“Aside from picking up your prescription, I’m quitting adulthood today. I’m going to be one of the kids. I’m sorry in advance for any mess or trouble we might get into.”
I sent these words to my husband in a text Friday morning. I wake up most mornings fighting the urge to crawl under the covers, where my kids can’t find me and hide. Being a grown-up sucks. But hiding isn’t much fun either. So Friday, I decided on a middle ground. I was going to spend my day living as if I were a child.
I informed my three boys that mommy was not going to be mommy for the day, that instead, I was going to be one of the kids. My three-year-old was ecstatic. My four-year-old was concerned with who would cook his meals. My one-year-old was busy making monkey sounds.
First up on the agenda: Mario. I assumed we’d be playing the Nintendo but quickly found myself in real life Mario Land. My three year old outlined the track, lined us up, and yelled, “GO!” We spent a good twenty minutes racing around the house. I was already tired. My legs were sore and I was starting to get dizzy from lapping in circles.
I sat down on the couch with my one-year-old to rest. He grabbed my hand and started to squeeze my fingers. I noticed the way each finger felt as he wrapped his whole hand around a single one. They felt warm. I remembered how tightly he used to cling to them when he was a baby. His 5-lb body nestled deep in my arms. Time is going so fast, I thought. My little five-pound nugget is almost two. I ran my fingers over his lips. They were still as soft as they were two years ago. His big blue eyes smiled at mine. I was lost in his gaze.
We decided to take a walk to the playground. The sun was hot, it was nearly noon. I ran up the slide and climbed into the tunnel. My body was too long to fit. I tried to curl my legs up and duck my head to make room for the kids but my body doesn’t bend like it used to. I slowly crawled out and made my way over to the nearest bench. I felt defeated.
I thought about the day thus far. Today was supposed to be fun. Being a child was supposed to be easy. But somewhere along the way, the little girl inside was lost. I tried to pull memories of her into my mind but none came. I couldn’t recall what she was like. I imagined her being carefree and filled with joy but I couldn’t remember what that felt like. All that came to mind was the constant busyness of a child trying desperately to escape.
I watched my children so effortlessly just be. They were breathing in every moment, noticing the detail of what was in front of them. They were making the most of every minute, fully present and in awe of the constant beauty that surrounds them. They were finding magic in the mundane, things I usually gloss over.
I felt sad for the little girl I lost. She was robbed of all the little things that make life so special. The magical moments of “being” were replaced with exhaustive efforts at doing in order to keep herself from feeling. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t know how to be a kid because I never really was one. Adult experiences at such a young age had taken my childhood from me.
As I sat and watched my kids play, I began to feel a glimmer of hope. I realized that although I will never get my childhood back, I’m smack dab in the middle of a childhood right now. Three childhoods. The little girl inside isn’t dead. She’s still there. And she’s screaming to be let out. She didn’t get to live her childhood but she can live theirs.
My day as a child didn’t go as planned, but I learned a lot a lot about myself. I learned that I need help figuring out how to be a kid. I need to practice being so I don’t miss out on living. I need to pause long enough to notice the details because that’s where the magic is. And I need to pay attention to my kids. I need to study them and learn from them. They are the ones that will teach me how. My kids will show me the way.
My three boys are knocking on my heart, asking that little girl to come play. They will find her, they know where to look. I just need to let them in.