“When I Became a Man I Put Away Childish Things, Including the Fear of Childishness.”

“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.”

–C. S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children

When I decided to Be Gretchen, and indulge my passion for children’s literature in a big way, this essay by C. S. Lewis helped me to understand why I loved these books so much, and why I should embrace it. (You can read more about this in The Happiness Project, chapter five.)

Is there anything in your life that you don’t indulge in, because you think it’s not grown-up enough? I was charmed to hear that a friend regularly plays Four Square with her three adult sisters.

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  • Laptopsandheels

    I think when you become an adult, you can do “childish” things without feeling ashamed. As adults we have so many responsibilities. It’s nice to go back to the basics sometimes.

  • Jenya

    This reminds me of a Stuff White People Like post:


  • Good question. I think I compliment people openly a lot less now because it’s not “normal.”

  • KimS


  • One of things I loved about becoming a parent was the chance to go back and read books I loved as a child, such as those by Maud Hart Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.B. White, and others, including the authors of early childhood books. These are some of the wisest, most enriching texts available. I’m so glad you are an advocate for children’s literature, inspiring others to enjoy and learn from all that can be found there.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, children’s literature is such a pleasure.

  • I love wearing tennis shoes-And I will continue to wear my chucks because they make me really happy. I’m 48 🙂

  • Lexi Revellian

    Was the controversial tip, ‘Have something purple in each room’?

    • gretchenrubin


  • Joelle

    I used to think it wasn’t mature to read Archie Comics, but after reading your book The Happiness Project I realized I need to be Joelle. Now I read them guilt-free! I also started a blog as well after reading your book! http://clothesbutnotquite.blogspot.ca/

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific b

  • Millie

    Despite loving children’s literature, I’d never read any of The Little House on the Prairie series. Thanks to you, I’ve now read (and loved) them all. Thank you so much!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Penelope Schmitt

    I agree that it’s time for me to pay attention to some of your Children’s Literature suggestions! My grandson is just five months old, but he’s growing fast. Time for stories with him and for his Mom and Dad to share with him is coming up! Right I am having fun making stuffed toys with him–playing with fabric and making him things to touch and pull around and chew is big fun for me too! Here is a ‘wiggle worm’ with ribbon tag legs.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Whoops . . . didn’t think this one loaded . . . sorry to take up more space. But now you see I can’t resist playing with this toy myself. This is a Wiggle Worm looking at YOU.

    • Grace Carter

      LOVE the Wiggle Worm!~

  • Annie

    I still have a passion for Barbie dolls!! I was so happy when I got a grand daughter as I have a reason to buy them again. My hubby says its too childish that i still buy myself Barbie dolls ( guess he forgot that he still buys model airplanes). I’ll never give up on Barbie.

  • Grace Carter

    I have a passion for stuffed animals. They are like family to me. Luckily, my husband feels the same way. He has always felt a strong connection to them since he was a kid. So, we proudly display them on a shelf in our bedroom and have a few that are in the bed. There are even some that come to concerts with us, and our TRUE friends have learned to love them as well. When we have guests over, I am not ashamed of the animals. They stay right where they are in the house…the way I see it, if my friends don’t accept that part of me, perhaps they are not a true friend!

  • Nadia

    Thanks so much for this post, Gretchen. I really, really needed it. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for a few years now, but fairytales and princess stories are so dear to my heart and it’s hard to give that up. Things are easier when you can see them through the lens of a story; life makes more sense when I can interpret it that way. I need to be Nadia, embrace that, and start telling stories about the things I love. That C.S. Lewis quote is incredible. I’m writing it down and putting it on my wall.

  • I think when we became an adult we openly do childish things that we are afraid of before. How do you think we could influence younger generations to be more comfortable to do what they really want to do without feeling ashamed?

  • Hannah

    I still really love and crave my Saturday morning cartoons… Eating breakfast, curled up in bed, and watching silly animated antics is so relaxing to me!

  • Kathy Urich

    I love to color. I enjoy a new box of crayons and a fun coloring book. I also enjoy scrap booking my adult version of a coloring book. I too love children’s book. Olivia is my favorite, I also have fair collection of children’s books that feature dachshunds and poodles.