A more appropriate title for this blog is probably, what kids teach me, but I figured I would narrow it down a bit more, as kids can be a bit harder to define.
I feel like I spent my entire childhood wishing away the wonderful moments. I couldn't wait until I could go on dates, I couldn't wait until I could drive a car, I couldn't wait until I lived on my own, I couldn't wait until I had no curfew, could drink, could vote, could go to college, could get married and could have kids. From the time I was about 10 years old, I feel like I spent my entire childhood waiting for the next big moment. The next big event. I was always living for that next moment.
I look back on those years wishing I had fully enjoyed and embraced my ability to live in the moment and just be a kid. Sure, other than excitedly awaiting my birthday and Christmas each year, I think I did a pretty good job living in the moment when I was under 10. Kid enough to not yet realize the things I was supposed to feel like I was missing out on. I often feel very grateful that I was the oldest child in my immediate family, at least I didn't have an older sibling making me wish I would grow up even faster, even more so than I already was. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of friends with older siblings that gave me glimpses of the life I had to look forward to, when I was in middle school (that infamous 8th grade dinner dance), when I was in high school and all of the parties (ha ha that never happened), sports and proms and then when I was in college.
I find it very sad that the childhood I remember most is the childhood where I was always wishing and waiting for the next thing. I would also have to confess that Hollywood ruined my teenage years for me. I wrote a letter to Jordan Knight, inviting him to my 12th b-day. I was so confident he was going to come. So much so, that I was sitting in my room looking out the front three windows when I saw a limo slowly drive by. I was certain he was driving by to check out the party. Even if it was him, I will never know because he didn't stop. He kept going. Don't even get me started on the fact that I was so sure that Jake was going to show up on my 16th b-day and kiss me on the table. I was so sure that I would be Molly Ringwald and High School would just turn-up roses for me--ahh Sixteen Candles, gosh I love that movie. Some people say the Disney princesses ruined it for them (always waiting for Prince Charming), well, Jake Ryan, you ruined it for me, well maybe I should say 80's movies in general. :) Even in Goonies, I was always rooting for the underdog. I felt like an underdog in that department. Often the friend, never the girlfriend. I was ecstatic when Sam got Jake and Mikey got Andie (briefly--heck, he got a kiss, didn't he) and Louise got Brad (even if she used spells) and who could forget when Lloyd Dobler got Diane Court (I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen). Heck, I was even rooting for Scott and Boof to get together in Teen Wolf and cheering when George McFly got Lorraine at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance. I am a true romantic, at heart. In this way, I really thought anything could happen, being someone who wished on many stars at night and during many 11:11's during her childhood. I was a dreamer, to a fault.
Even after I "grew up" I kept this "anything can happen mentality". That is one thing I did keep with me, after all these years. It has brought heartache and tears, but in the end, I really think it has made me a better and stronger person. It has probably caused me to be more of an idealist than I should be. I often think things should be fixable and that people should work together and make a difference and make things happen. It is a dangerous way to be in this world as you are often left with an aching heart and a defeatist mentality. I continue to try and keep this leftover trait my childhood has graced me with.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would tell myself to slow down and enjoy being a kid. I think I should have focused on being a kid until I was at least 14 or 15 years old. There are so many things I totally took for granted.
I was always really good at using my imagination and playing make believe. My friends and I would search for buried treasures, make time machines out of old washing machines, make concoctions like potpourri and bug spray, try and invent our own birthday party performance business, play outside during all hours of the day, play chase and tag and ride our bikes and scooters forever. I wish I had reveled in those moments more. I wish I read just one more Choose Your Own Adventure book on our magic carpet, I wish that I had made one more batch of potpourri or went on one more adventure in the woods looking for Macho Man.
If and when Greg and I have kids (more about that in a future blog), I think the one thing I really want to think about is how to instill a love and appreciation for their childhood in them. How do you make your children realize they should be enjoying every moment and not wishing to grow up. I am not sure how to convey this without being that parent that talks about having to walk to school in the snow, uphill, backwards when you were a kid. How do you really make your children realize how they should use this time to play, and learn and discover and make mistakes and fall down and laugh. Laugh so hard they find it hard to talk or breathe. I love laughing. Some of my biggest laughs always come with my friends. I miss having those big laughs. It isn't about me never wanting them to date, or not wanting them to wear make-up, it is honestly about me wanting them to really enjoy the time they have as children. I have no doubt that heartache and challenges will come. I have no doubt the tears will be plentiful (who didn't cry and get picked on), although I do think kids today have it much harder than we did. With the internet alone and Facebook. I was picked on when I was little, but I went home and I was safe at home. If I was fighting with a friend, I just wouldn't call them or wouldn't answer the phone. Today, with texts, Facebook, e-mail and the internet people can bully and pester you even if you are avoiding them. It isn't up to you anymore, you no longer have the control about when you will be picked on. They just can send you mean texts or post awful things on your wall. I cannot even imagine being a teenage today. Notice I am longing to be a child, not a teenager :)
How can I make them enjoy being outside and running around, without making it feel like exercise? I am not saying exercise is bad, but I feel like running around outside lost the innocence and fun when it became exercise and a sport. We would run outside for everything, playing hide n' seek, Chase Ricky and Tag. I remember running so fast that my legs often felt like they would fall off. It is like that episode of friends where Rachel is embarrassed to run with Phoebe because Phoebe runs so "crazy." I think of that episode a lot. Running around was so much fun! It was always just about playing, it was never because I felt like "there was something wrong with me and I was overweight and trying to lose weight." I also remember riding my bike and my scooter behind Whitin School. I would pedal so fast and so hard and sometimes would just sit back and feel the wind whip through my hair. I wish I could do that one more time as a child. I wish I could really sit down with my 10-15 year old self and tell me how it all really was. That everything, in the end, would be ok. That I would have of rough days, months and years ahead, but that right now, when I am a kid and a pre-teen, I should really enjoy my time as these will be the most carefree in my life.
So, what do I learn from kids and what do they remind me daily, well, for any kids out there, first of all, thank you.
They remind me that anything is possible, that the sun can be blue and cats can fly. I miss using my imagination daily. I miss building things and making things and imagining things.
They remind me how important it is to ask why. I feel like in this day and age I am often so quick to just take what is fed to me as fact, never challenging or asking why. It is so important to be a lifelong learner and never be afraid to question. We all have growing and learning to do.
They remind me that it is ok to get dirty and roll around in the grass. It is ok to be carefree and spontaneous. I use to love the feeling of rolling down the hill in our back yard. I use to love playing in the sand and in the dirt. I use to love being outside. It also reminds me, I should make more of an effort to connect with nature as often as possible.
They remind me that coloring and drawing can be very therapeutic and fun! I love coloring and drawing and I wish I did it more often.
They remind me how important it is to just be yourself. You never see kids worrying about what people think of them. They are free spirits and they just are. I wish I could just "be" these days and not always be so worried about how others think about me.
They never worry about time lines or put things off. When a kid wants to do something, they just do it. They don't get their egos involved. I wish I could act more with my id and silence my ego more.
They always try and get back up. Watching a child learn to walk is amazing. They may get hurt, they may cry, but they always get back up and try again.
They are so brave. They are born not knowing how to crawl, walk or talk. Yet, by the time they are 3-ish they have a pretty good handle on all of these things. They aren't afraid to try, make mistakes and they soak things up like a sponge.
They really have unconditional love and while they may ask questions, they don't judge, assuming their blank slates haven't been tarnished by inappropriate theories and teachings.
They remind me that sometimes a hug really can make everything better.
They remind me that is it ok to think and say out loud that you did a great job. Kids are not usually shy about their awesomeness. I think I could learn something from this.
They feel like they are immortal, they aren't worrying about what may happen to them and often (unless you are scared like me) they have no fear of death. They feel indestructible and like they can do anything
I long for the days of no responsibility. Heck, I even long for the days of college and high school. Being an adult is challenging. It is hard to make it in this world. It is difficult to find a job, work, pay the bills and remember to set your alarm every night before you go to bed. It is hard to deal with the emotions of family members and friends getting older and growing apart. It is hard to learn how to have difficult conversations and deal with conflict. It really is hard to be a grown-up.
It was so much easier to just "be"when I was little. It is hard to wake up one morning and suddenly realize that life is unfair that there are so many things that are unfair in this world. It is hard to realize not everything can be fixed and that not everything will turn out the way you had thought. It is hard to be present in this world sometimes, as an adult. It is hard to learn that "I am sorry," does not always fix things and even though your try your best, you may not win. Sometimes it is really hard to soldier on. It is times like this, when I really need to dig deep inside and focus on my soul. Focus on what makes me feel at peace and happiest. It is really easy to have the difficulty of life pull you down. It is really easy to have it not only pull you down, but keep you down.
All this being said, I am trying really hard to ensure it doesn't sound like I am ungrateful. I am hugely grateful for everything that I have. Clearly there are so many wonderful and amazing things that come from being an adult that I did not experience as a child, I just wish I had appreciated those special moments a bit more when I was a kid. And, when I find myself having a bad day, I think about what I loved the most as a child and I try and recreate that joy. Whether it be reading, running, swinging, coloring, drawing, dancing, eating spaghettio's or watching a classic movie. Next on my list is to find some arts and crafts to make. I love working with my hands and I really miss that. Maybe I will have to roll down a hill or jump in a mud puddle at some point soon too.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, I really do want to apologize to childhood and teenager and even twenty-something Patty. I am so sorry that I was so mean to you and I am sorry that I wasn't more of a cheerleader for you. I should have been your biggest fan and I wasn't. I wish I could have a do over. I wish I didn't worry so much about what other people thought and I wish I had more confidence in myself. Here's to hoping I will do a better job in being supportive in the years to come.
Well, I would like to leave you all with one of my most favorite readings, I think this sums it up pretty well:
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
(a guide for Global Leadership)
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum
Coming up next:
Morals and ethics in an ever polarized world
And thats all she wrote...