“If you’re feeling blue, try painting yourself a different color.”
As a young adult, the majority of my life has been spent dragging my feet through school hallways and spilling coffee on my clean clothes. In hindsight and after reading many articles on the subject, I probably shouldn’t have started drinking coffee at age 5, but too late to worry about that now. In any case, even though I’ve spent so much time in classrooms, most of my learning experiences happened outside those walls and from nonprofessionals. Honestly, a lot of what I’ve learned came from listening to and spending time with kids. What made me realize this? Well, I was sitting here thinking, “Gosh, I really want a glass of champagne, but I don’t have a reason to celebrate and maybe I really shouldn’t.” And after I thought about it, I changed my mind and decided isn’t being alive a good enough reason to celebrate? A kid wouldn’t ask, “should I eat this mud pie?” A kid would simply do it. I may have grown up and I’m much more capable of grasping the concept of potential consequences, but I don’t want it to stifle my freedom. So then this got the gears turning and now I’m thinking about all the things little munchkins have taught me and why they’re valuable lessons.
As a young female, vanity has always been a (sometimes unwelcome) concern in my life. I’ll check my outfit in the mirror several times before leaving the house, and sometimes I’ll even head out feeling like even after spending two hours getting ready, I still could look better. I obsess over the clearness of my skin and cover “blemishes” with as much caked on make-up as possible. I dye my hair to cover premature grays, I try to buy trendy clothes and accessories, I primp constantly. I put so much effort into looking seemingly suitable for public eyes, and then I spend less than five minutes with a sloppy, messy, carefree little girl and suddenly she has me questioning every minute effort. She’s wearing multi-colored, striped cotton leggings, a bright pink t-shirt with a daisy on it and lime green Crocs. Not to mention her hair is all kinds of crazy and her hands are far from clean. But the only time this little one looks in the mirror is to check my face painting handiwork before proceeding to jump up in down in utter glee. If only we could gather up this loosey-goosey, untroubled childhood attitude and keep it with us as we grow older.
When you ask a child, “why are you doing that?” it isn’t uncommon for his or her response to be, “because it’s fun!” If you asked me why I’m applying for jobs, I would most certainly say because I need to not because it’s fun. Why don’t we do more things just because we enjoy them? As adults, we find plenty of excuses and reasons why we are no longer able to do something we once enjoyed. Money is tight, time is limited, getting too old – so many tired, worn out excuses that get way too much screen time. “Katie, why are you pouring glue in your hands?” Because it’s fun to peel off the dried glue, duh! “Riley, why are you acting like a puppy?” Because it’s fun to pretend! We should do what we want even if it has no value other than pure, uninhibited enjoyment.
And what’s more is that children are unafraid to openly express their emotions. If they miss their mommy and daddy, they’ll cry and screech and yell it at the top of their lungs without fear of embarrassment. If they missed you, they’ll come storming down the road to meet you the second you come around the bend, happily screaming your name, take a running leap and land in your arms. If you hurt their feelings when you call them a dodo bird poopy brain, they have no problem telling you straight to your face. If they have to go potty and you tell them to wait a few minutes, they’ll pull on your sleeve and make demands until you attend to their needs. We grownups tend to mask our feelings or hide them and sometimes we aren’t fully honest when we should be. Leah has no problem telling me that I need to hit the gym, but some of my best girlfriends wouldn’t dare even hint at it! If I tell Noelle I’m sad today, she’ll tell me to stop being sad and just be happy. The point is, kids tell you how it is (at least in their own eyes) and it’s refreshing. Why hold back?
And finally, one of my favorite things I’ve learned from kids is how to turn mundane tasks into a game. Picking up toys can turn into a fun basketball game as you chuck each one into the toy box. The rewards system is highly effective as a kid and an adult too. Finish this blog before midnight and I can have a second glass of champagne! Pick up all the crayons and you can have a piece of candy! Life doesn’t have to be boring if we can find ways to make it fun. Disappointments just give us a reason to look forward to improvements. Success is so sweet because we know it took us a few oopsies to get there. Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we should lose our innocent excitement; it doesn’t mean we should stop thinking the word poop is funny; it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat milk and cookies until our bellies ache; it doesn’t mean we should grow up and forget to live. Life is still exciting and new each day and I think it would do us all some good if we acknowledged and accepted our inner child- sticky hands, smelly feet, silliness and all.