I Believe in Being a Kid

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I believe in being a kid. Today’s world is full of over-eager parents and competitions to cross the finish line. But where is that finish line? Life is not about breaking through the red ribbon or lapping your peers on the race track. I believe life is about enjoying what you have while you have it.

I don’t mean you should shirk responsibilities, but you should enjoy what you are doing while you are doing it, like kids do. When I was younger, I was always encouraged (and sometimes forced) to amuse myself outside. “Run around, kick a soccer ball, do anything!” my mom would say. And we did. We played thousands of soccer games on our slanted backyard field, kicked numerous waterlogged balls into our neighbor’s bushes, and engineered new sports around the obstacles that littered our yard.

But my sister and I, along with our neighbors, also played with our imaginations outside. We made rings out of the elegant Japanese maple leaves, sculpted pinch-pots from red clay dug up from behind the bushes, climbed trees, played tag, made movies, and built elaborate cities complete with shops, jails, and currency. Our money consisted of birch bark, pine cones, and walnuts. We even had a constitution.

Even rainy days were filled with fun, spending them expanding our Lego empires on the vast expanses of our blue tile basement. On the unbearably hot days, we had water fights with hoses and set up a chilling water slide into a grassy blow-up pool. On summer nights, we had sleepovers in gigantic tents, stuffing our faces with marshmallows and telling campfire stories.

The arrival of winter brought excitement as well. We played in the snow until we lost all feeling in our fingers and toes. After the first snowfall, we’d decorate our backyard with snow forts and ice castles and snowmen. We would sled down the endless hills on the Penn State golf course, and laugh at the maintenance workers who would tell us to get off.

Now I look back on those days and wish I were still living in them. Every time I get frustrated, I revisit those days of squishing mud between my fingers. I’m 16 now, no longer driving toy trucks in my backyard, but driving a real car. My mind is stuffed with worries about finals, what college to get into, and getting a job. I no longer hate to go to bed at night, but long for its comfort. When my world seems to be crashing down, I stop and think about the rain, the trees, the sky, and the clouds. I remember to catch snowflakes and to be in awe over their beauty, to run barefoot through my backyard, and to jump through the sprinkler after a long run. I remember to watch a bee pollinate a lilac flower without worrying about being stung. I forget about the race to the finish line. I let my mind be consumed by the wonders of life, just like kids do. I believe in being a kid.

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