I recently spent a lazy summer afternoon with a precocious 12-year-old whom I love dearly.
Being around this savvy preteen brings out the absolute best in me (in my opinion); I make collages, do cartwheels and talk about boy bands.
On this particular day, however, her hormones were not in the mood for my playful shenanigans. Sensing this, I did what any rational adult would do; I started singing and dancing in front of her until she paid attention to me. Attention was finally paid, albeit in the form of an intended insult, sputtered from pursed lips behind her summer reading book, punctuated by a roll of her eyes: “You are a 30-year-old with the heart of a child, Kim.” What she expected from me was a witty retort, a frown or a dismissal; I simply smiled, thanked her and continued dancing.
Then I got to thinking. Since when did acting like a child become such a bad thing?
I started thinking about the messages we send to our children versus the ones we impose upon our oh-so-serious adult selves, often without realizing the hypocrisy in our thoughts and words.
We tell our children to be kind no matter what, to balance quiet time and play and to treat themselves with respect and love. We encourage kids to get their hands dirty and their feet wet. We create safe spaces for them to let their imaginations run wild and to experience as much unadulterated joy as their little bodies can handle. We hug and kiss our children daily.
We tell ourselves to man up, to grow up and to stop acting childish. We put mindfulness practice on our to-do lists and attempt to immortalize our precious vacation days through posts on social media. Playfulness and joy are things we read about in articles on our smartphones. Rigorous workout regimens and hectic schedules leave little room for physical touch.
It’s about time we start practicing what we preach to our children.
Would we tell a child to sleep less, work more, and drink copious amounts of caffeine to make it through the day? Never. Would we tell a child to suppress his/her emotions when upset or to “suck it up” when being bullied? Absolutely not.
What if we asked ourselves daily what it is we need, and answered as if we were speaking to a child? What if we prescribed our stressed out adult selves with less screen time, more hugs, and mandatory naps? What if we let ourselves wear mismatched socks, put playdates on our calendars and let ice cream cones melt onto our hands and faces without scrambling for the nearest napkin?
I say the more often you can make a preteen roll her eyes in faux disgust at your childlike behavior, the happier you will be. After all, if it is true what they say about children making the world a more beautiful, joyful place, then it would behoove us to start acting like them.
Author: Kimberly Kenney
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own, Georgie Pauwels/Flickr