Created By: mtlwriterguy on November 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on April 18, 2016

Toddler With a Mortgage

Kid book and cartoon characters who are simultaneously children and adults

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Trope
A Toddler With A Mortgage is a character in a work aimed at children who has no explicit age, but can be portrayed as a child or an adult as the situation requires.

Often portrayed as an anthropomorphic animal or other non human, the Toddler With A Mortgage may live alone, drive a car, and shop for groceries. At the same time, they may also play with toys, attend kindergarten or elementary school, have playdates with their friends and still be subject to childhood fears.

This kind of character is usually found in works aimed at very young children, and intended to be relatable and understandable to them. A character who is explicitly given an age (even if they don't act their age) doesn't count.

Compare:


Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Various characters on Sesame Street
  • Pee-Wee's Playhouse
  • Steve's younger brother Joe from Blue's Clues has both traits of a child and an adult. He lives alone and is played by an adult, but is childish enough to make it unclear what age he is.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • November 20, 2011
    Zeta
  • November 20, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    Good thought, but it's not so much ambiguous as internally-contradictory. Adults drive cars and buy groceries. Kids go to kindergarten and play with toys. That's pretty specific. But as I think about it, you've got a point. Childult is probably a sub-trope of Ambiguous Age.

    That said, Ambiguous Age seems to be empty. No one's written it up yet, I guess.
  • November 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Ambiguous Age is the better title here - always favor clear over witty. This trope seems to be about characters being depicted with resonsibilities that don't necessarily match their apparent age (which may never even be established).
  • November 20, 2011
    FinalStarman
  • November 20, 2011
    Firebert
    Ambiguous Age sounds good. Another example could be Spongebob Squarepants.
  • November 20, 2011
    nitrokitty
    Hmm. This is clearly different than the other tropes we have like this, such as Adult Child, but I'm not sure it's tropable on its own. However, since Tropes Are Flexible, I think we can expand the definition of Vague Age to include this concept.
  • November 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Hmm. I can support merging into Vague Age (possibly with Ambiguous Age as a redirect).
  • November 20, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I see a clear difference between this and Vague Age. Vague Age describes a child of indeterminate age (for example, one that maybe still plays with blocks but also rides their bicycle by themselves around town) whereas this YKTTW describes a character who status as a child or an adult cannot be readily determined from their habits (like Spongebob Squarepants, who has his own home and a job but generally acts like an excitable five year old). That being said, this may overlap significantly with Adult Child.
  • November 20, 2011
    hevendor717
    I believe that this may be tropable. If I could make a title it would be Uncanny Manchild World. But that's a bad title.

    Regardless, some examples could be found on Sesame Street, where a lot of the adult monsters behave like kids and learn letters and numbers. And it's pretty much treated as normal. Like, on children's TV, you've gotta give your non-authority figure, non-career-holding grown-ups the mental and personality traits of small children so that they relate, so that they fit in with stories.

    Pee Wees Play House could also be this. Is Pee Wee supposed to be a very tall, energetic kid, or a man with serious maturity issues being enabled by his friends and free time? You could say that in spite of an actual answer, both are presented as and feel true.
  • November 20, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    How's the new title? More descriptive?

    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. Despite the fact that Tropes Are Flexible, I agree with fulltimeD that this doesn't fit under Vague Age at all. That's a different trope about the way live-action shows cast actors to play young adults. Perhaps both this trope and Vague Age and Ambiguous Age might all fall under some larger supertrope, but I don't see them as the same at all.
  • November 21, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Word World: all the characters live by themselves but have the personalities of preschoolers.
  • November 21, 2011
    TBTabby
    The Mane Six in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic can function as children, teens or adults depending on the situation. For example, Twilight usually acts like a rational adult, but she's also been seen acting like a bubbly child at the prospect of the slumber party in "Look Before You Sleep" and being an obsessive high school student in "Lesson Zero."
  • November 21, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    In Sesame Street, the monsters keep moving back and forth between being an adult and a kid. Grover for example, used to appear as a stand-in for adults, but recent episodes show him as a kid. Big Bird too is shown as an adult sometimes (for example one of the Numbers DVD features him as a host of a Jay Leno type of show) and some books show him going to school with Elmo. Oscar, too! Is he a adult living on his own or is he kid who plays with the children? Sesame Street for the most parts isn't really interested in continuity, which considering it's chief demographic isn't terrible.
  • November 21, 2011
    Earnest
    How does this compare with Artistic Age?
  • November 21, 2011
    PacificState
    ^^^I've seen grad students act that way. You'd be amazed.
  • November 21, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    "How does this compare with Artistic Age?"

    Hadn't seen this one either, but Toddler With A Mortgage isn't just about the character's appearance, it's about how they are characterized within the story.
  • November 21, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Try to avoid naming the title after an example of itself, even a theoretical one. It artificially limits the scope of the trope upon first impression.
  • November 21, 2011
    Omeganian
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a literal example.
  • November 22, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ "Literal" examples are another problem we generally want to avoid, too.
  • November 22, 2011
    fulltimeD
    ^^ Yeah, "literal" examples of this are a different animal (I assume you are referring to the Baby character, and not Roger Rabbit himself). Ambiguity seems to define this trope.
  • August 9, 2012
    Noah1
    You cannot forget Stewie Griffin!
  • August 9, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Vague Age: Think David from Dark Shadows

    This trope on the other hand is exemplified by Pee Wee Herman.
  • August 9, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous

  • June 4, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 4, 2014
    AccidentalTroper
    @DAN 004: Out of all the suggestions you make, I think the two that come the closest to being the same as this trope are Vague Age and Man Child. The problem is that the description of Vague Age is... well... vague, and I can't tell if it actually refers to this concept or not.

    Man Child, on the other hand, seems to refer specifically to an adult who acts like a child, whereas the trope @mtlwriterguy is suggesting refers to someone of indeterminate age who sometimes acts like an adult and sometimes a child. Also, the latter usually takes place in a world where *everybody* (or, at least, the majority of the population) acts that way, while most examples of Man Child take place in the "real" world, and the character in question is a weirdo.

    The question is: Is this a big enough difference to make it a separate trope?

    Another question: Which category does Gromet (from Wallace And Gromet) go into?
  • June 5, 2014
    TonyG
    ^Gromit is a dog. He acts like an adult human being, yet is treated as a dog by Wallace. That would put him somewhere between Intellectual Animal and Civilized Animal.

    As for this particular trope, my guess is that it should be about children who, despite clearly being minors, still do adult things like have their own homes or run businesses. The example that most comes to mind is The Little Prince, who runs an entire planet (a very small planet, but still), yet still acts and behaves much like a normal kid.
  • June 5, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Also from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Spike is supposedly a "baby" dragon, yet he has a job (Twilight's assistant) and has been involved in numerous adventures.
  • June 5, 2014
    bitemytail
    Isn't this Grade School CEO or possibly A Child Shall Lead Them?
  • June 5, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Yes it is.
  • July 24, 2014
    PistolsAtDawn
    ^ No, not really. I see what he's getting at here: its a variation of Man Child, but it might be a real trope

    Most of the tropes you guys have mentioned are about either adults who act like children or children who act like adults. This is about a character of indeterminate age who acts like a child but lives like an adult

    Its like Man Child, but for a different purpose. Man Child is intended to make the charcater seem childish to the audience, for humor, pity or distaste. This trope is when the (possibly adult) character acts like a child so that a very young audience can identify with them. Kids dont wanna see Cookie Monster filing his taxes

    Also, Man Child is a character who is definately an adult. This is actually more of a subtrope of Vague Age

    I think its a common enough subtrope to warrent consideration
  • July 24, 2014
    DAN004
    "This is about a character of indeterminate age who acts like a child but lives like an adult"

    Adorably Precocious Child
  • July 24, 2014
    PistolsAtDawn
    ^ that's still about a character who is actually a child, not a character of ambiguous age. That said, we do seem to have an awful lot of child-adult mix up tropes, so maybe we don't need another one even if it is a real trope
  • November 25, 2014
    JMQwilleran
    I think this is big enough to make its own trope and I'd really like to see something like this posted. I tried once before under a different trope name, but it never went anywhere. I will supply some more examples soon, and let's see if we can get this moving...
  • November 25, 2014
    DAN004
    Nah, this is Vague Age
  • November 26, 2014
    ropertroper
    Actually, Big Bird is six years old. And I don't think Oscar ever acts like a child, I think he's clearly an adult. And then there's Ernie and Bert, who live in an apartment together with no parents and don't go to school or work (except in a rare sketch where one might be working, like the time Ernie filled in at Hooper's Store), and in Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird Ernie is able to fly an airplane, but they do act like kids (Bert acts a little more like an adult though).
  • November 26, 2014
    JMQwilleran
    So it would seem that this isn't going to become a trope, no matter how much I might want it to. And I'm not one to beat a dead horse. Is it time to go ahead and just throw the examples that have been listed so far under Vague Age or other fitting tropes? Because a lot of them aren't there right now.
  • November 26, 2014
    DAN004
    Go right ahead son
  • November 27, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    French animated series Baby Folies takes place in a world where babies act more or less like adults: they hold jobs, run a city on their own, even hang out at a (milk) bar, but the design is fairly baby-oriented and they all have interest in baby toys and food.
  • April 12, 2016
    Noah1
  • April 12, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ I knew I should discard this when I had the chance
  • April 13, 2016
    PistolsAtDawn
    Its a valid concept. Might not be worth launching but theres no reason to discard it if someone is still interested enough to work on it.

    I do think the description could use some work, maybe add a line about this trope being specifically in order to relate to children, and a bit compararing other tropes like Man Child
  • April 13, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Like I said several posts above, this overlaps with A TON of tropes at once.
  • April 13, 2016
    PistolsAtDawn
    i think its abandonded, anyway i changed the definition to be more clear i think
  • April 13, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    I don't know if My Little Pony counts as the characters are consistently adults, except in My Little Pony Tales.

    Spongebob is an adult as well.
  • April 13, 2016
    PistolsAtDawn
    I dont think the creator is around anymore, and im not familiar with those shows so you can just remove them if they dont fit. i fixed the definition but im not taking over the ykttw
  • April 13, 2016
    acrobox
    this is mostly covered by Vague Age

    with its other aspects covered by Universal Adaptor Cast
  • April 18, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    I fixed the formatting but I am unsure how tropeworthy this is. It overlaps a lot with Vague Age.
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