Do you ever have “Remember When” conversations with your husband or friends? They usually go something like this: “Remember when we were dating and we’d walk for hours after dinner and get lost exploring new neighbourhoods?” “Remember when the highlight of our childhood was playing with marbles and chapteh?”
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These nostalgic days of the past remind us of younger versions of ourselves: naïve, perhaps, but more spirited and carefree. It was a different kind of happiness. We longed for days at the park and the chance to spend our lunch money on candy. We had so much energy. There was always fun to be had, new things to try, and adventures to undertake.
Then and Now
One of the greatest joys of being a parent is witnessing that young version of yourself in your children. Them with their endless, ready supply of giggles. Them with their little bare feet running on the grass. Them with their eyes that grow so wide with wonder.
It’s refreshing. And we wish sometimes that we could be more like them. Somewhere along the way we might have gotten jaded, bogged down with financial planning and stress in the “real world.” We have mouths to feed and bills to pay. We feel… old. And tired.
But our age in years doesn’t have to dictate our spirit and attitude. When we’re handling heavy adult responsibilities, it’s more important than ever to stay young at heart.
Never Too Old To Learn
Small children want to learn everything. They want to know how to wash dishes and put on their own shoes. They want to know where rainbows come from and why there are snails after it rains. They ask all sorts of questions and don’t care if it’s the “right” time to ask. I could be half-jogging to a meeting I’m already late for when my three-year-old would stop and point at a fire hydrant, and demand to know how it works. She’s eager to learn all about it, right then and there.
As parents and adults, many of us get complacent with the amount of knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years. We’re older and wiser and we have the experience to prove it.
Mummy and Daddy know best. Ah, but we certainly don’t know everything. Staying young at heart is important because it tells us to keep asking questions and learning new things.
Do Something That Scares You
Stability and security become that much more important once you have your own family. We’ve all read about people who ditched their prestigious jobs to swim with dolphins and manta rays on some remote island. Or who took out all their savings to go backpacking around the world. We think, “They can only do that because they’re single and don’t have kids.”
How often do you use your family as an excuse to opt-out of something you secretly really, really want to do?
Perhaps dropping everything to pursue a big, life-altering dream just isn’t practical right now when you’re saving for your kids’ college tuition. That’s understandable. Jump on your grand dreams when the kids are older or you’re retired.
Meanwhile, you can still get a taste of adventure by doing something that scares you every week. It can be anything: signing up for a zumba class, asking for a raise or promotion, getting over your fear of heights or eating locusts for the first time. Even on a smaller scale, you are achieving something brave every time you get out of your comfort zone.
Contentment in the Simplest Things
Every night, I ask my daughter what made her happiest that day. “Chocolate ice cream,” she’d say, or sometimes, “Going on the swings.” But she’d always end with, “Mummy and Daddy. And Grandma and Grandpa.” She never fails to count us in the list of her highlights. We make it on that list just by being a part of her life.
When I think about what happiness means to me now, family’s definitely it. But there’s this pervasive, nagging desire for other things as well. More prestige, a new piece of jewellery, a bigger car, more vacations to exotic destinations. These “wants” are cluttering up and creating dissatisfaction.
Being young at heart means finding contentment in simple things and maintaining a positive mindset. If we have our loved ones, everything else is extra.
(For Once) Forget About Acting Your Age
Don’t worry if something is “age-appropriate.” Do it if you want to.
Parents already have so many responsibilities to keep up with that if we don’t let loose once in a while, we’d be in danger of becoming stuffy or boring. Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
So wear more glitter; go down that slide; join the water balloon fight. Go dancing with your girlfriends. Pull a prank on your husband. And why should your kid be the only one who has a colouring book? You love to colour too.
Get in touch with your inner child. Fulfill your whims, no matter how silly they are. Forget about acting your age, and just act yourself.
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine.
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