Observing freedoms of childhood

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

As rain started falling, people scurried for the shelter of covered walkways like an army of ants rushing into their bed. It was not raining hard, just a bit heavier than a sprinkle, but those of us shopping had no desire to get wet — at least all of the adults and most of the teenagers.

From my spot underneath an awning, I watched as a group of kids hurried out to run through the jets of water that appeared and disappeared in children’s play area. They laughed as they turned their heads up to feel the rain drops that mixed with the streams shooting up all around them.

One toddler wore what I called his underwear and my grandchildren laughed and called his “tighty whities.” He turned round and round, jumped up and down not caring what anyone thought about his lack of clothing.

While grownups and teenagers huddled together on the covered walk waiting for the rain to end, children jumped and danced and squealed in their soaking wet clothes.

“I wonder what folks would say if some adults ran out there and started playing in the water and rain?” I asked my daughter.

She didn’t reply but gave me a look that said, “Mother you wouldn‘t,” and I didn’t.

After a few minutes, the shower ended and people moved from their dry spots to get on with the serious business of shopping. We moved on too, leaving the wet children still dancing in the puddles.

I smiled as we passed them thinking about the freedom of being a child and wondering when we lose that uninhibited ability to enjoy the moment without worrying over details. You know stuff like — can I shop in wet clothes? I don’t have a towel. My hair looks awful. What will people think, etc.

Later, as I walked around a store with two of my grandchildren, I saw again the joy of being free enough to indulge in doing something just for the fun of it. Both of them discovered wild plastic eyeglasses. One set had a mustache attached and the other sported cat whiskers. Of course, these were must-have items so they bought them.

For the rest of the afternoon, with my third grandchild sandwiched between them talking in one of her funny voices, they walked around wearing their glasses, laughing and not caring one bit about the looks that came their way. And, more often than not, the glances their way were on smiling faces.

Maybe, like me, they delighted in seeing three girls having fun together, and perhaps it sparked a few memories of times when they let loose with their own silliness.

You know the Bible talks about becoming like a child. It says:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven …” Matt. 18:3.

I think there is an important lesson in that passage that we tend to overlook as we get older. We forget how children are open to life, ready to experience something new without judgment or question. They haven’t learned to be concerned or afraid of how someone might judge their actions. They delight in being alive and in the present. Perhaps, they experience the kingdom of heaven on earth because they find joy in the simple things.

How much more might we learn about each other and about love and kindness if we released some of our tightly held ideas about how we should behave and freed ourselves to play more and worry less about the correctness of everything we do?

Who knows we might find that under our carefully constructed adult façades, we have hearts that long to dance in the rain together, and we might even do it in tighty-whities wearing cat-whisker glasses.