An idea had been running around in my head that, like oft times before, has required the harmony of 3 separate melodies that on the surface seem disparate and maybe even discordant:
- Watching the behavior of my child as he grows
- University politics
- Interacting with some wonderful people at a wedding I went to recently
The idea is that we might all still actually be children. Of course this isn’t altogether too radical of an idea, but it seems to me that we too often separate “the child” from “the adult” and it has been observation that perhaps the distinction between the two is somewhat arbitrary or at least highly subjective, depending on your definition of the two categories.
It has been a disappointing realization in a lot of ways that when I look at the behavior of some of the professionals at the university that their behavior is not too professional. Perhaps I simply expected more out of a number of people with advanced degrees, but of course it is not different from any other workplace. There are people that are petty, there are people that throw tantrums when they don’t get their way, there are people that are petulant, there are people that lie in order to not take responsibility, there are bullies who try to boss the other people around, and there are people who think the world is ending because in a metaphorical sense they’ve dropped their ice cream cone. These qualities all seem quite understandable for a child to have. Since they are still unsure of how the world works and how to properly interact with others we expect these behaviors in young people and as parents help correct this behavior. But much to my surprise these behaviors are not something everybody grows out of and just as we think these behaviors will get us what we want as a child, there are many who see them as valid ways to act as adults. I suspect that it does sometimes work or else they might change. It’s simply unfortunate that they don’t see that there are other behaviors that a higher chance of success, but perhaps more importantly, lead to a better personal sense of well-being and happiness.
At a wedding this past weekend I met some wonderful people who are just easy to be around and a couple of them talked about how they felt like they’ve never really grown up. I often feel that
way too, but unlike the negative child behaviors I discussed previously these people demonstrated those things we love to see in children. There were people who had a child-like wonder and fascination with the world, loved to play and be silly, were made happy by the simple things in life, loved to pretend for fun, and took joy in just making you laugh or smile.
Now I may have overstated the idea a bit that we are just big children, but I think that there is definitely a child inside all of us and it might be worth asking the question “What child is inside of me?” Is it the child that makes us others marvel and smile, or is it the child that drains other people’s energy, stresses them out or makes people just want to run away screaming? As I watch my child grow it’s clear that behavior is not simply a result of innocence or naivety. It’s clear that sometimes he just wants to play and sometimes he just wants to let out a yell so we look his way and pay attention to him. As one grows and gains knowledge of the world, it doesn’t seem like any loss of innocence precludes any child-like behavior.
Sometimes in the face of the weight of the world a little time out for playing is probably the best way to maintain some sanity and gain one’s strength to keep pushing forward. Sometimes when what you know seems sad, perhaps it’s time to learn about something else, or go some place new so your eyes can open with wonder. Sometimes when you’re not smiling, do something nice for someone else and make them smile and see how much better you feel. I think it’s important to carry with us the best part of childhood always, and I hope that as my child grows I can help him hold on to those beautiful qualities that give me such joy to watch now.