Once upon a time…
…the world was a beautiful place, full of wonderful people who sang your praises and tucked you into bed every night. They made sure that all your buttons were done before you went out into the cold, they held your hand so that you wouldn’t fall, and they patiently cleaned you up on the many occasions where you started doing the potty dance with no potty in sight. Even if you don’t remember it, someone does, because someone helped you through these things; someone helped you grow up.
And even if your childhood didn’t consist of much, the fact is we were all children at some point. There’s just no getting to point B without passing through point A, and that’s the remarkable truth. Carefree children wake up one morning and realize that they’re no longer a kid. Adulthood creeps up on you and plays nasty tricks on your imagination, until one day you realize you don’t even have time for imagination anyway. Crayons, chalk, picture books, and training wheels become a thing of the past, and you move on with your life.
But while there’s no way to escape adulthood, there’s always a way to cheat it. You can become the person you always looked up to. You can open up a new coloring book and buy Barbies again, because with adulthood comes new opportunities, new choices. With adulthood comes the chance to be a kid again, through sharing the experience of childhood with those who are undergoing it right before your very eyes.
It’s true – not everyone’s made out to be a parent – and that’s fine, and that’s perfectly respectable. But, regardless of whether you want or have your own children, you should never EVER miss out on the opportunity to be around kids while they’re growing up, whether in a paid position like teaching or in a more voluntary position like coaching a rec team. Not only do young kids test your patience, but they also take you to worlds that you left behind years ago.
It is only through them that we can begin to see all the good in the world, long after our adult-vision eyes have blurred our sense of imagination. They offer us unconditional love, support, and laughter, all while asking for nothing in return. Children don’t care about you because you’re rich, pretty, or smart. Children care about you because they have no reason not to; a concept so simple and yet one that gets pushed to the side as you grow up.
When they sing the “Frozen” soundtrack to you 50 times a day, it’s their way of sharing something they love with you. When they color you a picture, it’s their way of telling you what’s on their mind. And when they ask you to push them higher on the swings, it’s because they want to fly and they know you can give them wings. These are the things we forget when we get older. We claim to be wise, we think we have all the answers, but little kids – they see so little of the world, and yet they understand so much more about it than adults do.
They aren’t afraid to ask for help, they aren’t afraid to show their emotions, and they certainly aren’t afraid to tell you the honest truth. If even for a day, work with kids just to discover a little bit of the magic that got lost along the way. I can almost guarantee that you will learn something, whether it’s about the way you see the world, or about yourself, or about your relationships.
For me, I learned that my silliness isn’t something to be ashamed of. I learned that there are few things as satisfying as making someone giggle who was crying five seconds before. I had water poured all over me, and learned that it’s okay to laugh at yourself. And I learned that, at the end of the day, the greatest accomplishments of your life aren’t those in your checkbook, or the newspaper, or tiny words on a diploma. They’ll be moments, intangible but memorable all the same – all the times you made a child smile.
No one’s childhood lasts forever, and that’s just the way life goes. But just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you can’t give childhood one last visit. I ventured back into the land of the young and innocent, and I’ve become a better person because of it. Being able to have any influence, any kind of impact, on a child who is learning who they are in this world is one of the greatest legacies anyone can leave.
So next time you have the chance to work with kids, no matter how old you are, I hope you take it. I don’t care how many degrees you’ve earned or how many clients you have – we can all stand to learn something from children. They are the essence of what it means to be alive, constantly discovering something new and testing the boundaries of nature. When our memory fades, they represent our chance to start fresh, and in times of darkness, they offer us hope, because they won’t settle for anything less than happily ever after.