“So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting a new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.” –Ted Hughes in a letter to his son, Nicholas
There’s a lot of adult things I love, like flying on airplanes by myself, actually enjoying coffee, and getting excited to discuss politics. But is it all a true match against finger painting and being encouraged to take naps on a daily basis?!
I have a massive extended family, and one of the things I love watching in my younger cousins is their complete lack of filter. It’s so refreshing, and while sometimes they can be brutally honest, I know they’re the only ones that will give it to me straight. “You’re a bad driver. You’re a boring adult. What’s that big red thing on your face? Why is your boyfriend so weird?”
I know everyone else at the family Christmas may be thinking it, but here’s a nine year-old dropping truth bombs with a Nintendo Switch in hand, hardly even paying attention to me.
In childhood, there is honesty, innocence, and a sweet and complete sense of vulnerability. Yet as we get older, we’re taught that crying in public multiple times a day is frowned upon and we can’t ask our coworker what that red thing on their face is without a dirty look. Ah, social norms.
While I’m not suggesting reverting back to a completely childlike state, there’s something about jumping and tumbling into failure without caring whatsoever that’s so refreshing. Kids have no fear, no insecurity. They haven’t been taught it yet. It’s learned from our bruises and regrets and reprimands. And it also makes our lives a whole lot more boring.
Remember when you could spend an entire day entertaining yourself by simply getting lost in your own head? You weren’t afraid to openly pretend and slide down the stairs in a laundry basket, doubling as a race down a mountain.
Sometimes composure is necessary. And other times, it just sucks. As Hughes continues, he notes:
“Everybody tries to protect this two three four five six seven eight year old inside…so everybody develops a whole armor of secondary self, and when we meet people, this is who we usually meet.”
But what if we let that little one out sometimes? Told a new love exactly how we’re feeling? Got really sad about something small because that’s actually how we felt? Call our moms and whine a bit. Feel the comfort and homesickness for in being in your own home, your own room, your own cozy sheets. Draw outside of the lines. Run around until we’re sweaty and muddy and tired from a great day of playing with our friends.
Things get a little too serious sometimes. It’s almost like there’s a massive pandemic going on or something? Ha.
But, really. We have a lot of heavy shit to worry about. And it’s all good and bad and important and worthy of worrying about. We need to allow time to get in touch with that younger, vulnerable, creative side too though. It adds to that Richter scale of feeling in which we register life. It breaks open that shell of armor we keep around that tiny, sweet young self.
The parents I know savor their children are at every age. They bask in it — loving the funny things that come out of their mouths, their uncanny perspective, the confidence they get from wearing the same banana shirt and bike helmet for six days in a row.
So what’s the harm in being more playful? Instead of sitting out from the late-night lake swim to keep chatting with friends, why not cannonball off the back of the boat? Besides the ungodly amount of mosquito bites, it wouldn’t hurt us all to jump in.