Don’t lose all your childlikeness when you grow up

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I guess I’m still in time to keep to my once-a-month blog post of random musings or simply whatever thing that comes to my mind.

This topic is pretty random but I thought about it while having an extended interaction time with children this summer.

Every year, I am given the ‘luxury’ (or some would describe it as an annoyance) of interacting with children (2 girls) over an extended period as my nieces are back in the country for their summer vacation. As much as I enjoy having them around, I also enjoy the peace at home when they are not around so for me to have this experience only twice a year, I guess I am pretty lucky in a certain way as it is a high possibility that I would not be having any of my own. Thus, it is quite enjoyable to interact and play with young children, without having to care for their discipline or studies; cause if they are too naughty, I’ll just hand it back to the ‘owners’. Well, it is also kind of an added ‘bonus’ cause 1 niece looks a little like me (that’s what everyone says even though I don’t see the resemblance) but while watching and playing with her, I do reflect upon my own past (since she’s at the age where I do start to remember stuff) and also be curious about what the future lies ahead for her.

I’m not sure if this is true for you but there was a conversation I had with a close friend of mine back when we were turning 30. We were discussing how the 30-year-old we are today seems like a far cry from the 30-year-old adult we imagined we would be, back when we were 12. If we trace back to our past memories, we would have assumed that by 30, we would have somehow been a reputable adult with our own house, a successful career and a family of our own. However, in reality, turning 30 didn’t bring about any ‘wow-ness’ in our lives and I don’t think the ‘me’ today could be an inspiration/motivation for the 12-year-old me. Then again, I didn’t have any aspirations when I was younger anyway. Unlike other kids, I don’t remember having any ambitions or dream occupations when I was growing up. I never had answers to the ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ question as I wasn’t a dreamer or a hopeful kid. On the other hand, I ask my niece all the time on what she wants to be when she grows up and her main job to be a pet store owner, the backup plan is to an illustrator/writer and the backup backup plan is to be a sticker seller. Somehow, my personality was pretty on the introverted side or perhaps being the last/youngest child, I don’t get that much attention growing up – in fact I’m not even sure if anyone adult asked me that question since by the time I was born, everyone was not that excited about kids anymore. whoops. Bring from a traditional Chinese family, it is pretty common that we are taught to respect our elders and to be polite and manners and I guess the concept of ‘choice’ felt like a pretty foreign concept to me and as I grow older, it evolved into me having a ‘go with the flow’ attitude which can be a good and a bad thing, depending on the situation. Fun fact – I chose my university major not because I wanted it, but because I crossed out every other option that I didn’t want (e.g. sciences, engineering, arts). Similarly in my job search post-graduation, I didn’t have much ambitions on where I wanted to work at or even the type of field I wanted but somehow still manage to get by with multiple job hops and living a rather decent life. I don’t have a life plan and I’ve stopped having ‘bucket lists’ and I guess you can say that I’m just satisfied being the ‘average’ person – never striving to be the first; but also struggling hard to never be the last. It does sound a little sad at the beginning but my time in New Zealand, the covid years, I’m happy to share that I’m pretty contended with being contended. Life can be simple if you want lesser things.

Oh well, sorry for digressing significantly again.

The idea I had for this post was that I wanted to remind everyone (and also myself), the importance of retaining a teeny weeny bit of ‘childlikeness’ in yourself, even as you grow older. From my observations of an 8-year-old, I find myself appreciating how honest she can be with her emotions – which are usually written on her face and her actions. I guess when you’re younger, you have lesser situational awareness and perhaps be oblivious to public ‘judgement’ which allows you to be firm, and stubborn in your views, actions and emotions. When the weekends are here, I can see her face light up and the excitement bursting through the roof whenever she knows she gets to go out to play and enjoy extensive screen time. When she watches cartoons, she bursts out laughing whenever there is a funny scene and she has no reservations about expressing her happiness – sometimes she’s even smiling while watching. For myself, I am pretty expressionless (even when I’m alone) so for me to observe that extensive outburst of emotions, was something that I thought deeply about.

Another thing that I simply could not stand (but wished I had more patience for) is their ability to cry whenever they feel upset, unjust or perhaps just.. trying to be attention-seeking (more significantly seen in the 4-year-old). It’s amazing to have no qualms about crying out in a public space, screaming your lungs out and annoying a lot of people. I don’t know how she does it but she’s either brave or having 0 sense of shame. Okay but that’s not the main point but their tears reminded me of a comment someone said “Being able to cry is a good thing because, it means that you are healthy.” That statement stuck with me for a long time as I have never thought that ‘crying’ can be normalized for adults. I usually associate crying as a sign of being weak, being incapable of controlling your emotions and how crying.. doesn’t solve the situation at all. However, in recent thoughts, I’ve started to reflect upon how much I had been ‘judging’ the concept of ‘adulting’ and why am I putting so much expectations on what it means to be an adult that has ‘grown up’. Crying was.. simply just an expression/outcome of any emotion called sadness. There isn’t anything bad or wrong about it (unless perhaps you’re shedding crocodile tears for some agenda), so why had I been so harsh towards the idea of ‘feeling sad’? Whoops. It’s gonna take a long while for me to sit on this concept and think in a different light and figure a way on how I can learn to be more expressive of my emotions instead of bottling everything up. Sometimes, crying out can make one feel better (like how my niece gets her cartoon reward if her tears are justified) but yea we need to stop being too quick to judge. If you’re an adult (reading this), ask yourself, have you ever been too harsh on yourself? It is okay to let your emotions go wild at times, it is okay to cry and it is okay to be expressive. Don’t ever hold it in just because you think you have grown up – age is never a barrier to be fair to your emotions.

Another thing I can’t figure out why it is so easy to do as a kid but not easy for an adult me – is to know what you want and be brave enough to ask for it. Somehow, my nieces are ultra-picky in their food preferences and their tastes can change in a short amount of time. They tend to like ‘opposites’ which I believe is part of their plan to annoy the adults (e.g. one likes tomato-based pasta, the other likes cream-based) and they are also stubborn and can refuse to eat if they simply dislike the food. I don’t think that this ‘indecisiveness’ and ‘inability to be opinionated’ is a common issue among adults, just me; but it seems to be growing on me over the years. I always end up presenting myself (to the world) as being flexible 90% of the time. (The remaining 10% has to stay because I’m pretty insistent that I hate coriander, celery, lady fingers and bitter gourd.) As a result of being ‘flexible’, I find myself unable to voice out on something, even if I have an opinion. If someone else has decided, I usually just go with the flow. This ‘go with the flow’ attitude has been helpful to me on many occasions – especially during my NZ solo working holiday experience – but these days, I wonder if I have really lost the ability to make any decision at all. Every time I’m asked ‘what to eat’, I often don’t have anything in my mind. When there’s no choice left, I’ll go on to google and search for ‘restaurants’ or ‘food’ and attempt to choose from the recommended list. It frustrates me a lot as this bad habit of mind evolved into me being unable to ‘give an opinion’, even if I had one. The are times where I have eaten Korean food like twice this week and a friend that I’m meeting later that week suggests Korean food and I’ll be like ‘sure’, because I don’t have the brain capacity to suggest another alternative. I don’t like to ‘reject’ people if I can’t present a better option and another part of me does that so I guess I could avoid potential ‘conflicts’ (I mean this goes beyond choosing what to eat). I’m still uncertain if I have to change this ‘indecisiveness’ part of me but yea, I feel jealous of the kiddos for being able to be decisive.

The kids these days are growing up in a very different world from my time. They can’t be left feeling bored and most days, the adults to child ratio is significantly high (as more and more couples decide to not have kids, and the single ones are not married). Sometimes, I feel sad that my niece has to repeat the answer to ‘What did you do at school today?’ to like the 4 adults that have asked her at different time intervals. Maybe that’s why she just tells us ‘don’t know’ in order to shut us up. whoops. The kids are also growing up in the Netflix / Disney+ world where they no longer need to ‘wait’ for advertisements and they can simply choose the next show if they get bored. Queue to my time 20+ years ago – I just had to watch whatever was playing on TV, no matter how boring it was. I didn’t enjoy teletubbies but I had to watch their ‘again, again’ replay, because there would only be 1 children channel – so it was teletubbies or nothing. I once read in the newspaper that you should let kids space out, zone out and do nothing once in a while but somehow my niece can’t stop doing anything. If we stop her screentime, she will go to the books. If we tell her to keep the books, she will goes to the physical games. If not she’s eating, disturbing the adults, jumping here and there, finding things to climb and the activity never seem to stop. She’s also very vocal about ‘being bored’, and then the adults will try to wreck our brains to think of something for her to do. Sometimes I feel that my advise to her is not substantial because I basically continue doing everything I told her not to do. As an adult – I have no control over my screentime – from my PC at work, to my PC at home to my constant scrolling of social media on my handphone to playing brainless handphone games – my screen time is actually pretty bad according to my iPhone stats. The only way I try to make a conscious effort to reduce my screentime is to listen to audio books when I’m in commute. As I had to concentrate on the story, I find it difficult to be scrolling my phone during the process – and yea, that’s a time where my eyes can take a break. I tell my nieces to stop after 1 episode of cartoon but then.. I go on to binge the entire series till the wee hours of the morning. I know I should be imposing some of these ‘kiddos’ rules on myself.. it is hard..

That’s all I have for my really random post. I hope to be writing about my Korea trip soon (the trip I had 3 months ago). Hope it will be done next month~~

Happy Monday to you – wherever in the world you are.

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  • Nice to read you again after a very stressful move to a new home. It has been like moving a farm into a large hotel suite. I am scattered all over the place, and will be for a long time. Prayers and my church family are all that got me through. Keep downsizing, and don’t wait till the end!

    • Woah~~ I’m sure it had been a massive project for you! Congratulations on achieving such a feat! It’s good that you’re able to declutter and downsize! Sadly, I’m pretty much a hoarder my whole life and the only thing I’m trying to control myself is to buy lesser items, instead of trying to throw things away ><