Remember the carefree days of childhood? The days were long, our imaginations were huge, and our ideas were epic – and maybe a tiny bit dangerous. Every day was a new experience and adventure, full of learning and discovery.
Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, you’re no longer a child – you’re adulting.
Don’t get me wrong, being an adult is pretty awesome, but it’s also filled with lots of responsibilities and tough decisions. Slowly, but surely, that childlike wonder you had as a kid is put in a box and tucked away in the attic of your mind. We put down our toys; we stop playing. We become more cynical, structured and less open to new experiences.
But as we grow into adulthood, we might be letting go of a little more than we should.
While children often look to us as teachers, we often don’t consider what they could be teaching us. Kids can teach us so much about living life, about having hope and making the most out of any situation. We could actually relearn a thing or two from them.
“They act first, then think – which is a blessing and a curse, frankly,” says my son Nakuul Mehta, 39, an actor, performer and a father of 18 months old child. He continues, “But as adults, we can help children learn to appreciate these impulses as strengths they may later build upon, and, in turn, we can find ourselves similarly sparked to remain connected to the exuberance of childhood that often escapes our otherwise structured and more contained adult lives.”
The good news is that childlike wonder still lives inside you – no matter your age. It’s just a matter of embracing it. Dr Kristine Goto, a psychologist, Malvika Mehta, architect, Nakuul Mehta, actor, Pracchi Mehta Shah, tarrot card reader and Jankee Mehta, professional singer share a few things we can learn from children to be better adults.
Feel your feelings
Children leave their emotions on their sleeves. When they’re happy, they smile and laugh. When they’re sad, they cry. As an adult, you may attempt to control your emotions without acknowledging how you feel. You may adapt compulsive behaviours around stuffing your emotions, denying them, suppressing your feelings and forcing them into something you think is more acceptable to the world and to others.
“Of course, learning to manage our emotions is key to many positive things in our lives – but, we cannot proceed to that step without first acknowledging how we feel. Sad things are sad. Hard things are hard. Getting older doesn’t change that!”, says Dr Kristine Goto, PhD, a psychologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
Be curious and excited
Being inquisitive is how children learn. They push buttons, turn knobs, open drawers and have a million questions and hypotheses about nearly everything as they take in the enormity of this world. They aren’t yet burdened with worry about what others may think about their offerings or efforts. Self-awareness isn’t their conscious driver. It’s more concerning when children don’t have an audience than it is to be scrutinized or shamed.
“We also have a little person inside of us with novel ideas and an innate desire to share. Yet, somewhere along the way, we lose that curiosity and excitement to learn new things and discover new places.”, says Jankee Mehta, 36, my daughter-in-law, a professional singer and a curious mother of 18 months old. If we can relearn to be curious like a child, it may just lead us to greater self-fulfilment and joy.
Children jump, climb, fall and get right back up. As a kid, it’s almost expected rather than feared.
“We too have the capacity to accept or surrender to fear and dive into something new, but we’ve adapted to self-handicap, perhaps out of collective years disliking the sting of failures. What would happen, though, if you tapped into those younger days when caution wasn’t relevant. The sparkling goal was much greater than the potential cost of reaching it?”, adds Malvika Mehta Shah, my grand niece, 30, architect by profession but a great ‘bindaas’ mother of 12 month old child.
I often tell Jankee Mehta, my daughter-in-law, a professional singer and performer, but an extra cautious mother, “What if you simply acknowledged your reservations, made calculated assessments of the actual risks and jumped in with the confidence of a child learning something new?”. I continued, “You can still be responsible; it’s not about being reckless but rather being willing to take risks.” Putting fear into perspective may just allow for more self-discovery and adult excitement.
Grow a little every day (even when it’s hard)
“When we’re young, growth doesn’t take conscious effort; it’s a natural occurrence that pretty much won’t be stopped,” my daughter Pracchi Mehta Shah, 42, a psychologist andTarrot Card reader, said. “As we age, however, growth truly becomes a choice, and a hard one at that to embrace.”
My son Nakuul, a practical father, adds, “Children show us that we will stumble, we may rage, we’ll have our feelings hurt at times, but if we allow ourselves to experience all these things, we may truly soar. If we fall down, mess up or make a mistake, we feel what we feel and we get right back up.”
Stories of our children
Every day you either see a scar or courage. Where you dwell will define your struggle.
My son Nakuul was perhaps 7 or 8. We were in Delhi. He used to go for gymnastics coaching to National Stadium. One day he fell and broke his arm. It was plastered, put in a cast.
When a child breaks a bone, everyone they know will sign the cast. He became the superstar of the class, the survivor. If he fell down and cut himself, everyone wanted to see the scar, he wore it proudly.
As we get older, we hide our scars, our wounds become our secrets. We don’t want to be seen as weak or pitied, so we tell no one where it hurts.
But what children recognize is that scars aren’t signs of weakness, a scar is a sign of strength and survival. A story to tell. An accomplishment.
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Recently in the month of Mar, Akshat, son on of my niece and his Dad went to Gulmarg. Both had never done skiing before and were eagerly looking forward to try this new sport in their life. Akshat is 12 and his Dad 53.
But Akshat who is just going to be 12, fearlessly opted to ski down the slopes with instructor. In his first attempt he performed brilliantly. And went on to do professional circuit on 3rd day. After seeing the slopes and need to keep balance, his Dad, never tried.
Children are not afraid to play a sport they have never tried before. They will jump on a trampoline, dive into a pool or ski down a mountain even if it is foreign to them.
As adults, we fear the unknown. We stay safely ensconced in our comfort zone and rarely venture out.
Adventure exhilarates us and awakens the spirit.
Play energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.
My granddaughter Ayrra, 10 now, is a fun loving out door person. In spite of studies n online activities, she looks forward to going down n play with building friends. They stay on 7th floor.
They have an instructor who comes 3 times a week and engages children in various physical but fun activities. My granddaughter who is usually a shy person, is full of enthusiasm n takes lead in every activity.
When you were young, playing outside was the highlight of your day. You would run and chase your friends until you were out of breath and your cheeks were rosy. You would jump and do cartwheels at the drop of a hat, and you never thought of it as “exercise” or “daily fitness.” It was just playing. And it was fun.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Life is about learning, and age is a necessary, yet not sufficient variable in the amount of growth that is possible for each of us,” Sigmund Freud (1836-1939), Austrian psychoanalyst said. “Many of the most meaningful things we can learn come through a dose of adult humility in accepting that our adaptations to the social world aren’t always free from hindering the novel perspectives our children may regularly offer.”
Friends, it’s time to turn off that inner critic in your head and look around at a world beyond yourself. Take a stab at a new skill, be open to change and be better today than you were yesterday (even when it’s hard or scary). You could stumble, or you may just surprise yourself.
Children are more confident, more courageous and enjoy life far more intensely than adults. Sometimes it feels that we spend our entire lives trying to return to who we were as children. Here’s what we can learn from our younger selves to bring more clarity and joy into adulthood.