Monday, May 23, 2011

Where Have All the Children Gone?

Gone to Grown-Ups, Everyone!

I was cleaning off my bookshelf the other day and found a book that I had forgotten that I had.  It's called Where Have All the Children Gone? and it was written by Karen Kaiser Clark.  I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Kaiser Clark many, many years ago when she led an in-service for the teachers in my school district in Kansas.  I was very impressed with her, enough to say that she  influenced the work of a very young, first year teacher, even to this day. 

The premise of this book is that as adults we strive to leave behind childish things and reach for a level of sophistication that we believe entitles us to be called "adults."  Her concern is that it is exactly this sophistication on the outside that tends to keep us from growing deep on the inside.  We are, most certainly, never too old to change, but that is a choice that we must make.  There is a child within each of us, somewhere.  Change is good, but change can also be not so good. 

I see this in my high school friends who have become grandparents.  It is so much fun to listen to them tell their stories of playing with their grand kids.  It provides a convenient excuse to do all those things we feel silly doing on our own, like laying in the grass and watching the clouds, pretending to be a princess or a crime fighter, singing silly songs, splashing in the puddles, or just taking a long walk for no reason at all.  When was the last time you did any of these?  I'll be honest and tell you that I haven't done some of them since I moved away from my little neighbor boys.  I'm afraid my new neighbors, who don't know me very well, would be concerned about the stability of my mind, if I went out to lay in the yard and watch the clouds or played princess.  So I sit on my deck and watch the clouds.  I have played in the puddles a few times.

Here is a small excerpt from the book:

Someday I'll be one too.  A grown-up!  I don't know if I want to be one...But I'm afraid I don't have a choice about it.  It seems the children part of people just goes away and boys and girls become grown-ups.
I wonder what it means to be a grown-up.  Does it mean more than getting big?  What does "mature" mean?  My grandma says it's what some grown-ups are.  She ways, "Few of us ever really mature.  Most of us just grow up tall."  I wonder what she means.
I wonder about a lot of things.  Kids do that.
I wonder if God can see the color of my eyes even when I'm sleeping.
I wonder where the white goes when the snow melts.
I wonder what flowers think of people and who wins wars.
I wonder if grown-ups ever wonder.
Grown-ups are always in such a hurry.  Then they complain about not having time to grow.  I wonder why.  I wrote a poem about them.

There go the grown-ups, forever rushing, filled with answers, always in control.  I wish that they would listen just a little more to me.  I wonder if they question all those things they seem so sure of.

Standing so much taller, they have a lot more power.  At times I feel frightened and unseen.  I wonder if the me today will simply disappear, when I am all grown-up and one of them.  I hope not.

Why do grown-ups do so many things?  Usually I see them doing a least two things at one time.  Like my mom, she doesn't just watch T.V.  She knits, reads the paper, watches T.V. and wiggles her foot all at the same time.  My daddy's very busy too.  He doesn't have time to just sit and talk with me.

As you can see, Ms. Kaiser Clark writes this book from the perspective of a child.  I think this is really important because it serves as a reminder to those of us who claim to be adults that we need to remember, for a lot of reasons, what it's like to be a child.  Remember how excited you got, as a child, with the first snow of the season, or the first warm day to go to the swimming pool?  One of my favorite summer memories was on those really hot days, before we all had air conditioners.  We would load up the six of us (my entire family) and head to the A & W for a frosty mug of root beer.  There was NOTHING better!  How I miss those frosty mugs!

I think it's important for us to enjoy the 'childish' part of ourselves sometimes.  I think it's possible to be an adult and to still access that child within, for ourselves and for those around us, especially when those around us are children.  It always saddens me to hear parents or any adult telling a child to "grow up."  My goodness, that happens all too quickly without any encouragement (or discouragement) from others!  You know, ages are just numbers that our society has decided to use to determine how many years we've been on this earth.  Let me repeat that...THEY ARE JUST NUMBERS!  They are useful for many purposes, but they can be detrimental when they are used in non-productive ways. 

I would encourage you to take time out today to remember some of the 'childish' things you loved when you were younger.  Make a list of them.  Now, stop and think about why you loved them so much.  Do you still love them today? 

Let's make each other a promise...TODAY we will remember one 'childish' thing we loved to do and we will do it again...TODAY.  Be childish, have some fun, rejoice in your life! 

Tell me what your favorite 'childish' activities are.  I look forward to reading them all! 

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