In addition to all the physical changes that happen to us as we get older, our outlook about things changes too. We hear about older people who claim that the secret to longevity is keeping that childlike innocence, that joy of life. We’ve all heard that and I’m sure that like myself, most people nod along with it and make a promise to themselves that they’ll try a little harder next time.
But I wonder how many of us ever really reach that innocence. How many, I wonder, stop in the middle of doing something during the day and remember how doing that same thing as a child felt.
Though I give them kudos, I’ve never understood how people can take jobs working with children. The crying and the whining just seems too much for me. And while my outlook, now that I have children, hasn’t really changed (I STILL don’t see how people can work with children all day), I have gotten a glimpse or two into the thinking behind the idea that surrounding yourself with children can help keep one young.
Halloween was one such event. As my oldest son came home from Trick-or-Treating; his face shining with excitement over the candy he had. As an adult, who can go out and buy as much candy as I want at any time, it’s easy for me to gloss over his excitement. But instead, what I did was sit down with him and tried to put myself in his place. And the funny thing is that for just a moment, I felt what my son felt. I remembered how exciting it was to come home with a pumpkin full of candy and spread it out on the floor and figure out what I wanted to eat first. For just a moment there, I was a child again with eyes full of shiny wrappers and the taste of sugary goodness in my mouth. Wonderful!
The second time this happened was one morning recently. My oldest (again) wakes up at about 5:45 every morning. By the time I get up and get a cup of coffee, he’s standing in our room holding his blanket asking to watch cartoons. As someone who’s traditionally been a morning guy, albeit one that likes to get up, drink coffee and watch the morning news, I’ve tried not to get annoyed at having a 5 a.m. shadow. But the other morning as he was standing there looking at me with those big hazel eyes, I remembered what it was like to be standing there. I remembered getting up early before anyone else in the house was awake, and getting my blanket and pillow and plopping down in front of the TV and watching early morning cartoons. Being up alone watching TV, doing whatever I wanted while the rest of the house was asleep was liberating, and enjoyable. As my childhood memories inevitably fade, memories of this time in my childhood remain crystallized.
A lot of things are different between then and now, but I suspect that children haven’t changed all that much. Watching cartoons is ten times more complicated now than it used to be thanks to a number of in-line electronic devices, but despite this, my son appears to enjoy his morning ritual every bit as much as I used to enjoy mine.
But the interesting thing is that for two brief moments in the last month, I’ve felt what it’s like to be a kid again. And you know what? It’s nice. It’s nice to shed the day to day craziness and cynicism and see the world through the eyes of someone who’s never been dumped, never lost a job, never bounced a check, or any of the other dozen things that make us adults.
Being an adult has its perks, but every now and then, it’s nice to be a kid again.