Don’t Grow Up

by Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre, Ed.D.

kids_playing1 I am often around kids. I have a child, spend a lot of time in the local Children’s Hospital, and truly enjoy the presence of little ones in general. I think children and good researchers are the most curious populations currently in our society. I love the way children wonder about the world and believe in limitless possibility. It is impossible for children to fake much of anything. Kids are authentic and are rarely afraid to show their feelings.

Think about when a child gets hurt or is scared or is excited- it is almost unheard of for them to be shy about their emotions- they are quite comfortable with being vulnerable and are generous with their time and, depending upon their personality, are sometimes generous with their affection.

This evening as I was watching my little nieces play in the park I noticed something- kids instantly connect to one another just because they are kids. I watched as my six-year-old niece went right up to a child she had never met and said “wanna play?” To which the other child responded “sure- let’s run.” They ran for 20 minutes, laughing the entire time- just running. I watched in wonder at my two year old niece as she bashfully played hide and go seek with another child whom she had never met. She does not even really talk but can make a friend in a moment just because they are both kids. The park was full of them- children everywhere being Socially Excellent.

There is a whole subset of our society that is naturally authentic, vulnerable, generous, and curious.

When do we lose the ability to turn strangers into friends? Is it 3rd grade? High school? College?

When does it become socially unacceptable to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation?

When do we lose that childlike wonder and why do we lose it? More importantly, how do we get it back?

While there are probably a lot of folks telling you to “grow up” I would say maybe the best thing you can do is “get younger”- at least in the sense of relationship building and values. Somewhere along the line we unlearn an inherent birth right which looks suspiciously like Social Excellence to me…

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”- Alvin Toffler