My children’s simple conversation was actually pretty profound.
I admit, without any guilt whatsoever, that I belong to the group of parents who, while at a playground, prefer making overdue calls to playing in the sand with their kids, or reading in the sun while the children play by themselves in the secure confines of the playground.
Sometimes I just listen. I sit on a bench, close my eyes, and listen to their happy voices, talking about things like plans for taking over the castle, which is now magically standing in place of the slide. Recently, I overheard a truly interesting and rather academic discussion about whether it is better to be an adult or a child.
Who has it better?
The girls were swinging when the younger one joyfully said:
“It’s great to be a kid, right? Kids can swing, and play games, and watch cartoons!”
“Adults can do that, too,” said the older one. “They can watch movies and decide if their ice cream will have two or three scoops! And no one tells them to go to bed in the middle of playing …”
“You’re right! I want to be all grown up! I would build a big house for all of us!”
“And I will have four jobs! I will be a dentist, a singer, a painter and a pianist,” said the older one.
At this moment I decided to defend the hard life of adults and join the conversation.
“Don’t you think you would be very tired? Besides, with so much work, you won’t have time for your husband and children, if you want to have a family,” I added.
“I will only work a few short hours in each job. And I can paint at home with the kids.”
“Oh. But when I try to write an article with you around, it’s not so simple. You know you don’t like it when Dad or I work when we are together with you. Just one job is tiring enough, and to do it well, you need to devote a lot of time and years of study.”
“Well … Then it’s better just to be retired right away.”
At this point, I reminded them that retired people are older and often start to have health problems.
“Well, then I want to be a baby. Mommy will carry me and hug me!”
“But then you won’t be able to play on the swing, or play games and watch movies …”
And so, we came around a full circle. Apparently, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. As my firstborn sometimes says, everything has its pluses and minuses. We found that to be true during our short philosophical conversation.
Just be yourself!
Perhaps that conversation seems simple, nothing new, just children musing. Initially, the whole thing amused me — it’s rather obvious I will never be a baby again, even though I do have a good chance of being retired. But then I realized I keep going back to that conversation, because it makes me think. First, even children can realize that being someone else has its benefits. Someone else, at a different time, different situation. That’s not so childish.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration for me to write that we’ve all found ourselves thinking about that more than once. “If only I were a student again, I’d be the best!” “If only I were younger, I would take a dance class …” Sometimes, we take it further – “If I were still single, I would have a great time now,” or “If I didn’t have kids, I could …”
The conclusion of my theoretically simple conversation with my kids is, then, surprisingly pragmatic. We need to realize that the only time we have is the present. We are where we are, now, at this time, and all the “what ifs” and “could’ves” and “should’ves” won’t change a thing.
So, let’s stop excusing ourselves based on circumstances, and let’s live here and now: let’s do those things we wish for, reach for what we dream of, and more than anything, let’s be ourselves and appreciate what we have. If a four-year-old can find the positive side of her current situation, we should be able to as well.
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