I just got back from a week long vacation to the Dominican Republic… highly recommended to all, regardless of age! Of course, like many holidays that involve winter travel, airlines, shuttle buses, etc., there were “problems” and “annoyances” along the way. These situations clearly bothered my husband, my teenaged daughter, and myself, far more than they bothered my eleven year old.
“Why was this so?” I asked myself. Was she not trapped in an airport for hours and hours, just like the rest of us? Was she not forced to spend two holiday nights languishing in an airport hotel? Did she not feel the heat when we were trapped on the runway with no air conditioning in the plane for a complete hour? (Again… this was actually a GREAT vacation… all horrid experiences vaguely described in this post are directly related to airlines and should not be associated with the delightful people of the Dominican Republic).
I started watching my youngest child more closely, trying to figure out what made her such an amazingly happy travel companion. My conclusion was that the quality that set her apart from the rest of us and gave her this incredible resilience… this amazing, enviable ability to bounce back from adversity and resume “fun” so quickly… was simply her “child-ness”.
Children find more fun in the day because they are actively looking for the fun. They are searching for fun at all times, which also explains why we adults are constantly reminding them to “pay attention” and “listen” and “stand still”. They are paying attention and listening… just not to the very dull, un-fun things we are rambling on about. And they are constantly moving because they recognize that fun does not arrive at a pre-determined location, like mail or delivery-order pizza. It must be hunted down and captured, and this may require hopping on one foot or leaping into the air repeatedly or wandering aimlessly in no particular direction.
While studying my child’s behaviours, I had flashbacks to my much, much younger self. These little memory snippets were wonderful and I bet most of us have them buried in our heads somewhere. We just need to dig deep and unearth them. Remember when…
- Any hotel with a pool was a great hotel… and you absolutely had to get in the pool, even if it was the size of a bathtub and smelled like laundry detergent
- Pouring your own drink from a buffet pop machine was the coolest thing ever because you could mix all the soda flavours together into a giant, swamp-coloured concoction and declare it DELICIOUS! And maybe even give it a coolest thing ever name like “swamp juice”.
- Going to bed covered in sunscreen, sweat, bug spray, and/or sand seemed like a grand idea and infinitely preferable to taking a shower
- Getting the window seat on a plane (or a bus or a train) made you feel super lucky because aisle seats are boring and because having easier access to the bathroom meant nothing to you
- You felt beautiful in your swimsuit and wanted to wear it all day every day
- You knew exactly how many seconds you could hold your breath under water
- Every body sound was funny, especially burps and farts and most especially “stinky” farts, and it felt perfectly appropriate to take ownership of such accomplishments by proudly announcing “I farted” or “I burped” to anyone and everyone
- You tried really hard not to fall asleep because you didn’t want to miss anything
I tried to learn from my observations. I didn’t go so far as to swim in the airport hotel pool or switch to a window seat on the plane. But I did make some “swamp juice” at the beach buffet and it was pretty good (perhaps a little heavy on the orange soda, but I suspect the quality of my concoction will improve with practice). I went to bed covered in sand and sunscreen, and had a surprisingly good night’s sleep. And I learned that I can hold my breath for 22 seconds underwater (again… I suspect that I am out of practice and have made a note to increase my endurance by trying this in the bathtub a couple of times a week from now on).
I am planning to spend much less time helping my youngest child “grow up” and much more time letting her help me “remember when”… because child-ness is a wonderful quality and I am pretty sure that having a bit more of it will be a wonderful thing!