Let the Children Play

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.

From http://www.kidspot.com.au

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

From http://www.coulourbox.com

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.




8 thoughts on “Let the Children Play

  1. JRG

    I remember first really being hit with that disappointment with adults when I was working at that non-profit where the board of directors sided with their crony that had sexually harassed one of the girls at the office. As older professionals sitting on a board to promote a cause they care about, you would want them to be your mentors and guides. But we younger staff were the ones to stand up for what’s right and to face the situation head on. In any case, I’ve learned that most adults are not that self-reflective, so they never actually take time to think about what impact they have on those around them or the rest of the world, so it’s hard to be any different when you don’t care to analyse yourself.


    1. Agreed. I wonder how self-reflective children are. Is this something that is taught? Nurtured? I imagine self-reflection would be part of the scientist in us…questioning our actions, testing reactions of new actions we take. Self-reflection is an important quality, I am just not sure where it fits in psychologically. I guess it’s just part of critical thinking, but in this case about ourselves.


      1. JRG

        It seems to me that it’s probably because we’re constantly telling children to think about their actions. If they hurt someone, we ask them to think about how they would like it if someone did that to them or give them a time out to “think about what they’ve done”. We force them into it, and perhaps for some people that becomes a punishment in itself rather than a catalyst for changing ourselves for the better. We may never know.


        1. I don’t remember ever being forced into thinking about what we’ve done. lol I don’t think it’s wrong to tell children to think about the consequences…I think if you are angry at them while you are doing it though that might be more of a problem. I think as long as you are also giving them a path to redemption so to speak so that they don’t make the same mistake twice that goes a long way into encouraging self-reflection.


          1. JRG

            We were generally good children, perhaps 😉 And no, I don’t think it’s wrong to tell children to think about the consequences. I do think that’s a great thing, only that the trend doesn’t seem to carry on into adulthood for everyone.


  2. I know for a fact, I am just a big kid. In many ways I refuse to grow up, at least in the sense of the kind of adulthood I remember seeing as a kid. If I ever become like the narrow minded, bigoted, hateful old bastards I remember, please someone shoot me.

    I think as an adult, with kids to raise, one should always keep a sense of fun, adventure, and discovery. There is something to learn every day, and learning is no chore if it can be interesting in the process.

    As I look over my shoulder (literally and metaphorically) at my youngest son, all I can think to say, is “enjoy raising your son” . They grow up too fast.

    …and the consequences should be explained. Warn them of pitfalls, explain to them the mistakes you have made, and why you regret them. When they experience these things for themselves, and see where you are coming from, that’s the payoff.


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