"I want to be a grown-up," my four-year-old tells me on a regular basis. Of course, she also believes Band-Aids can heal all wounds and Subway is the most fantastic place to work on the planet, so I wouldn't give her words too much weight. Still, I remember that feeling: wanting more freedom, always looking forward to the next thing.
Well, as an adult, I can tell you, that was crap. Being a kid is awesome. Sure, being an adult has its perks, but they're few and far between (and mostly involve alcohol or chocolate or other things that aren't very good for you).
In that spirit, here are four "do-overs" I'd love to have from my childhood.
1. I'd take every opportunity to sleep. Like most kids, I wanted to stay up late and do what the grown-ups were doing. And why nap when you can play? As an adult—when 2:00 p.m. rolls around, and I'm at work, and I'm forcing down a second cup of coffee that I don't really want just to keep my eyes open—I often find myself longing for my bed. If I was a kid again, whenever someone said, "you need a nap" or "get some sleep," I'd be like, "hell, yeah!" Especially knowing that being a parent means many, many years of sleep deprivation.
2. When people told me to "go play outside", I'd do it. Without complaining. Of course, I remember wanting to watch TV instead of skipping rope or riding my bike...and with the constant access to technology today, I think my kids are even more inclined to be screen junkies. But now, entire days can go by when I don't see daylight. It's dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home, and my daily experience of "outside" is the view from the window outside my office. If I could do it again, I'd spend as much time outdoors as possible. Except maybe in the winter. I hate winter.
3. I'd give my parents a break. It's easy to see in retrospect, but as a kid, I never realized how exhausting it is to be a parent and work full-time. "Chicken again?" my sister and I would groan at dinnertime, much as my kids now say to me, "But I want soup!" Kids never appreciate their parents as people in their own right. They don't understand that their parents have needs and desires, too—indeed, they had entire separate lives before those kids even existed. If I could go back in time, I'd (try to be) less argumentative and more compliant.
4. I wouldn't be in such a hurry to grow up. I remember being so excited to reach certain "adult" milestones: get my period, shave my legs, have my first kiss, go on my first date....If I could do it all again, I'd relax and take the time to appreciate being a kid. I'm not saying childhood is a magical time when all is right with the world, but it is a brief and transitory period that we don't cherish as we should. And we'll never get it back.
I wish I could get my four-year-old to understand how great being a kid really is—but unless I start giving her unlimited desserts and no bedtimes, I doubt she'll believe me. Like me, she'll have to figure it out for herself. And so the cycle continues.