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Finding Our Inner Child and Having More Fun in Life

Happy Kids

“A healthy attitude is contagious but dont wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” ~Tom Stoppard

Just the other day, I was at my daughter’s school to watch her participate in a spelling bee. As the kids came into the room, I took notice of their manner and their faces.

They looked excited, frightened, and some, decidedly uninterested. The teacher led them over to their area and promptly told them to sit on the floor, in two straight lines, and no talking please. They complied.

Some kids pushed at the others to “move over!” Some held their fingers to their lips, loudly shhhhhshing the others. Some opened their notebooks and began to draw or write. Some spoke quietly to the friend next door.

I smiled as I watched them; some caught my grin and smiled back. I wondered if adults would have fulfilled the teacher’s request so quickly, and with relatively little complaint.

I pondered how many adults, after being told to sit on the floor, would have protested “I don’t want to sit on the floor,” or “the floor, are you kidding?!”

How many would have continued talking, ignoring anyone imploring them to quiet down? How many of them would have busied themselves instead of complaining, “This floor is hard, how long is this going to take anyway?!”

And I wondered how many of them would have spoken to the people next to them as if they were their best friends instead of judging, sizing up.

Once the spelling bee was under way, I paid close attention to the children in the room. There were four classes participating, with what must have been around 100 kids on that cold, hard floor.

The children on stage were doing great.

Some of them struggled with a word here and there but managed to put all the letters in the right order. And when they did, their relief and pride in themselves was more than evident. They slapped their foreheads, dramatically wiped their brows, knees buckling as they pretended to faint punctuated by laughter and camaraderie. They cheered each other, congratulated each other, consoled each other.

What of those adults? Would they be willing to slap their foreheads? Pretend to faint? Laugh and shrug their shoulders when they messed up?

What about that camaraderie? Those kids all cheered each other. It didn’t matter whose class they were in, how good or bad a speller they were. It just didn’t matter. Adults won’t speak to you if you’re on a different team.

Maybe I’m being too hard on the adults. I’m sure there are some of them who’ll stand up on life’s stage, give it their very best shot, and maybe win—then pretend to faint, or jump up and down arms waving yelling, “I did it!” Or lose and shrug their shoulders, knowing there will be another chance, or run into the arms of a friend for consolation. But I think they are few and far between.

Composure—looking the part for the other eyes—that’s the important thing.

Take all that sadness or elation and put it away now, my goodness; how old are you? Don’t you know that when you win you’re supposed to look sheepish, uninterested?

When you lose you’re supposed to pull your shoulders back, steel your face, nod your head, and say, “That’s okay, I’m fine.” When you dance you’re supposed to have “the moves,” do it well or don’t get on the dance floor; people are watching.

I stayed with my daughter for the better part of that afternoon, following the children as they headed out the door for Physical Education. Once there, they were told to sit down, this time on the concrete. They did.

I sat down right there on the concrete with them, and they looked at me a little strangely. Then they listened intently while the coach explained the rules of the game they were about to play.

When he was finished, arms shot up in the air, shaking crazily, bursting with the fire of the questions. What if…? When does…? Who goes…?”

They asked all their questions until satisfied that they understood. The game was underway. I watched. Some cheated; most played fair. They came back off the court to their spots on the ground exhausted, sweaty, giddy.

For about a second, some were angry their team didn’t win. But they didn’t dwell. I laughed with them, told them they did really well, and asked if they had fun. They responded with a resounding “yes!” I sat cross-legged, just like them, absorbed the energy, and contemplated the attitude.

How would I have participated, I wondered. Would I have raised my arm and asked questions? Would I have given it all I had and collapsed on the ground afterward? What, as adults, do we do to get exhausted and giddy?

After that day I looked around at the adults I encountered. This is what I saw:

Some were well dressed, on their way to work or a lunch break, talking intently on the phone or rummaging through purses and wallets.

Some were driving, staring through the windshield, maybe thinking about the mortgage payment or the kids or Mom and Dad or how much it’s going to cost to fix the hot water heater.

Some were standing in line, checking their watches, rolling their eyes, seemingly counting the number of items the person in front of them had.

Some were at the park, watching their kids play soccer, looking stressed and yelling, “Kick it! Move up! Go! Go! Go!”

Where did our little kids go, I wondered? Where did that elated, excited, play the game because it’s fun, run in the rain, catch the drops on my tongue, ask all the questions I need to, hug my best friend and tell them I’m sad person go? Can it be I’ve grown up too much? Have all of us?

What would happen if the next time we do something well, we ran around in circles and screamed? What would happen if the next time we don’t understand something, we raised our hand, shook it mightily, and asked a question?

If the next time we’re sad, we grabbed a friend and sobbed into her shoulders? If the next time we sit next to someone we don’t know, we asked them what their favorite color is? What would happen if we danced any way we wanted?

So what am I going to do the next time? I hope I’ll be able to find the inner child I raised into an adult and give her a voice, an arm to wave, and a song to dance to.

But for now, I’m going to sit on the floor and color.

Photo by David Robert Bilwas

About Diana Reed

Diana Reed is a yoga teacher, health coach, and life adventurer. She spends her free time kayaking Florida’s beautiful rivers, walking her canine companion, and writing her heart out. Follow her blog at dianareedearthandbodyproject.wordpress.com.

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  • Thanks for the thoughtful article. I believe we can learn a lot from children. I like to think my inner child is still happy, enthusiastic, and willing to learn. Now I just need to get the woman at the movie theater ticket counter to agree to let me pay the children’s rate for a ticket.

  • ccrgirl

    I’m also going to sit on the floor right after I leave this comment 🙂
    This article brought tears to my eyes. Really, what exactly was the moment we “forgot” to clap, jump, dance in the rain, feet splash through puddles…? I’m going to start paying attention to the things you’ve mentioned because we all need our inner child back to the surface.
    Thanks for the great article, and one more thing: the link to your blog doesn’t work. Could you please fix it so that I could follow?
    Love from Serbia

  • Emily

    I really enjoyed reading your article, it seems timely for me, especially since this idea of re-connecting with my inner child has also been on my mind the last few weeks-after recently watching some old home videos. (Which by the way, I think everyone should do if you have them!) From my own childhood experiences, and from working with young children, I feel like young kids have the ability to just be their most authentic selves, and it isn’t until those pressures you have mentioned start coming into play (which for many people i think happens sooner than later) that I think we begin to loose and forget a bit of that authentic confidence.I love this idea of re-connecting with my inner child, and I don’t even think it means we need to loose pieces of the people we have become as adults, or embracing my adulthood less.What embracing my inner child helps me to do is to enjoy experiences in the present. I find something I tend to do, among many other people, is to constantly worry about the future, or dwell on choices I should have made in the past. Things that I do not dwell on in my past, or wish I had done differently, are the experiences of my childhood-and I think it is partially because things I did as a kid were from positive experiences of living in the moment, and not worrying about how things would influence my past or future. Easier said than done, yes, to be able to just be in the moment, and appreciate and have positive experiences. But it’s what finding my inner child as an adult helps me to do 🙂
    Thank you for your positive article, Diana!

  • It’s sad that even 14 year olds are quickly losing their inner child. Maybe it’s because of technology. Maybe it’s because of the intense pressure to “succeed” in the 21st century. I don’t think we are a less happy generation. I just believe its harder to remain happy. And the glorification of personal development and self helps makes us think we are not living a good life unless we are constantly happy and productive.

    While I like the child mentality and there is much to learn from, I don’t believe “acting like a kid” is possible. I think when you become an adult your life takes on new meaning. And instead of reverting to your childhood you should define yourself in the present with traits you want moving forward.

    I love the article. But society has changed. And we must find new ways of acting like children that are relevant to us and this day and age.

  • Lainey

    Very beautifully written. Such a good message. I’m presently struggling with letting go of inhibitions and being myself. I think the next time I’m not sure of what to do I’ll tell myself I’m 5 and do what I would have if I was 5. Somehow small kids always get it right. I’m going to laugh out loud, smile like crazy and cry equally hard. I’m just going to be happy. I’m going to be a child. Thanks a lot.

  • Thank you! Yes!! We all need to unleash our inner child from adult constraints.

  • We can act like children or we can keep a childlike mentality, I believe there is a difference. Of course, as adults we have our responsibilities and pressures, and yes, those start at younger ages these days. But remembering to enjoy our life amongst the pressure is key, and kids (especially the little ones) know how to let go easier than adults do.

  • Yay!!! *Insert 5 year old’s smile here. 😉

  • Your response gave me chills!! Thank so much.

    Try the link below:

    http://dianareedearthandbody.wordpress.com

  • Haha!!

  • ccrgirl

    Thank you for your time 🙂

  • This message needs to be spread far and wide. We as adults should never lose the child in us. Why must we “grow up”? Why must we take everything so seriously? At what point does this occur? Since having my son the inner child has been exposed again, and most recently, I am completely letting go to those moments. We have dance parties, we play super heroes, we play baseball in the backyard (my favorite past time as a child). It’s so freeing and I genuinely love those moments. I feel unpressured to be an adult, to be serious, to be in ‘work’ or ‘professional’ mode. We need to let go more often. We can be responsible and expose our inner child at the same time. Be responsible is not being an adult. Though I have these moment, it’s not consistent, this is what I am working on; to consistently release the inner child in me. Love this story! Thanks so much for sharing Diana!

  • Thank you so much!!!

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  • Jess

    I grew up the eldest of a largish family, I lived with domestic violence and always assumed the role of “second in charge” taking orders from the grown ups and keeping the younger family members inline. When the domestics where bad i would often end up being the mediator, a child trying to resolve the issues of grown ups who are too drunk and hurt to see anything but their own suffering and right to be heard. As a result I grew up quick. This did have its advantages i.e, socially I had older friends and parents always liked me. (When you’re in school older friends where socially advantages.) But now at 26 years old ive started to see the true cost of loosing that inner child.
    My partner enjoys things that a silly, she laughs at internet memes, and with other people she offers this gift of presumed innocence which I see other people respond to creating this ‘just for fun’ interaction. But I can’t do this. When someone tells me an anecdote I always assume exaggeration. I am hyper vigilant, constantly analysing and assume hidden agenders. I have a habit of needing a sense of power which means i can’t let go of transgressions against me. I don’t like being like this, but I have been this way for so long I no longer remember what childlike fun feels like.
    How do I stop living for survival rather then enjoyment?