Thoughts by Richard Bleil
As I write this, I am munching on RedHots candies. At the grocery store, I found them in a jar. How could I resist? I’ve always loved RedHots. It’s one of the relatively few fond memories of my childhood.
Buying them, and now eating them, makes me feel childish, and what’s wrong with that? There is so much pressure to act grown up, to be grown up, to behave old and uninspired and boring and OH MY GOD JUST PISS OFF!
There’s something about the activities of innocence that is just refreshing for the soul. My RedHots candy, or have you ever come across a hopscotch on the sidewalk and just done it? It’s great. This winter, will you make a snow angel? As a tenured full professor, as I exited my vehicle at home I saw the perfect snowfall. In a jacket, tie and dress coat, I just fell down and made a snow angel complete with her little feet (you do know how to do that, don’t you?).
Today there’s too much pressure to give up childish things. Heck, it’s even in the Bible to act like a responsible adult, but what a pisser that passage is. So what if I want to run and jump and skip rope? Who is it hurting? Sometimes I’ll skip instead of walk. When was the last time you skipped just to skip? IT’S EXHAUSTING!
So many childish things are such great cardiovascular exercise. Jump rope, hula hooping, and even skipping will get your heart rate up and give you a very nice quick little exercise, but as adults we won’t do it out of fear of the harm it can do to our reputation. But you know what? Who cares? Usually, the people who see don’t know you, so who cares what their opinion of you is? And if your friends see? Well, if they judge you on something so trivial then they’re not your friends anyway, now are they? I sleep in until noon almost every day now that I’m retired. You can get up at the break of dawn if you want, and I’ll make you this deal. I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.
These days even children are pressured to act like adults. I was very much raised in the philosophy of “children are to be seen but not heard” and it ruined me. Children are to be childish. That’s why it’s called childish. Children are exploring their capabilities, their world, figuring out their boundaries and can be very creative. Some years ago, my stepsons used to play this silly game called “frog poop” (or some such childish name) that was absolutely harmless. At a church event, as they were waiting for whatever it was the adults were doing, they started playing this very simple silly game. Some of the other children saw what they were doing and began imitating them. They were all having a great time with this game until the other children’s mother stepped in and told her children to stop doing that because it’s immature. So what? The kids are still children. On hearing this, I started playing too. I just prayed that she would criticize me so I could point out my advanced degree and rank at the university, and the fact that she didn’t is proof positive that there is no God. It was just my way of letting my children know that it’s really okay to be, well, children.
It’s unfortunate that the childish behavior tolerated by adults is harmful. In my mind’s eye, the ultimate position calling for maturity is in politics, especially when ranks such as governor, Congressperson and President are reached, and yet, in these positions today, we have too many examples of hurtful childish behavior. Part of being an adult is the simple recognition that sometimes we just don’t get our way. We lose the game, and the proper adult thing to do is to accept that we’ve lost and move on. Screaming, calling for the results to be rechecked and rechecked again, constantly calling the results “rigged” for years on end is irresponsible and childish, but not in the innocent kind of childlike behavior I’ve described above. That kind of childish behavior is closer to a childish temper tantrum, the kind of annoying and hurtful behavior that truly should not be tolerated in a child. Early on, when these behaviors occur, the child should be pulled aside, and taught to accept defeat, and be happy for the winner even if it is disappointing to them personally. So why is it that innocent, fun and harmless childish behavior is so frowned upon, but hurtful temper tantrum style behavior is glorified, supported and promoted?