My nephew turned five years old. His parents own Monkeytown, a children’s indoor playspace, so they held a party there that included about a dozen of his friends. Pizza, cake and lots of children = successful birthday.
As my brother and I watched the kids scream and run around, he said to me, “Can you imagine working here all day?”. I paused and said to him, “You mean having to watch children acting like children or going to work and watching adults acting like children?”. All he could do was nod and agree.
Children will act like children. It’s what they do. They play. They cry. They test me when I ask them to do something. Most of the time, they want to be good. They haven’t yet learned all the skills that will help them get through life. Fortunately, they have their parents and relatives (and maybe even their auntie!) to guide them through.
Adults can act like children too but not necessarily in a nice way. That’s a little harder to understand. They’re supposed to know better. Adults should have been through those life events that teach them how to behave ethically and justly. It makes me mad to see grown-ups being bullies in the same way as kids on the playground.
In the clinic, I often meet young families accompanying their new puppy for its first exam. I find that the puppy will act like the children in that family. If the kids are quiet, then the puppy is also the same. If the kids are racing around the room, the puppy is just as busy.
How can I retain a child’s delight?
How can I learn from those less desirable childish behaviours?
By asking these questions, I become aware of opportunities appearing in my everyday life where I can act like a child. I catch myself going into the adult equivalent of a temper tantrum because something didn’t turn out the way I had expected. I drive past the houses on my way to work and notice things about them as if I am seeing them for the first time.
I have learned the lessons that my childhood taught me. It’s enough that I’ve done it once. But I also want to have that sense of play and wonder that comes to children so easily. In this way, if I do it with the right intention, I can act like a child for the rest of my life.