Our culture is preoccupied with “maturity.” If a young person misbehaves, he or she might be told to “grow up!” If a young adult seems to be making frequent mistakes in relationships or in major life decisions, he or she might be called “immature.”
It is true that we humans gain wisdom and good judgment as we get older. With each passing year, the brain grows and accumulates more wisdom, knowledge, and capacity for good decision-making. During childhood, the brain is naturally a little bit more impulsive. Your brain’s frontal lobes, which help to regulate self-control, keep growing and strengthening well into your 20’s. During childhood, the brain is a little bit like a puppy or a kitten: energetic, impulsive, and easily distracted.
If we were told that our airline pilot, or our surgeon, was 11 years old, I think most of us would be understandably alarmed, even if we knew that this child was a great prodigy!
So, it is good to be an adult! Adulthood empowers us to make decisions more wisely and safely, and with greater skill.
But most of us are so focused on our adulthood or on being “mature” that we have lost something very, very important: we have lost our memory of what it is like to be a child! Children are not simply immature adults. Children are not simply impulsive and uneducated creatures who need constant care:
A child is one of the great gifts of life itself. Playing with a child is one of the great joys of life. Caring for a child can be one of the most meaningful things that anyone can ever do.
But there is much more: it is a deeply wonderful thing to actually BE a child again. Children teach us how to be happy! Learn from observing a child’s simple pleasure from playing on a swing in the park, or from blowing bubbles, or from playing “hide and seek!” Learn from observing how a child is not preoccupied with deadlines, or earning more money, or worries from the latest international news! Learn from observing how easy it is for a child to smile, laugh, and dance!
As with any lesson, it is not enough just to observe! You must actually practice, and do homework! In this case, you must play on a swing in the park. You must blow bubbles, and play “hide and seek.” You must let go of your preoccupation with deadlines, earning more money, and your worries from the latest international news! You must deliberately smile, laugh, and dance!
According to Ron Gutman (2011), children smile about four hundred times per day! Only about one-third of adults smile more than twenty times per day! Let’s see if we can catch up with the children around us—assuming that we are up for 16 hours per day, that means that our goal should be to have a big smile once every two minutes and twenty-four seconds! Of course, a real child would not be doing this calculation, he or she would just be smiling even more!
Smile; it’s free therapy! (Douglas Horton)
It is a beautiful way to live, to be playing like a child, having fun like a child, and being carefree like a child. That’s one of the reasons why I love playing with little children: they remind me of how simple and peaceful our world can be. Thank you, little ones!
Over at our place, we’re sure of just one thing, everybody in the world was once a child. So in planning a new picture, we don’t think of grown-ups, and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our pictures can help recall. (Walt Disney)
The most potent muse of all is our own inner child. (Stephen Nachmanovitch)
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. (Roald Dahl)
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I let my inner child stay with me, and when I play and smile and laugh just like I did when I was 6 years old!
Gutman, R. (2011, March). The hidden power of smiling [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_gutman_the_hidden_power_of_smiling