Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Growing up is a trap: don’t do it
Grown-ups are miserable creatures. We can’t help it. Adulthood has a way of beating us down with its bills, disappointments and boredoms so that, by the time we hit our 20s, crushing cynicism and suspicion become our constant travel companions through the decades ahead.
While the resulting unhappiness might not be entirely our fault, we can only blame ourselves for the one vital error that let it in. We forgot what it was to be children.
A few weeks ago, I spent the day exploring a wildlife reserve with one of the happiest kids I’ve ever known.
She packed a picnic, fed the ducks, patted a horse, and helped me remember what it was to be 9 years old and a better person.
Here’s what she reminded me:
■ People are fundamentally good; the world is full of surprises, and birthdays are to be planned in meticulous detail and counted down to year by breathless year. If you tell someone about your party, you should invite them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only just met, because friends are forever. ■ Sing loudly.
■ Water should be shared, everyone needs to go to the bathroom before a walk, and any outing is made better by pausing for a snack. Often.
■ People should sit down and talk. They should also walk and talk. Or lie on the grass and talk. ■ Only hurry if something better is just around the corner, and usually it is. If that something turns out to not be better after all, you can always go back.
■ Say nice things about your mum, especially if she’s not there to hear them.
■ Sunscreen is crucial; so are hats. In fact, hats are so important that if reckless adults have forgotten theirs, a trip to the dollar store is required. Buy stickers while you’re there.
■ All animals are good, even if some are a bit frightening. Some might be cuter than others but even the gnarliest goat can be appreciated, especially if it has a kind face, or you first met it when it was a baby. (It definitely remembers you.)
■ Waiting is boring, so always carry a book and pen and paper. Make notes of things you want to remember. Read the best parts of your book aloud.
■ Birds should never be chased. Nark on anyone doing it.
■ Being brave might be hard sometimes, but when you do something scary it makes you feel super-strong afterwards. Congratulate other people when they’ve been brave too.
■ Grey hair is pretty. Lines around people’s eyes make them look friendly. Tell them this.
■ Gender norms are to be smashed; reo Ma¯ ori to be used frequently; and plates should be cleared from cafe tables by those who ate from them.
■ Speak quietly to rabbits.
■ Hold hands when you’re crossing the road; not because you’re not capable of doing it on your own, but just in case the person walking with you isn’t.
■ Compliments should be graciously accepted with a heartfelt ‘‘thank you’’ – not deferment or deflection – and dished out earnestly and often in return. There’s always something nice to say about something or someone; even if it takes you a heartbeat or two to come up with it.
■ Smile at babies and say hello to strangers.
■ Bedtime must be delayed by whatever means necessary. If this means accidentally taking a wrong turn on your way from the bathroom or fetching just one more drink of water, do it.
■ Sit very close to the people you love. Tell them you love them. You don’t need to ask if they love you because you know they do.
■ Never grow up.