I’ve had a lot of time to consider this and there are just several things I loooove about children, many of which actually challenge me. To be sure, a number of us wish for the simpler days of childhood, and it is easy to fantasize (and even glamorize!) those days, but one thing that has struck me is that kids aren’t really as free as we might first think! They have to go where their adults go, eat what they’re told, sleep when they’re told, and so on. Yes, within those boundaries, they do for sure have a greater level of freedom (to play) for example.
When we were children, we spent ages complaining about the plight we were in, seeking to be free, to be older. I’ve heard my own child complain on more than one occasion that she can’t wait to be a grownup. When asked why, she declared that she’d then be able to do whatever she wants! It’s in those moments I have had a pause. And I’ve had to tell her that we’re not entirely free. I can safely assume that you, my reader, are not a child between the age of 2 and 12. I am also sure that to you, the reader, adulthood does not simply represent freedom, and that I do not in this post need to delineate what aspects of it feel limiting (can you say “bills”, for example?). Still, let’s go back to childhood and still look again at those parts of the children who make up the totality of the experience that are greatly attractive. I have had many reasons to pause and smile at the beauty of children. To be candid, I’m considering children between the ages of 3 and 6. There is something absolutely beautiful about that age range because they have certain cognitive abilities and understanding as to how the world works, and they have just enough of a vocabulary to get them to express well their thoughts.
First, I absolutely love the honesty that children have, the non-PC nature of them that actually still comes from completely well-intentioned hearts. They are perhaps (at least at this moment in history, sadly) the only ones left on the planet who can still call a spade a spade, and say what they’re really thinking about a person, place, thing or situation. Gotta love them! They are very able to tell you when your breath smells, hair is a mess, teeth are yellow, that that person is fat, and so on. No limits. Well, until we put some on them. That honesty is also not merely towards others but even about themselves and their feelings. In trying to get one of our children to apologize for a bad attitude that affected the atmosphere, her apology went like this: “I’m sorry for not being happy.” We the adults found ourselves laughing first before tenderly attending to her. Thing is, she had meant EVERY WORD of that. She wasn’t happy (honest truth) and that turned out to be the problem. Cue the lesson we gave her about the fact that it’s OK to not always be happy, but learning to manage our emotions is the key. Still, it really touches me when I see such displays of honesty AND innocence. Absolutely precious.
I also love how easily forgiving children are! It is something that blesses my very soul. As you may already know or have guessed, parents don’t know everything. They just don’t. And so there are naturally times in which I have assumed something about the kids, something they said, meant or whatever, and they were not happy about that! They sharply corrected me. I have also at times hurt their feelings, and I’m sure done other things they also didn’t appreciate. In probably each and every one of these instances (I say probably because I can’t claim to recall super accurately ALL things!), I have gone back to them individually to apologize. I do know that it is healthy for our children to witness humility. I will usually confess my error, remind them of my love for them, and ask for their forgiveness. Each time, each time, they have easily and readily forgiven me. And proven it with a hug! And this is regardless of the amount of emotion involved prior. They might have just been fussy, sad, or downright upset and crying, and still, the forgiveness would come easily! How is it that we adults cannot manage this? I tell you, each time I receive those hugs, I find myself in deep thought as well as feeling deep gratitude. Children truly are a gift to the world. They show us the beauty of heaven, of how humanity was meant to be, and of the true meaning of love.
Now, while they can also be one of the biggest complainers, I’ve also discovered that, way more than with adults, children can exhibit such gratitude for the littlest things. They are easily impressed, and I don’t say that to slight them in the least. When they want my husband to tell them a story (not by reading from a book, but extemporaneously, which they love), they often make the request at the end of a full day he’s had. He’s wiped out and feeling completely out of story-creativity-juice. Well, because he loves them, he pushes himself to try. As he recently admitted to me, he often simply opens up his mouth and tells whatever comes out. Whether it’s rubbish or not, he neither knows nor have in that moment a pressing ability to care. Thing is, they still love it! It’s like they are able to look right to the heart of the matter and see the real source of joy in that moment: quality time with their dad. They are not in that moment requesting a tale of two cities, or some amazing classic with a prose that flows smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. At the end, they go to bed ecstatic! Now, isn’t that incredible? Can you say that about your life? Do we find little joys in what is seemingly nonsense?
To end this segment, I’ll say that another thing that both tickles and challenges me about children: their ability to make fun out of nothing. This may sound like me piggybacking off the last point, but consider it an expansion on the idea. What I mean is that you will come across news or documentaries showing children in favelas (slums), in trash heaps, or in heavily war-torn areas. While the reality of the stress of the environment will inevitably show on the faces of the adults, you’ll get mixed results when it comes to the children. In those humanitarian messes, you will find children playing pretend, using their imagination as well as scraps they’ve picked up. They will be filmed laughing, giggling, and chasing one another in such dire conditions. Let’s bring it closer to home. Here we are in the West. In general, I do think that children here use less of their imagination than in those places because their toys, shows and movies seem to be doing for them most of the imagining. However, there are still times I have found my kids sitting with simple blades of grass or, as recently took place, sitting next to a heap of plain sand, and they were off in their own world. I had previously seen said heap of “misplaced” sand, and my only thought had been: “What is it doing there? How long will it be there?” That was me. To them though, ooooh, that was a mountain of delight! They sat there for a long time, each chatting away. Even more delightful? They had discovered that sand heap with their friends. Now picture four little kids sitting on grass next to sand and talking to themselves. I really didn’t want to stop them. I found that I had to pause a moment and simply smile. Why hadn’t I seen that opportunity before? The lens. I hadn’t been wearing the lens of a child.
These are just some reasons I find myself nostalgic for my childhood. When I look back, it seems like it flew by. When I was living through it, however, it didn’t feel like that at all. Thankfully, it didn’t feel rushed either. I’m thankful for my childhood. It was full. Adventures, scrapes, learning about socialization and friendship management, leadership skills, and more. All those took place in that time period. Is it lost forever? Does it need to be? Or can I (and you) live a more childlike (not childish, mind you, hehe) existence? Can things be more delightful and full of wonder yet again?
Seems like that’s a choice we have to make. I do know that those who have lived more childlike existences have lived nice, long and full lives. There was joy to their lives and, boy, lots of laughter. They were always fun to be around. I like that. The end result sounds good. One only needs to take the requisite steps daily to get there.
Be a child.