I had a few hours to myself the other day, which is a very rare occurrence, so I decided to take the opportunity to do a little shopping for the house (but really, I was just looking for an excuse to browse the aisles of Target).
I slowly made my way to the entertainment section where I saw a family with two young children – a boy and a girl – around my daughter’s age (elementary school). The parents were each sifting through a stack of CD’s and the children were entertaining themselves by watching the various music videos playing on the television screens above them. A song that they were obviously fond of came on, and I noticed both of their eyes light up. They immediately broke out into dance – right there in the middle of the store. They weren’t bothering anyone. They weren’t in the way of any passerby and were being careful to keep themselves somewhat contained, but they were dancing their hearts out. They were having fun, plain and simple – giggling, making silly faces at each other, the works – and it made several of the people standing in the entertainment section smile along with them.
But then their parents noticed them and both proceeded to scold them. Seeing that this was obviously becoming a private moment, I began walking the opposite direction so as not to embarrass anyone, but not before overhearing the childrens’ mother very loudly throw out the words “Will you stop that! Act sophisticated! What will people think?”
Now… I make a point to try hard not to judge other parents because I know that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, and who’s to say that those children weren’t acting like lunatics two seconds before I happened to walk up? Children are prone to doing that from time to time… mine being one of them.
But this rubbed me the wrong way because I’ve seen things to this affect happen quite a few times recently – whether that be in stores, at the playground, at Disney World, what have you. A child’s “silly side” comes out, and their parents immediately squash it because, after all… there are people looking!
My questions is this – who cares? There is a difference between a child who is misbehaving and a child who is just being what they are – a child. When did it become important to impress everyone around us, or to extinguish our childrens’ childish ways because we’re so keen on doing so? A little bit of childish innocence isn’t going to hurt anyone.
When we bombard our children with a constant need to have them act like perfectly “sophisticated” people all of the time (especially in front of complete strangers), I feel like we’re only forcing them to grow up too fast and to become self-conscious where they may not have been naturally. We’re telling them that they need to consider what other people will think at the sight of them being their silly, childish selves before they decide to dance to their favorite song or make silly faces in the presence of strangers. Do these strangers’ opinions on your child’s dancing abilities really matter? Do they really even care that your child is dancing?
Children are not perfect nor are they “sophisticated,” and we shouldn’t expect them to be. They’re innocent and silly. They make faces and come up with silly dances and do cartwheels and squeal over things that make them excited. They dress themselves in clothes that almost never match and sometimes decide that a strangely colored bow in their hair is the best style to rock on any given day. And in my opinion, that’s OK. They’re children. They’re developing their own personalities, and yes, they need guidance and discipline because we do want them to develop respectable personalities, but they should be allowed to express their childish side while they can. Because when it’s gone, it’s gone.
What’s wrong with them being silly when they’re not doing anyone any harm? A child’s innocence is the best (and cutest) thing about them, in my opinion, and we should let them let that side of themselves shine.