Holden loves kids, but not in a creepy way. Really. He just thinks they’re cute little bundles of hilarious innocence: genuine, caring, and naturally kindhearted. In contrast, adults are “phony,” self-centered, and generally “bastards.” So, what’s he? Is teenaged Holden a phony bastard, or a kindhearted kid? And is “adolescence” just another word for “learning to be fake”? Catcher in the Rye doesn’t give us a clear answer—after all, it’s all told from Holden’s perspective—but it doesn’t look good.
All we have to say is—wait until Lord of the Flies is published in a few years, Holden. And then tell us how you feel about kids.
Holden's unreliability makes it impossible for us to judge him as either a child or an adult.
What Holden thinks he likes about youth is just his idealized notion of what children are like. He's not in love with childhood; he's in love with a fantasy.