Unruly Children and Childish Adults

Some people spend leisure time keeping up with their favorite TV programs or sports teams.  Others enjoying going out frequently and being on the go.  Some give their available time to volunteering or supporting causes dear to them.  Many have lives so filled with responsibility there is little time except for trying to do what has to be done.  I don’t fit into any of those exactly, but have symptoms of all of them from time to time.

Generally I spent a good bit of time with friends, my son or the love in my life.  Otherwise on any given day I am most apt to spend spare time at home with my nose in a book or reading on-line.  The older I get the more insatiable my desire to learn has become and the greater my yearn to grow as a person has increased.  Those are mostly good things, except when I allow my self-absorption to take over a little too much.

In my daily grazing on the ‘Net’ and looking for inspiration for the writer in me, I came across a blog entry titled “40 Things To Teach My Kids Before They Leave Home” link by a woman only identified as Sherri.  In her article is a good list of admirable behaviors almost all parents hope to teach their children.  Here are four of the lessons Sherri says “I will teach my kids”:

– that they can be happy if they choose to be happy.

– to focus on enjoying what they already have instead of wasting time focusing on what they don’t have.

– that it’s okay to be wrong as that’s how we learn.

– that life is short and that they should make the most of each and everyday. They should do things that make them smile, that make them feel alive and energized. Live.

There are some of us who accept our parents did the best they knew how but also know their parental performance left a great deal to be desired.  There are those who were hard-headed, stubborn, even high rebellious as children who never “got” what parents were trying to teach.  Then there are those who moved through childhood being taught and guided well overall who grew up to be relatively well-balanced and happy adults.  I am one of the first group and was left as an adult to teach the child within some of the behaviors that are most healthy for me.

The four items above from “Sherri” are all ways of behaving I accepted long ago as being wise.  Knowing is a far cry from doing.  Having not been well taught such things nor having any discernible examples to follow, such habits never became instinctive. Consequently, here in the late middle of my life I am growing by being a parent to myself the adults of my youth never were.  John Lee wrote a book titled “Growing Yourself Back Up” whose title accurately describes the process and its content has helped me achieve the title’s premise.

One of the issues of a lack of upbringing in some areas is that childish behavior gets brought into adult life.  To me such things seemed natural as that is the way I had always been.  To other adults some behaviors looked like how a kid might conduct them self.  The scenario is one where the child within me always thought some problems were because of the ‘others’ way of reacting and being, when in fact the problem was me all the while.  I am certain there are two wives in my past and a number of others who would agree completely there where frequent times in my past when I behaved like a child!

There has been no miraculous cure.  No grand epiphanies have arrived.  No self-help book fixed me.  Rather by slowly acquired simple awareness, understanding and forgiveness I have become a kinder and gentler man who treats everyone, including myself, much more appropriately.  A slow and difficult process for certain, but one of the most rewarding of my life.

In the end I don’t believe any of us are ever completely grown up and thinking to the contrary only makes that point more readily true.  For everyone there are places in childhood where we got stuck on something and never completely moved past it.  That’s OK.  It is healthy to admit it.   Acceptance of my shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, failings and imperfections is at least half of the remedy for them.  To know this wisdom and to practice it as best I can each day is a way of living that fills me with gratitude and thankfulness.

In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults.
Thomas Szasz