I recently had an experience while on vacation that knocked the wind out of my sails. My family and I were in a beautiful city in England, walking along an ancient street with the sun shining and a spring breeze filling the air with the smell of the daffodils in bloom. I happened to see a father walking along the street with two captivatingly beautiful little girls, probably four or five years old. Their ribboned ringlets were bouncing as they skipped along happily; it could have been a scene in a story book. Then the dad opened his big fat mouth and said sternly “Stop all that skipping and walking silly!”
WHAT?!?!? I came about as close as I ever have to really wanting to punch someone right in the nose. Stop skipping??? They are little girls!! They are SUPPOSED TO SKIP! They are even supposed to walk silly! Talk silly! Laugh and giggle! Sing and dance! Play! THAT’S THEIR JOB!!!
If this scenario makes you angry then I am preaching to the choir, but if it rings any bells for you then listen up, and LIGHTEN UP. Children are not miniature adults. They are not only TO be seen and heard, they are to be loved and cherished and treasured and nurtured and allowed to be children.
I know parenting is hard work, but being a kid is no piece of cake either. Kids have to learn how to walk, talk, interact, read, write, play fair, rival with siblings, not spill their milk, do chores, not make their parents angry, not make their teachers angry, learn sports, mind their manners, make their beds, clean their rooms, feed their fish, walk their dogs, do their homework, and on and on. Not to mention then we are carting them to ballet, soccer, piano, gymnastics, and ice skating after they’ve been at school all day.
Being a child is a big job, and a big part of that job is playing. Children learn by playing; they learn how to socialize in acceptable ways, how to negotiate conflict, how to cooperate with others, how to empathize, and how to make friends and lasting relationships. If we rob our children of the ability to BE children, we won’t end up with healthy, well adjusted adults but we will end up with grown up robots.
So parents, let’s let our children be silly. Let them skip and run and play and twirl and jump and have fun! And by the way, it’s wouldn’t be such a bad idea if we did the same once in a while!
Chris Lewis Ed.S., L.P.C., is a therapist who specializes in Marriage Counseling, Family Therapy and Individual Therapy with adults. She provides Marriage Counseling in Denver, Colorado at Maria Droste Counseling Center.