two get in touch with each other. 😀

  20. Haha. I wonder if anyone thought those were the real symptoms of Peter Pan syndrome. I hope you picked up a few more subscribers… and thanks for the tip – something WordPress has not thought to suggest in their ‘how to get more readers’ tips.

    • 🙂 They could be real symptoms, but from what I read the real PPS is more complicated than this. I get a lot of “serious” visits from people looking for real symptom checkers – that’s why I put the disclaimer at the end. It hasn’t brought me more subscribers though. Never mind. I’m a big girl, I can cope with it. As long as you give me a a lollipop.

  21. Pingback: Neverland | Being an Alicia

  22. I definitely have it. I’m 30 and I wince when people ask my age. I hate saying 30 and I hate that 30 is middle age and I hate the word ”middle age”!. I tell ppl I’m 25 most days and even that sounds grown up! I feel about 16 tops most days and I hate things like bills and talking about adult things. I find it boring. I drive my partner and my mother mad.

  23. You should really stop using Michael Jackson as an example for these types of things. His children have to live in this world and their gonna learn things soon enough. Im sure he is not the only one in the world that has had this disorder and its not necessary to use his name in this example. Think of his kids. For a change.

    • Hello Laura, and thanks for visiting the blog.
      As I mention on my disclaimer, when I wrote this post I had no idea that the term was actually used for a real condition. The MC pic was not therefore linked to him having this condition – I didn’t know that it WAS a real condition, nor indeed that he had it-) but to illustrate how adults use toys to depict real life in a different way to children.

  24. I’m a frustrated and depressed sufferer of PPS- I DONT want it! Well I don’t want to lose my sense of what it’s like to be a child, but not being able to function in the real world is terrifying to me. “what happens when my mom dies?” is the worst scenario I can possibly think of. I’m 28 years old and I would not be able to function without her. I live with her. I have no job. no idea what I want to be when I “grow up” … an adult that can’t have much fun with other adults because I want to play kids games or do things based on imagination rather than reality. I love that I’m still a kid at heart but I wish I could be like that and still have a clue (or the motivation/focus/desire) to be a “real adult” 😦

    • I’m sorry you’re going through this, it must be terrible. Have you asked for help identifying possible jobs, I’m sure that there is the right job waiting for you – and that you CAN live without your mother’s help. Please believe in yourself, and don’t see your life as something that cannot change – you can enjoy life whilst keeping one foot firmly in childhood. Chin up.

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