Growing up Through Various Means

Some people come from families where they are forced to mature at a very young age. Some obvious examples are not normally practiced in the United States, such as arranged marriages, but there are areas in America that force children to grow up too young, such as families that may not have a responsible parental figure in the house, or families that need more money to survive. Many times, in instances like these, the children of the family are forced to step up and act in adult ways in order to keep themselves alive, especially if there are siblings in the house usually the responsibility falls on the oldest sibling. Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild contends that the pace in which others are forced to travel towards maturity may seem unfair, but giving acceptance towards such inevitable situations, rather than dwelling on it, is what enables others to grow more- and at their own pace. Butler shows this through the main character, Gan, who is forced to grow up too fast within his society.

In Bloodchild, on a planet that is Earth-like but is not Earth, there’s a preservation where humans, called Terrans, live among an alien-like species, the Tlic. The Tlic cannot reproduce on their own, which is why they live together with the Terrans in a partnership. Within this partnership, the Tlic of the household provides protection and sterile eggs, while the Terrans of the house must give up one their own children to be the host for the Tlic eggs. Bloodchild specifically tells the story of the main character, Gan, and his family. Gan was selected before he was even born to be the child that would one day be a host, having his stomach cut open and eggs extracted from his body. Gan was shown diagrams depicting what would happen to him, so he knew what was expected of him. Despite this, Gan still did not fully understand the procedure he was going to go through. Gan soon realized the horrors of the procedure he was going to go through when he decided to help T’Gatoi, a Tlic he became close with, perform the same procedure on someone else. There, he saw firsthand the painfulness of it all. Aiding T’Gatoi in this process that he was soon about to endure himself made him more mature and think in adult ways before he even would have had to. After seeing T’Gatoi take the eggs out of the Terran, Gan took out a contraband rifle, and was going to end his own life to avoid this process being done on himself. When T’Gatoi found him with the gun, she wanted to get rid of the rifle, in fear that Gan would kill her. This is when Gan stated, “…if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner”. This quote shows that Gan has thought through the procedure he is about to have done on himself, and has decided that he will follow through with it as long as T’Gatoi accepts the risk of having the rifle stay in the house, just as Gan is accepting the risk of pain while hosting T’Gatoi’s eggs. Even though Gan seeing the procedure on someone else was not supposed to happen, he learned from it and came out more mature in the end as he  was able to evaluate the risks of his partnership.

The process of learning and then maturing is one that many college students can relate to. The day that students apply to SUNY Geneso, they must start abiding by the code of conduct-specifically the portion relating to student conduct. The student conduct documents lay out a list of rules these incoming students must adhere to and come along with consequences if they do not. For some students, they have just turned 18, and this is the first time they are being treated as an adult. The student code of conduct therefore gives them a model for how they should be behaving. Though they may not be considered growing up too young, since they are now technically adults, being on their own and having these guidelines forces them to truly grow into the adults they are already classified as. While most of the rules in the code of conduct includes laws that people generally know they should not break, there are other ones that are more college-based and aim to shape the students into adults such as the category of “disruption of regular college activities”, various forms of “dishonesty”, “theft or abuse of computer resources”, and “incitement of others to commit any of the acts prohibited.” Most of these are not exactly illegal to go against at the state level, but they do aim to shape the students at SUNY Geneseo into adults that are capable of good judgement, which is a positive outcome of student’s awareness of it.

I myself can relate to Gan as I was entering college and having to make big adult decisions when I had just turned 18, and from the standpoint of being a child that had to grow up way too young. Though not every family experiences instances where the children have to act as adults, and most children can live out their childhood at a somewhat normal pace, lots of children in America are forced to give up some aspects of their childhood and teenage years in order to keep the family going. My own case of having to grow up at an early age was not that of an irresponsible parent or a family that was not making enough money. Instead, what forced me to grow up too fast was my mother’s health. Starting when I was only in fourth grade, I was cooking simple meals for my siblings and helping them with homework because my mom had (and continues to have) many health issues, and therefore was frequently in the hospital for months on end. It initially started with just cooking, cleaning, and helping occasionally with homework, but as I got older, during the short periods that my mother was out of the hospital, I then added changing her bandages and preparing her IV bags for her PIC line when she couldn’t eat to the list. Though I didn’t mind helping out- because I knew if my mom could be home she would- and I know my siblings appreciated me stepping up, I was still forced into growing up way too young and forced to do things that other children my age would likely not even know about. Every year, until about tenth grade, I found myself cooking, cleaning, and tutoring more than hanging out with friends or playing games. In a way, I feel like these experiences I had helped me become more mature than people my age even today, which I am thankful for. These experiences also helped me relate Bloodchild back to my own life and college as well. Similar to Gan, I was told about and shown the things I had to do to help my mom out with her bandages, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to do it all on my own, which is similar to how Gan reflected on his situation after seeing what was going to happen to him.

Though college students are technically already adults, the code of conduct makes sure the students mature into the adults they are labeled as, just as children can mature faster than others due to their circumstances at home, and just as how I was affected regarding my mother’s health. The same process is shown as Gan watches T’Gatoi harvest eggs out of a different Terran. A reoccurring idea that is proved throughout all these examples and is shown through Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild is that some situations in life are inevitable, but your outlook on such situations can determine whether you will continue to linger over your hardships, or learn and grow from them instead.

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