You don’t have to be an adult very long before you realize it stinks. There are mortgage payments and social norms and leaky pipes and dress slacks. The list of constraining, fun-squashing, grown-up things is endless.
As a dad, it’s hard not to be a little jealous of my kids. They’re free of all that responsibility. Another cookie? “Sure! By the way, what’s a ‘calorie’?” Exhaust your life’s savings on Play-Doh? “Oooh, squishy!”
Yeah, being a kid is where it’s at, man. And here are seven reasons why this dad wants to be a child again:
1. The expectations are so much lower.
A friend in college used to say the secret to happiness in life was lowered expectations. He was only half kidding (at most!). People expect so much more when you’re an adult. I mean, when was the last time someone cheered for you enthusiastically (or otherwise) because you had a successfully-placed bowel movement? When was the last time you drew a stick figure and someone framed it? Anyone recently giggle because you flatulated adorably? Yeah, it’s a much lower standard.
2. Extreme bluntness is tolerated.
As long as we know they didn’t intend to be mean, we parents pretty well give kids free rein on bluntness. And they run with it. Once, at age 2 and-a-half, Will looked at my bowl of salsa verde and said, “Somebody puked there.” On another occasion, while I was doing goodnight prayers with my then 6-year-old twin daughters, Ariana and Talia, the latter prayed, “And help us be nice, especially Ariana.” Of course, unfiltered candor isn’t all bad. Around that same age, Talia hugged me and said, “I never want a different dad.” I’m okay with that.
3. Reality just isn’t that important.
When Ariana was 5, she said we were having turkey for Thanksgiving, but “not like animal turkey. Like food turkey.” Ahh, the blissful stupidity of childhood.
4. Even when people don’t like what you did, they still sort of like what you did.
Once, I found an entire (or almost entire) roll of wet toilet paper in the bathroom garbage. The following conversation ensued.
Me: “Talia and Ariana, who threw away a whole roll of toilet paper?”
Talia: “I did.”
Talia: “Because it was wet.”
Me: “How did it get wet?”
Talia: “I put water on it.”
(Dad leaves the room to laugh.)
5. Not only does your ignorance not lower you in the esteem of others, it actually often endears you to them.
By age 4, Will had developed some understanding of what a brand is—that there are different brands of various cereals, snacks, or what have you. One night he was sitting in his car seat in the minivan and asked me, “Is buttocks a brand of butt?” I loved him just a little more from then on.
6. The world is simpler.
When she was 5, Ariana told me, “When my tummy hurts, I’m full. My tummy doesn’t hurt so I’m not full.” You eat until you hurt and then you stop. It’s as simple as that. And games can be wildly simple, too. How simple? When Will was 4, he told me that “hu-WAH” ball is only a one-person game. “How do you play hu-WAH ball?” I asked. Will’s reply: “You just throw the ball and say hu-WAH!” I guess that’s a game. I’m certain it’s simple.
7. Kids can go delightfully outside the box.
We live in the heart of residential Fargo, and yet, I have 11 stalks of popping corn growing in my backyard. Why? Because I have kids. More specifically, it’s because my kids decided they’d take a few kernels out of a bag of Jolly Time popcorn and plant them. I didn’t know that would work. Actually, they didn’t either. But kids have the time and freedom from responsibility that allows them to just try things. And they don’t always know all of the rules about what you are and aren’t supposed to do. When it comes to a child’s mind, things can get pretty wide open. The other day, Will, who just turned 6, said, “I wish I could change into stuff.” You know, it would be nice if I could shape-shift, even though, at age 40, I’ve pretty well resigned myself to the fact that that ability is not among my set of skills. But, that’s just it. While I take it for granted that I can’t turn myself into a giraffe, Will’s new enough to this thing called existence that he’s still just a little disappointed about that fact.
J. Shane Mercer is the digital marketing specialist at The Village Family Service Center. He and his wife, Amy, live in Fargo with their three children, Ariana (10), Talia (10), and Will (6).
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