Simple Joy

Author at 8, 2nd from left, with cousins and sister.

One of my favorite memories took place in my eighth summer.  My family traveled to Pittsburgh, PA, a cross-country trip to see my father’s relatives.  This was a cross-country trip,  since we lived in Reno.

Their yard included a wonderful grassy slope.  My sister and I and our two cousins loved to roll our bodies down this hill, with dizzying repetition.  The hill was just steep enough to give us a wild ride, and we’d often take turns tucking a plastic beachball under our bellies, to give us extra height and much added pleasure.  For me, it was a rare time of fully being free to be a child, and an absolutely silly one!   In my book, “Benjamin Bear’s Naughtiest Night Ever!”, Betsy and Bart had the time of their lives, splashing all the water out of the bathtub.  Then Betsy continued jubilantly, painting the bathroom in a minty fresh mural by jumping up and down on the tube of toothpaste.  While this was incredibly naughty, who can say they’ve never had a devilishly good time doing something they knew they shouldn’t?  We’ve all done something of that nature, and enjoyed it far too much!  Betsy and Bart's splash fest

There are perils for children who are too obedient.  These kids grow up without a sense of fun, and it can impair them socially, to a large extent, perhaps even for life.  They are very inclined to tattle on their siblings and peers for minor misdeeds.  Getting a reputation as a snitch brings ridicule and disdain upon these tattlers, along with ostracism, a lack of friends, and it can breed loneliness and depression.  These are terrible consequences for the child, and can change the entire climate of their school years, leading to more pessimistic outlooks, and that could, in turn, impact their physical health. 

These children are also more likely to be bullied by kids seeking revenge for the reported offenses. So, it is quite important to instruct children prone to tattle, what misbehaviors are necessary to tell an adult, and what they should let slide.  It doesn’t hurt to discuss the social consequences for repeated tattling whenever the situation arises.

The inability of a child to let loose, be silly, or even naughty occasionally, pulls that child toward a life lacking in fun and friends.  Having rigid constraints on their own behavior, and harshly judging the miscreance of others can negatively affect a person chronically.   Somehow, I don’t think Benjamin Bernard Blackbear will ever need to worry about such effects!

When I see a child who is seriously obedient to the extreme, my first thoughts are:  What happens to that little one when he/she misbehaves? What is the child afraid of?  The answers may make me weep.  I have cousins (different than those pictured) who seemed always frightened to move around in their own homes, let alone to be silly.  From my observations, their lives still have vestiges from that environment.

As parents, it is so important to let your kids experience the joy of breaking the less crucial rules now and then, especially those that won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  Whenever you can, join them in wild abandon and reckless silliness.  You will not regret it!   These are memories they will store in their hearts and minds.  If a child has a chance to break free and be naughty in small ways, they are less likely to rebel in bigger ways.  If they see you do it too, they can appreciate you in a different way, and it will have a permanent positive effect on your bonding!

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