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How old do you wish you were?

Children wish fervently to be older. Adults want to stop the clock.

My son's fourth birthday is two months away, and while he was fairly oblivious to previous birthdays, this one he has planned down to the "Toy Story 2" paper plates. He wants a pinata shaped like Buzz Lightyear; a Buzz action figure; and a chocolate cake in the shape of, you guessed it, Buzz.

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My son keeps a tally of things that he will eventually be able to do: ride a bike, go places without Mommy, eat candy before dinner. In his imagination, every birthday is a step closer to freedom.

A recent birthday of my own got me thinking. When does the switch occur between childish wishing to be older and wanting to suspend time? Is it age 21? The odd thing is that my image of myself has arrested at about age 25. Not that I look or think as I did in my 20s, but that 25 was a really good year.

The cutoff seems to be the age when you begin to feel the weight of adult responsibility. In one's early 20s, life is full of possibilities. You can move to Canada, teach high school drama, or live on a commune.

In one's 30s, life often begins to settle down. For me, family and home provide a bedrock. And a reality check in terms of whose priorities count.

At our house, my son's birthday is the one we celebrate with gusto.

I can't wait to take a whack at that Buzz pinata.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor