I am constantly taken aback by the way my children find delight in even the most mundane things. In fact, one my my clearest memories of my son happened when he was about a year and a half old. We were shopping for a new car and were having a particularly excruciating experience with a salesman when a song my son liked came on and he began to dance. Shortly thereafter, we were ready to leave and had a hard time pulling him away because he continued to rock on. It was a cold, wet day. We thought the afternoon to be tedious and long, and even the cappuccinos we were offered couldn’t make up for it. He had a blast. There are countless other similar experiences. What an incredible difference in perspective between me and my children! Perhaps, if I could learn to see the world the way they see it, I would be able to enjoy life even more?
I know this is something every single adult has thought about while spending time with a child. What can we possibly do to enjoy life like a child? Here is my list. Please email me and let me know what else we should add. I am at Laura@LoveYourBodyBoutique.com.
1. See wonder in everything
Going on a walk with my son is something of a revelation. Holding his hand as we walk down the street or through a park, he is full of questions and admiration for the most ordinary things. From fire hydrants to construction sites, clouds to trees, the world is truly inspiring when looked at though his eyes.
My 18-month-old also approaches the world with awe. Being so little, she addresses everything with a humble dignity I wish I possessed. I have a clear image of her standing before the Potomac River in Washington, DC. She looked at the lapping water with a mix of reverence and belonging. It struck me because I felt neither. I looked at the river and felt jaded--sure, it’s beautiful, but I have seen more inspiring views. I also didn't necessarily feel like I was part of the scene. She is clearly still connected to the cosmos and can appreciate all its glory.
2. Look our for fun!
My son is adamant about wearing rain boots everywhere, even during the summer. At first I thought maybe Joules really are the most comfortable boots on earth, but I have come to see it goes beyond that. Everytime he sees a puddle, no matter where it is, he gleefully runs towards it to splash. He looks out for these puddles everywhere he goes--and wears the boots to be ready for unexpected fun.
I can’t actually remember when I last seeked out simple fun. The truth is, I am often inside my own head, thinking about my to do list, my future plans, my life, instead of being present. The farthest I venture outside myself is when I am with my kids and utterly focused on them--that often feels like a mental vacation. What if I could take it one step further and every time I leave the house, do so with the intention of really seeing what’s out there, maybe even finding some great fun along the way?
3. Be oblivious to the grimy
We took a trip to a beach town last year. My husband and I were appalled by the accommodations. We detested the restaurants in town. We wondered how clean the beach was. My kids just enjoyed the bright blue sky, the waves, and the sand. Their glee was not diminished in any way by our judgments.
I am sure we develop discerning filters through which to see the world for a good reason. It must be part of our survival. But so much of those filters are also judgments we attach unnecessary--and heavy--meaning to. To use the example of our beach trip, I was kind of freaking out about the fact that we ate pasta, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries for four days straight. I am so used to eating mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, that I felt physically sluggish and bloated from our beach diet. But it was more than. I worried about our immune systems declining, our bodies getting too inflamed, not giving our bodies what they needed to be able to be emotionally sound. In retrospect, I can laugh at how ridiculous this sounds! And yet, it kept me from truly enjoying a trip to the beach with my kids!
4. Just ask for what you need
We took a weekend trip to Philadelphia to see some friends, visit the Liberty Bell and see where the United States as a country was born. The trip asked a lot of the kids, but I was pleased to discover, they also asked for what they needed in return. Whether it was using a bathroom, getting a snack, having a nap, or needing to run around a park, they did a good job of letting me know what they needed. It made me wonder, how good I am at doing the same? How often do I ask for what I need right when I need it? I have gotten better at this, but the truth is, I often don't vocalize my exact needs at the exact moment I have them for fear that I will come off as complicated.
5. Be authentic
This one is similar to asking for what we need when we need it, but it goes further. It’s the one point I find very hard to translate into adulthood, but perhaps it’s the crucial bit to enjoying life like a child does?
Kids are who they are all the time. They don’t waste any energy veiling or censoring themselves. They have no idea what it means to second-guess themselves or to even judge themselves as they go. They definitely do not have an image in their minds of who they “should” be or want to be. Can you imagine the freedom? Can’t you already feel a load off your shoulders and the ability of enjoy the moment more?
Of course, it means they have tantrums in the middle of anywhere over anything! It also means they scream with delight at the top of their lungs whenever it tickles their fancy--regardless of the setting. Both extremes are not quite acceptable for adults in our society. We are expected to know how to behave.
But perhaps the trickiest part about this point is: as adults, we have emotional baggage that distorts our reality. Many of us work hard to adjust the damaged lens so that our reactions are adequate. How can we be fully authentic when we can’t trust ourselves 100% of the time?
For example, I am an introvert who needs alone time to recharge. I desperately wish I were an extrovert because I genuinely love people. I wish I had the energy to see even more of my friends, to constantly have a house full of extended family members, to never mind having people drop by unannounced. I am truly, deeply bummed that this is not the case for me. And so, anytime my husband or anyone else makes a comment along the lines of “oh, but you need your space!” I bristle to the core. They are right. I do need my space, but in that expression, I also hear you aren’t who you wish you were, you could be so much better!
How can I respond authentically when my reaction is not in line with the reality? Perhaps the key is what we all tell our toddlers: “use your words!” I may feel like screaming: “I know this is a massive flaw in me! I don’t like it either!” Instead, I can say calmly: “Ugh! It’s true. I do need my space. I wish it weren’t so because I love them all and want to spend all my time with them.”
And, of course, the second part of the equation is learning to accept and love ourselves as we are. Come to think of it, perhaps this is the only thing we need to look at the world through the eyes of a child? To look at the world, each other and ourselves with love instead of judgment and fear.