Who’s guilty of wishing we’re forever young like Peter Pan? But that’s only in stories (or movies!). In the real world, we are Wendys, bound to grow from infancy to adulthood.
Growing up is one of the most profound experiences. For children and parents alike, becoming an adult can be incredibly painful and confusing, albeit beautiful.
To find meaning in this strange experience, we can turn to songs that capture the essence of growing up. Our list of 15 of the best songs about kids growing up represents some of the best. Read on to find out more.
1. “My Hometown” By Bruce Springsteen
The first song on this list is Bruce Springsteen’s “Growing Up,” which comes off the 1984 mega-hit Born in the U.S.A.
This song is one of Springsteen’s most remarkable storytelling efforts. It features the perspective of the singer at certain points in his life. First when he was a young boy, and then as a man as he looks at the decay and strife of his hometown.
The song features a moving cycle in its storytelling. Initially, the singer recalls his father taking him for a drive and attempting to inspire a love for the town. When the older singer prepares to leave with his family, he mournfully gives the same lesson to his son.
2. “Cat’s In The Cradle” By Harry Chapin
Our next song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” shows that time can pass by without us noticing the most important things. Such as children growing up. The song appears on Harry Chapin’s 1974 album Verities & Balderdash.
Chapin’s song tells the heartbreaking story of a father who is initially too busy with work to spend time with his son. He has a lot to do and he does not notice how fast time flies by. But his son keeps telling his dad that he’ll grow up just like him.
After several years, the singer attempts to reconnect with his son. Only then his son has become too busy to spend time with him. The singer belatedly realizes that indeed, his son “had grown up just like me.” But not in the way he had hoped.
3. “Never Grow Up” By Taylor Swift
The next entry on this list is a song with “grow up” in the title. Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” is perhaps the quintessential song about kids growing up. The song comes from her 2010 album Speak Now.
“Never Grow Up” features the perspective of both parent and child. It channels the fleeting nature of time and the inevitability of growing up. It starts with the parent wishing her child would not grow up. Then they go through her teenage years, and finally, arrive in the present as the child, now an adult, speaks in the first person.
The song becomes especially touching in the final verse. Here, the narrator is living on her own and wishes she had never grown up.
4. “Castle On The Hill” By Ed Sheeran
One’s growing up years are made memorable by all the experiences at certain points in life. Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” is a story chronicling his childhood and teenage years in the countryside of Suffolk, England.
This exuberant song captures the joy of a child growing up. He experiences his first love and gets his heart broken. And just like any normal teenager, he also gets in trouble from time to time.
The singer and his friends eventually grow up and have their own lives. But despite living away, he does not forget the people who made his life meaningful. And so he can’t wait to go back home, where it all started.
5. “Forever Young” By Bob Dylan And The Band
“Forever Young” is a timeless folk-rock ballad reflecting every parent’s hopes and dreams for their children as they grow up. In short but moving lyrics, the song encourages the listeners to embrace the wonder and curiosity of youth. But at the same time, to be true to one’s self.
Above all, the singer reminds the child to “stay forever young.” To be happy, brave, and strong.
6. “Teenagers” By My Chemical Romance
Our next song departs from the sunny and sentimental images of childhood we’ve seen so far. My Chemical Romance‘s “Teenagers” is a portrait of teenage angst and rebellion. This song appeared on their smash hit album The Black Parade.
“Teenagers” captures the frustration and alienation many young people feel as they grow up–especially in the 1990s. It shows the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world.
There’s the powerlessness that can come with adolescence. In addition, some adults have reservations about youth. As the line says, “Teenagers scare the livin’ shit out of me.”
7. “7 Years” By Lukas Graham
Growing up reflects the passage of time, and a song that shows that is Lukas Graham‘s “7 Years.” The Danish pop band released the pop-soul-ballad “ on their 2015 self-titled debut album.
The song chronicles the singer’s life at certain ages: 7, 11, 20, 30, and 60. It discusses the bittersweet milestones that mark the journey through life. There’s his mom telling him to make friends and his dad telling him to get himself a wife.
He becomes a songwriter, and by 30, he’s successful. He goes through the same experiences most of us do, such as getting himself a family. As he nears 60, he reflects on his life.
8. “Hold You Down” By Childish Gambino
Singer and rapper Childish Gambino is famous for producing complex emotional songs. The iconic “Hold You Down” from the 2011 album Camp is no exception.
“Hold You Down” is a soulful hip-hop track that follows the singer’s agonizing personal life. He attempts to navigate the confusing pains of teenage life that came with being bullied. Apparently, he wasn’t cool enough and didn’t have cool clothes.
His being accused of not belonging to his black or white friend groups is of special interest. It perfectly captures the feeling that navigating growing up is even harder than usual.
9. “Fifteen” By Taylor Swift
Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is the only one with two appearances on this list. “Fifteen” makes it well worth it. The song was released on the 2008 mega-hit Fearless.
“Fifteen” belongs to the category of songs on this list where older narrators reflect on their time growing up. In this case, the singer reflects on her experience when she was 15.
By then, she was a freshman in high school, which featured a juxtaposition between profound euphoria and immense pain. It was at this age that she met her best friend and had her first date and first kiss. Looking back, she realizes that she didn’t know who she was “supposed to be” at 15.
10. “Here’s To Never Growing Up” By Avril Lavigne
Punk rock princess Avril Lavigne definitely knows what it’s like growing up. Her 2013 single “Here’s to Never Growing Up” is an ode to staying forever young.
A lot of people will resonate with what the song is all about. The lyrics reflect what many go through in their teenage years. There’s the rebellion, falling in love, getting into trouble, and just having fun.
In this song with “growing up” in the lyrics, the singer tells her friends that they don’t have to change because it’s who they are. And for that, she makes a toast to celebrate their youth.
11. “Coat Of Many Colors” By Dolly Parton
The next song on our list, “Coat of Many Colors,” transitions us to a place and time that has received less coverage on our list. The song appeared on Dolly Parton’s 1971 album of the same name.
“Coat of Many Colors” is a touching ballad that tells the story of a poor young girl rich in love. She recalls a particular time in her youth when they received a box of multicolored rags. Her mother sawed them with love, turning the rags into a coat, just like the one worn by Joseph in the Bible.
The song offers a message of love, resilience, and humility amidst the hardships of a humbler childhood.
12. “The Circle Game” By Joni Mitchell
Another contender for the best song about growing up is Joni Mitchell‘s “The Circle Game.” The song, from the album Live Radio Broadcasts by Joni Mitchell, claims that we are stuck “on the carousel of time.”
In the lyrics, the singer talks about a child enjoying his childhood. The carousel goes around, being a metaphor for the changing seasons year in and year out.
While the seasons go through a cycle, the child grows older. Just like the carousel, it moves forward. One can look back but cannot return. Life is like that. We can only look back on our past, but there’s no way we can return to a certain age.
13. “Sun Goes Down” By Lil Nas X
Released as a single in 2021, Lil Nas X’s “Sun Goes Down” offers a view of growing up that is shot through with hope.
Lil Nas X has described “Sun Goes Down” as one of his most vulnerable songs, and for good reason. The song depicts a younger version of the rapper and shows that he’d gone through a difficult childhood. It comes from being bullied even by his so-called friends.
And so, from an early age, he struggled with self-hatred and rejection for his sexuality. He found it difficult to fight for what he believed in. But later in the song, we discover that things worked out for him.
14. “Letter To Me” By Brad Paisley
If you could write a letter for your younger self, what would you say? Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me” has some words of wisdom for his 17-year-old self.
The main topic of the letter revolves around love and heartache. Just like any other teenager, the singer’s young self is at an age where his world revolves around a girl. It’s difficult “to see past Friday night” when he only cares about having a good time.
The old self further encourages the younger one to move forward because there’s so much in store for him. He’ll make it through despite the challenges of growing up, especially heartbreak.
15. “Fade Away” By Oasis
Do you remember your dreams when you were young? Were you able to live those dreams? Oasis‘ “Fade Away” shows us the reality that, more often, those dreams take the backseat.
In the lyrics, the “key to the door” is a metaphor for the key to one’s dreams. The singer has it when he was young. We all know this is a time when children’s imaginations run wild, and they have a lot of dreams. They know what they want to be or what they want to achieve when they’re older.
Sadly, those dreams fade away in time. They become memories when we stop chasing those dreams and instead settle for something less.
Summing Up Our List Of Growing Up Songs
Whether we like it or not, we all grow up. That process is a combination of good and bad experiences, of happy and sad times.
It’s up to us how we use those experiences to make sense of our present lives. Do we dwell on the negative? Or do we celebrate those years?
We hope that the songs above help you appreciate your years growing up. Like Joni Mitchell’s song, we can’t return to those years. But we can definitely look back. Cheers to that.