I was at a friend’s house this weekend who has a number of children, the youngest of which we had evicted from her bedroom for our use, leaving the six year old concerned to sleep in her brother’s bedroom. As time for bed came, she breezed through her very nearly twelve year old brother’s (shut) bedroom door initiating squeals of alarm from the poor lad, who was presumably in a state of undress.
‘You have to knock!’ was the shouted reminder.
Dutifully younger sister exited the room. She then knocked once, briefly, and walked straight in again without the slightest hesitation. More squealing follows.
When eventually I stopped laughing, it dawned on me that life is much simpler when you are six. Pretty much everything is done for you for a start – no need to think about things too much as that is up to Mummy and Daddy to manage. You are old enough to communicate but not yet old enough for people to have too many expectations of you other than perhaps to get yourself dressed and make sure you time the trips to the toilet properly, and eat at least some of what has been put in front of you by your serving staff (aforementioned parents of course). If all goes well, the worst thing that can happen is a scuffed knee after you have fallen over, which will of course be kissed better (and possibly milked for even more – even an ice cream! – depending on how many people are watching and how much you can get away milking it for all it is worth).
The Lovely Wife and I have a house very near to a school, and when working from home I am disturbed twice a day by the arrival and departure of parents with (often multiple) little charges. I am being a little unfair with ‘disturbed’ of course. Apart from the chaos caused by the multiple vehicles ‘parked’ in our road for the duration of the daily ritual it is actually one of the most amusing times of day. Small children are particularly delightful when you do not have to manage all the difficult aspects and can watch them skip along the road, chatter excitedly like so many sparrows about nothing in particular and leap onto pavements from the road as though it were some kind of Olympic feat. Which depending on the size of the child can sometimes be not too far from the truth.
That simple joy is something you rarely see in adults, and I think it is too our detriment. It does come out every so often… Kicking leaves around in autumn, the urge to make snow men (I do not think that ever really goes) and singing along to a song on the radio (providing you are sure no one is watching/listening). But after the age of about six, we never seem to skip any more (although it always seems to me to be a pretty efficient way of getting around on foot, but there you are). I guess many of us have been indoctrinated into acting like adults (whatever that is) and not acting childishly. I think, however, that while being childish is not something you might promote, we could all do with being a bit more child-like. If we can recapture some of the innocence (unlikely) and sense of wonder (now that should be possible) then maybe we can enjoy life just a little bit more.