S and I were talking before bed the other night, and I asked, mostly rhetorically, if there’s a point when you stop feeling like a kid and start feeling more like a grown-up, whatever a grown-up is. I think for me (and probably most people), a grown-up is simply someone that’s a certain amount older than you. When I started kindergarten, those fifth-graders in the back of the bus were sooo big. In middle school, it was the eighth-graders, and when I walked into high school as a freshman, the seniors seemed like they were part of another world. Of course, when I actually reached fifth, then eighth, then twelfth grade, I didn’t feel very old.
The same is still true. We’re knocking on 30 here in the next couple years, which seemed like a lifetime away 10 years ago, but now that we’re almost there, not so much. I guess, in a sense, it is a lifetime away, because we’re really full-fledged adults now, and the things that we were worrying about in high school and college seem so trivial now. Which brings me back to my original question? Sure, we’re adults now, but when do you start feeling it? I still feel like I’m a kid (and if you ask S, perhaps I still am), but heck – we have a kid of our own now, I’ve had a full-time job for seven years, we own two homes, and nobody is responsible for us but ourselves. Somehow we made that transition relatively seamlessly and have managed to stay afloat.
As we were talking about this, I had another realization – that even though I still feel a lot like a kid, there are still some aspects in which I wish we could be even more childlike. I watch C every day, and his joy and energy are infectious. Can he make me want to pull my hair out? Absolutely, and he seems to relish it.
But mostly, he’s just doing what he was born to do.
He gets excited about the smallest things – snow, airplanes, balloons, seeing the dog every morning, Christmas lights, his stuffed monkey bath time; they all bring a smile and a “woooo” sound of delight.
His curiosity is boundless – he explores every path, tries new things daily, pushes the limits that we set for him.
He doesn’t hold grudges or have prejudices toward anyone – it may take him a minute to warm up to strangers (or it may not), but soon he’ll be holding a gibberish conversation with the lady he just met in the store.
He trusts us unconditionally.
Even though he does it unconsciously, he treats every new day like it may be his last, and if it’s going to be, then he might as well make sure he lives to his fullest.
In short, there’s a lot he can teach me. Whether I realize it or not, every day I’m trying to put limits on what he can or can’t do. Don’t throw your cup. Put your toys away. Don’t hit the dog. Obviously, some things are for his well-being, but some of them seem kind of arbitrarily set. Instead of trying to teach him, should we be going to him for instruction? I kinda believe that when I look at him, in many ways I’m seeing what humanity was meant to be in its purest form. Joy. Love. Curiosity. Bright blue eyes twinkling with laughter. I realize that as you grow up, life can surely beat you down, and you have new responsibilities and problems all the time, and sometimes you can get overwhelmed to the point of wanting to curl up and cry, but does it always have to be that way?
I think, no matter how old, everyone has a spark of that original joy and mystery and excitement, which is maybe why I still feel like I could be a kid. In some people, I think it gets so suppressed that they don’t realize it’s still there, but it is. Life gets in the way most of the time, but maybe I should let C take the reins once in a while, and forget about the mess and how childish it may seem to my far superior, grown-up mind (sarcasm, in case you missed it), and just run and play and be silly with him. Now of course, I’m not suggesting that you can just abandon everything and go be a hermit. With growing up comes some modicum of responsibility, whether we like it or not. But I am suggesting that we don’t always have to take life so seriously that we don’t enjoy it.
Did I answer my question? I’m not sure. But I’m not sure I need an answer.
Bruce Becker says
I am not sure how to answer your question but I thought back when you said maybe let C take the reins. Some really adventurous days when my kids were little I really let them lead.
Go to the park or the zoo or wherever, take his hand and then just go where he leads you. Try not to pull back onto a path or direct anything.
You will find you feel like a butterfly, moving in all kinds of directions and testing everything, then returning to some places again and again.
I hope we keep feeling like kids because that means we don’t think we have all the answers.