Birth­day Par­ties and Grow­ing Up

Palawan News - - OPINION - Elise Suarez iSPEAK

/ wish other kids had that pri ilege. doo many young peo­ple grow up too fast ecause they are thrown into com­pro­mis­ing sit­u­a­tions in which they ha e to lea e ehind their child­hood and their in­no­cence fore er. doo many kids e peri ence trauma and un­hap­pi­ness in our world to­day, ro ed of their a il­ity of look­ing at e ery­thing with child­like won­der. en in e ery­day fam­i­lies, hard­work­ing and tired par­ents un­in­ten­tion­ally hurt their chil­dren s feel­ings and lower their self es­teem y telling them to stop ask­ing ques­tions, stop talk­ing to their imag­i­nary friends, stop mak ing a mess, and ust go and watch ds or some­thing.

As the only teenager at a seven year old’s birth­day party, I had no one to gos­sip with, no one with a new crush to stalk, and no one with whom to com­plain about bore­dom. In­stead, I was sur­rounded by kids paint­ing pic­tures of flow­ers, birds, and mon­sters, show­ing off their Spi­der­man face paint mas­ter­pieces, chas­ing and pop­ping bub­bles, chat­ting about their fa­vorite books and movies, and cov­er­ing their cup­cakes with lay­ers of choco­late chips, gummy bears, and sprin­kles. It was the best party ever. Why wouldn’t it be? There was de­li­cious food. There were art themed ac­tiv­i­ties like cal­lig­ra­phy and rock or can­vas paint­ing. There was even a photo booth with wacky props, and all the lit­tle kid­dies were so cute and hi­lar­i­ous (and I even got to get them to take a group photo with me! Yes!). When it was time to go, I ap­proached the mom of the birth­day cel­e­brant to thank her for invit­ing me. She said she hoped I had a good time since she was wor­ried at first that I might have got­ten bored. I was happy to an­swer that I hon­estly had a great time. I think the rea­son why I had so much fun was be­cause I got to be a kid again for a few hours. I drew donuts and clouds on rocks with paint mark­ers and blew pur­ple, pink, and yel­low bub­bles. I po­si­tioned gummy bears art­fully on my cup­cakes and had dol­phins painted on my arm. I got to stop think­ing about school­work, angst, crushes, and all the wor­ries that come with this whole thing called life. I was to­tally en­grossed and present in what was hap­pen­ing at that mo­ment. Be­ing a kid again was the best. Be­ing sur­rounded by kids was ex­hil­a­rat­ing, too. Watch­ing them in­ter­act with each other re­minded me what be­ing a kid truly means. Be­ing a kid is itch­ing to do some­thing big, some­thing AWE­SOME, all the time. Kids are al­ways sur­rounded with sup­port, en­cour­age­ment, and you­can-do-its. Ev­ery­one can do ev­ery­thing, and the phrase “I’m not good at it” doesn’t ex­ist. Fights be­tween friends are made up in a few min­utes. Kids’ opin­ions are al­ways im­por­tant, es­pe­cially when talk­ing about their many unique and in­ter­est­ing tal­ents and ex­pe­ri­ences. Kids are one hun­dred per­cent them­selves all the time, no masks, no fak­ers. Se­ri­ously, be­ing treated like a kid isn’t so bad, and be­ing a kid is so much more amaz­ing than ac­tual kids think. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence trig­gered in me the me­mory of me cry­ing in the mid­dle of the night when I was lit­tle. Back then, I would imag­ine hav­ing to move away, live on my own, get mar­ried, grow white hair, and even­tu­ally and in­evitably sur­ren­der to the arms of death (I had an overac­tive imag­i­na­tion). It was scary. It’s STILL scary. I made dec­la­ra­tions and prom­ises like, “I don’t want to grow up! I love be­ing a kid!” and “I am NEVER EVER get­ting mar­ried! EVER!” I couldn’t imag­ine my­self away from my fam­ily and hav­ing to live in a sad and lonely house all alone, not know­ing how to cook or wash clothes or de­fend my hou bro­ken in by rob­bers (overac­tive imag­i­na­tion, re­mem­ber?). I thought that six­teen was such a ripe, old, ma­ture, fas­ci­nat­ing, ex­cit­ing age full of par­ties and boyfriends and that it was MUCH too scary and too far away to think about. Right? But fast for­ward ten years later. I’ve been away from home months at a time, I’ve trav­elled on my own, I am not com­pletely against one day pos­si­bly get­ting mar­ried (sshhh don’t tell my younger self; she’ll kill me!), I know how to cook and clean, and, sur­prise, sur­prise, I’m turn­ing six­teen next year. No boyfriends, here though, but par­ties, ehem, BIRTH­DAY par­ties just keep com­ing. With all my fears and con­vic­tions about grow­ing up, I seemed to have grown up while I wasn’t look­ing. And I am not any­more en­tirely against it. Weird. Maybe it was be­cause I was ready to grow up. I didn’t rush into be­ing a teenager or a young adult. I was able to con­tinue watch­ing kid­die shows and mak­ing scrap­books and play­ing pre­tend for as long as I wanted, or needed to. When a lot of my peers had “crushes” at 6 years old, I was too busy play­ing hide and seek and bato bola with boys AND girls. While friends were reen­act­ing scenes from soap op­eras and prac­tic­ing how to cry on com­mand, I imag­ined I was a princess liv­ing in me­dieval times, or a de­tec­tive on a case to find a long lost trea­sure. My par­ents never told me to grow up; they told me to take my time and en­joy ev­ery­thing while it lasted. I’m so grate­ful for that. I wish other kids had that priv­i­lege. Too many young peo­ple grow up too fast be­cause they are thrown into com­pro­mis­ing sit­u­a­tions in which they have to leave be­hind their child­hood and their in­no­cence for­ever. Too many kids ex­pe­ri­ence trauma and un­hap­pi­ness in our world to­day, robbed of their abil­ity of look­ing at ev­ery­thing with child­like won­der. Even in ev­ery­day fam­i­lies, hard­work­ing and tired par­ents un­in­ten­tion­ally hurt their chil­dren’s feel­ings and lower their self-es­teem by telling them to stop ask­ing ques­tions, stop talk­ing to their imag­i­nary friends, stop mak­ing a mess, and just go and watch TV or some­thing. If I ever have kids, I’m go­ing to en­sure that their child­hoods are the hap­pi­est, most pos­i­tive, and lov­ing ones pos­si­ble. I’m never go­ing to tell them to stop ask­ing ques­tions, or that they’re meant to be seen, not heard. I’m go­ing to teach them that be­ing kind is bet­ter than be­ing right, and that ev­ery­thing they do is an op­por­tu­nity to learn some­thing from. And most im­por­tantly, I’m go­ing to make sure they have the best birth­day par­ties ever, com­plete with bub­bles, face paint, and cup­cakes. Sweet, just how the kids like them.

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