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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

TO HAVE JOY LIKE A CHILD


I spent hours, days, climbing trees. When the sun came up it was time to have fun and when the sun set, we had to be home. Weekends and holidays were spent living completely in the moment, oblivious to what time it was. We came in only when we were hungry or were called. We were left to our own devices and imagination.

My memories of my childhood are of playing and playing. Every day was another opportunity to find something fun to do. Most of what we did, we created with our imaginations. We climbed trees, hid in the dark, searched for magic and lived totally and whole heartedly for the moment. Homework and other responsibilities were there but our focus was on whatever we were doing in that moment. I do not remember worrying about things that needed to be done. When things had to be done, we did them and moved on, very little time was spent worrying about either the inevitable, the impossible or the inescapable. Joy was too precious to allow anything to interfere.

Riding my bicycle at top speed down a hill with the wind streaming through my hair, I felt invincible. I did have a number of close-calls, but they were all seen as par for the course. You were living on the edge and there was always a sense of being a little carefree, my mother would argue and call it being reckless. Either way it made me feel alive, I knew I was experiencing life at full volume. I fell out of trees, bumped my head and scraped my knees more times than I can remember. My father would come home after work and ask to see my latest injuries – I was a hellcat.

Fast forward 20 years and the weight of adulthood began settling on my uneasy shoulders. Doing my best to fit in and live up to expectations – most of which were my own self-inflicted, I ran out of time to just live and love being in the moment. Responsibilities, fears and feelings of inadequacy replaced my days of wonder and unbridled enthusiasm. I had stepped into a persona of my own making and I was doing my utmost to live up to my own expectations. Things became complicated, it was hard work having me as a taskmaster.

The arrival of my son brought back so many memories of a carefree time. I remembered what it was like to see the world through the eyes of a child. The world was a wonderful and exciting place. Looking back now 30 years later I realise that he was a carbon copy of me. Leaping out of his treehouse, concocting dangerous chlorine experiments in the pool shed and spending hours on his back watching the clouds while talking to his dogs and Russian dwarf hamster – he was in love with life. Not even the instruction booklet for his complicated Lego pieces could restrict him. We spent hours, sometimes days building intricate pieces; a pirate ship, medieval castle or spacecraft. We followed the specs exactly as shown on the instruction leaflet. Once done, he would wait for me to get distracted and he would then modify and re-create what he thought was a much better version of the original. Improvisation and imagination were far more exciting than following set instructions. This at first frustrated my perfectionist tendencies and then I began to learn from him. He reminded me that we are capable of creating exactly what we desire, and he became my greatest teacher.

Things my son taught me:

Time to let go of holding on so tightly to what we believe is necessary.

You do not have enough time left to always be an adult

It is time to make magic.

Imagine the impossible, believe in it and make this your new reality

Worry is a waste of time – fill that time with fun, it will take your mind off things anyway

Stop trying to live up to other’s expectations – they are really your own and only you can let them go

People are not focused on you – they have enough of their own stuff to focus on

Don’t waste time judging yourself or others – there are much better things to spend your energy on

This is a one-way trip – make it fun.

You do not have to grow up anymore. Try growing back… Your kids and grandkids will remind you how

Your purpose is to have experiences and to love being alive

Its time for your second childhood!


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