Learning from Kids

As we grow up into mature adults, we seem to forget the valuable lessons from our childhood. We can learn them anew by observing kids

William Wordsworth wrote in his poem - "my heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky... The Child is father of the Man". These words confounded me in school. Even in college, during the rare moments of contemplation [between hours of blissful lazing, cramming for marks or pining for that hunk in the other class], they made no sense. But as a parent, it began to dawn on me how important childhood is. I was imparting my education and experiences to my baby. The reverse was also true. I remember my son offering me a biscuit. When I declined, he said, "You always tell me to share. But if you say no, how can I?" It taught me that receiving gracefully is as important as giving.

There are so many things we adults can learn from kids.

They are open-minded

Children never hold grudges. At one moment they fight like cats and dogs, bringing the whole house down. The next minute they are friends again. Teams and promises are dissolved and broken only to be re-formed and mended later.

Children accept things more realistically than expected. A 7-year-old came to meet his sick mother. Unfortunately, the mother expired that very hour. His relatives wanted to "protect" him from the bad news. Some said his mother was sleeping while some said she has gone to God's home. The little child asked the nurse, "Is she in pain?" The nurse shook her head. "Is she dead?" There was silence all around. The child wanted to know the truth, and the adults were playing charades.

They may not wait for the lame; they may tease bulky [or skinny] companions. But they also accommodate the handicapped classmate and make him the wicket keeper of their cricket team. They hover around the slow learner to help him score more, and when he does, they rejoice. Stringent competition and jealously come much later in life, you see. They accept what is; and work around it, making life comfortable and normal for all. Can you imagine all this in a "mature" adult world?

They are not hesitant

They speak their mind unhesitatingly; many parents will vouch for that. A child who came to my house proclaimed, "Only peasants eat with their hands." The parents, in their enthusiasm to teach the young one to eat with a fork and knife, had forgotten to inculcate the basics of good manners, sensitivity towards others' feelings and customs, and now the world knew about it.

Nothing like a child to tell you as it is. I have a female friend with a hoarse voice. She wears trousers most of the time. When she visited us my niece inquisitively asked - "Man or woman?"

As for imagination, match these jewels: When my son was being bitten by mosquitoes one night, he said, "Mummy the mosquitoes are having a birthday party and I'm their cake."

They are curious

In our journey to adulthood, we lose important virtues like curiosity and spontaneity. Just watch any child in traffic. He's far from being frustrated; actually he's simultaneously interested in the crow on a distant ledge, the peanut-vendor, the red Mercedes, and the disabled beggar. He's not emotionally involved; he's detached but curious. The what, how, when, where and why is constantly playing on his mind.

All children question religion: Who is God? Where does he live? When can I see him? How does he see what we do? Why can't he get us some money? Which is his favourite country?

Isn't all this what our sages thought? These kinds of queries led to the formations and evolutions of established philosophies.

We accept but we forget to ask - hence we stagnate.

They are positive about the future

Children look forward to their birthdays. A twelve-year-old is "dying to become a teen" and boasts of his age whenever asked. Along the years, why do we lose the excitement of growing up and facing the adventurous future? Are we more worried about aging or handling new responsibilities?

They are focussed

Watch children of different nationalities mingle. They don't worry about who's thinking what, who's superior or who's richer. They concentrate on the task at hand. If it's diving, then they all line up, bend and tip over as instructed. If they're learning to draw, the tongues peep out of pursed lips, the fingers curl around crayons as the minds fly into the world of imagination, far from the realities of television news.

Children have the same tricks up their sleeves - fuelled by curiosity and naughtiness. Whether they are Eskimos, Africans or Japanese, they can exasperate us by their enormous energy levels and endless questions. But they also rejuvenate us by their ready cheer and witty innocence.

As adults, we distance ourselves from our childhood. As we pick up life-skills, we forget the valuable lessons we once cherished. A bit of awareness, and we can delve out the goodness from our unconscious and revive that spark. Spontaneous laughter, uninhibited thought processes, bubbling curiosity, all of it can be brought back. It still exists within us, just dig inside and let it surface. Enjoy what you did as a child. That joy continues when you are older. Don't smother it. Let it be - pray that it stays forever.

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