I was shopping for a gift for my soon to be eleven year old nephew on Saturday (I failed miserably) – a surprise he said when I asked what he wanted – I suspected as I held up the nostalgic board game ‘Game of Life’ that had I bought it this may well have been a surprise for him – a surprise that it wasn’t a)Money or b) Football related or c) Electronic in some way. I put down the game that held many fond memories of earlier years with my kids when board games had been semi forced upon them but almost always entirely turned out to be the best times! I’m sure my nephew too would enjoy the game once he got over the shock of a, b & c but confidence was not on my side as I replaced it and left the toy shop for the safety of something far more appropriate with ‘sport’ in the shop title.
I veered off my initial shopping track slightly, ending up in (of course) a clothes shop eying up another pair of skinny jeans and internally wondering whether the dark navy high waisted pair I held up were in fact any different to the … dark navy high waisted pair I was currently wearing…. along with contemplating whether I was now too old for said skinny jeans. Opting for a couple of casual tops (in the sales I might add!!) I queued up to pay.. trying to divert my eyes away from those items placed purposefully near the counter – did I need a new pair of gloves or a pack of five black socks perhaps?
A child ran past and I hear her mother raise her voice. Come back, she said. The child of about seven had long dark chocolate brown pig tails, huge brown eyes. Defiant, she took a seat away from her mum and her smaller sister followed suit. Mum was clearly exasperated and this was probably the nail in the coffin after no doubt a tiresome day out shopping with her two young daughters. She’s so naughty said (I presumed) Gran. Right, fuelled by this fire…. that’s it, mum shouted. This is going back. She held up a purple and pink unicorn shaped pencil case and tossed it on the shelf behind her. Fake wailing came from the pig-tailed child along with much pleading. No, insisted mum. And then she said something that I thought was just a bit odd to be honest. She said.
You are acting…. You are acting LIKE A CHILD.
I’m a parent and I’ve been stressed with my kids… so I am not in any way judging mum but to accuse the child of…. acting like a child was totally perplexing. Not least to the child, who was looking at her with huge confusion.
Mum didn’t give in. Unicorn shaped pencil case stayed sadly behind. I heard the (now real) cries rise as they left the shop and I stepped up to pay.
As I continued to walk around the shops, searching… the mums words echoed in my head – acting like a child. What did it mean to act like a child and how did we learn to stop acting like a child? Was it wrong to act like a child? Even now?
I don’t know who made up our education system or parenting rules but looking at our adult population I’d say something has gone drastically wrong with most of us who are now ‘grown ups’. We’re mostly anxious, rushing about, no time to talk, not eating properly, drinking and smoking too much, depressed, always looking for something better, discontent, materialistic. In competition.
I wondered what would have happened had we not gone to school and not been boxed off to be just like everyone else? Or if we had still gone to school for our education but… had not been boxed off like everyone else.
My brothers at school were always referred to as daydreamers. I remember this vividly. I was the ‘good’ one (rather ironic now!).. I knew looking out the window was not the behaviour expected at school. How I wish now that I had spent more time day dreaming about my future rather than doing what I thought was right. I was told by my careers teacher that I’d possibly ‘make a secretary’. As a good pupil that is what I went on to do. Shit. I wished I had spent more time day dreaming instead, I may have actually planned out the stuff I really wanted to be and do… an actress, a writer, a singer, a painter, a photographer. Instead I went with expectation… I signed up to a YTS course (yes I am one of the few!) and I worked for £27.50 per week, learning how to do office work.
I can’t pretend that I have not done well out of it, I’m in a good job (I’ve worked bloody hard for it!!) but what if I had allowed to be a child…. and day dream? What would we do if perhaps we hadn’t had the ‘childish’ behaviour knocked out of us?
We might still jump in puddles. We’d laugh a lot more. We’d play fight. We’d tell jokes. We would use our imagination, a lot. We’d make up stories. We’d draw pictures. We’d learn from each other and from our environment. We’d keep trying new food and we’d say what we didn’t like. We’d pick up sticks and look under stones. We’d still have amazing instincts learning what was good and bad. We’d read what we want. We’d seek out to learn about subjects that interested us. We’d run when we aren’t ‘supposed to’. We wouldn’t be defined by stereotypes. We’d still write down the lyrics to songs. We’d fall in love and out of love and wouldn’t be shackled by the expectations put on us by society. We’d say what we saw without being embarrassed. We’d talk about our feelings without thought. We’d be expressive. We’d embrace difference. We’d be truthful. We’d be ourselves.
It might seem far fetched that we could be adults while holding on to our innate instinctive child behaviours but I for one would rather walk down the road and be able to jump in the puddle, laugh out loud and be in awe of the water jumping in globules around my legs…than be what we have become – avoiding the puddle, sensibly walking on, quietly.
I’m off to get my wellies!
Happy Sunday to you xx