Sometimes I envy children. The way their lives are so simple. Laugh. Cry. Sleep. Eat. Repeat. They seem to know what it is we really need without being told—a warm body to snuggle against, food in our bellies, a good nap every so often, something to make us smile, and attention to be given when we need it. It’s like they understand the world before they can comprehend that they understand the world. Adorable, really.
For the last five years, I’ve worked at a daycare. It started as a way to earn some extra cash, and then, over time, it became a part of my life. I started to feel myself drawn to the children, their little quirks, their smiles, what made them strange and silly and unique and beautiful.
I began to see those kids as my own, knowing them each by name, greeting them when I saw them at the grocery store, opening my arms to their goodmorning and goodbye hugs. I felt connected to them in a way only a parent can, but on a smaller level. I saw them as partly my own, and as terrifying as that was, it was also so wonderful.
But as I got closer to them, I realized, more and more, how much I envied their little lives.
Children’s minds are simple. They see the world as right and wrong, good and bad. They don’t have predisposed notions or limiting beliefs. They don’t have biases or misconstrued perceptions. They see every person as someone to love; they see every moment as a happy moment. And they don’t yet understand fear, so they speak and act freely, uninhibited.
I envy them.
I envy how they don’t yet know the ways of the world, how they simply believe that people are good and earth is a beautiful place. How they are able to express exactly what they are feeling, or what they want without feeling like they are too demanding or too selfish or too much.
They cry because they’re sad. They laugh because something caught their attention. They make silly faces because this is their way of showing happiness, and it’s just so simple and wonderful.
I envy how they exist—just to be loved and taken care of. Just to be held and played with and smiled at. Just to be the wonderful, fragile, mind-blowing creations that they are.
They don’t have to calculate their words before speaking, they don’t have to memorize facts, they don’t have to beat rush hour traffic or pay overdue bills. They don’t have to guard their hearts or walk carefully down the street at night. They don’t have to wipe someone else’s’ tears or know how to fix a broken heart.
They don’t have to do anything other than just be.
And I envy them for that.
But maybe, just maybe in their tiny minds, they watch me laugh and frown and speak long lines of words they have yet to understand. Maybe they see me walk without tripping, or move my fingers across a keyboard, or eat delicious food. Maybe they see me laugh at a video or feel my heart pound when they’re snuggled on my chest and I get a text from someone I love.
Maybe they’re watching me, wishing that they could understand the complexities of the world, wishing that they had emotions or abilities way beyond their years.
Maybe we’re both just sitting here, wishing we could switch roles.
And maybe we’re both a little luckier than we think.