I have been going to school every morning, writing homework, watching Nickelodeon, playing football with friends and going to bed at 9:30 all week. No, I am not stuck in a Back to the Future style film, or even a Back to the Past, I have been baby-sitting all week. I was though that phrase was rather strange “baby-sitting” as it has nothing to do with sitting on a baby, well at least I hope not.
A friend of ours had to leave the country for a week on a business trip and we volunteered to look after her two young children. Yes, when I said baby-sitting they aren’t really even close to being babies, aged 14 and 9. And over the past week I have learnt a few lessons about children.
Lesson 1 - Pizza must have some magical quality that addicts children to it. Hot or cold it attracts children like bees to honey. Lesson 2 – Children have problems judging lengths of time. “Turn off the laptop you’ve been playing games for too long.” To which the reply would come, “But I’ve only just turned it on.” And on the flip side “How have you already finished your homework you’ve only just started,” to which the reply would come, “I’ve been doing it for hours.” Lesson 3 – Children have a different idea as to what tidy means. Where a child sees order and tidiness an adult sees a bomb explosion. Lesson 4 – Tomato ketchup is magical. It seems to turn all meals into yummy feasts for children. Lesson 5 – All children are budding journalists. They have one question “why.”
Lesson 6 – Boys and girls are like magnets. Boys and the north pole and girls the south pole, they have differing views on life. Basically girls have an urge to grow up quicker and boys just want to be young forever. Lesson 7 – Chocolate at night is a bad idea. (that one is a note to self) Lesson 8 – Children are like sponges. In a positive way they will learn quickly and soak up knowledge. But on the other hand they have no “off button” so you have to be careful what you say and do at all times.
Lesson 9 - Laugh every day. This is probably one for me to learn from children. As Charlie Chaplin famously said “A day without laughter is a day wasted,” and children certainly don’t waste a day. Lesson 10 – Have no fear. The older we get the less courage we have. Children have no fear. When they want to sing, they sing loud. And when they want to dance, they dance with unbounded joy. As adults, we fear the unknown. We stay safely ensconced in our comfort zone and rarely venture out.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light,” – Plato.
If adults thought like children (at least for half an hour every day) life would not only be easier, it would be more fun. I have many more lessons from my week of pretending to be Mrs. Doubtfire, or Mary Poppins for the older generation. But seriously it was a joy to be around these two well-behaved children for a week. I also think that I learned more from them than they did from me.
Question - What do children know that adults seem to have forgotten? Answer – almost everything. All of life’s obligations clutter us up as we get older and somewhere along the way we lose our child-like love for life. Sometimes it feels that we spend our entire lives trying to return to who we were as children. Unfortunately, we never will succeed. Get excited. Don't be afraid of new things. Have fun. Be curious. Express yourself sincerely. Take advantage of each moment. Love fearlessly. Adapt to change.
And just as we waved goodbye to them, literally on the same day, my mother and young niece turned up from England for a week’s holiday. As they say at the end of serials…To Be Continued. (Baby-Sitting 2: The Sequel.)