I don’t think there are many adults alive who would argue that we could all use a dose of childhood on a regular basis. Kids care about each other, adults are selfish; kids are honest, adults hide the truth; kids stay in the moment, adults worry about the past and future while they often ignore the moment; kids have genuine emotions of both joy and sadness, adults try to hide all of their emotions, or at best, control who sees them.
This past Thanksgiving Weekend, I became aware of another thing we adults need to learn from kids in the attempt to take some “Kid Pictures.” Like many families around the country, we got together with the entire clan for several days and as our kids and their cousins don’t get together more than a couple of times a year, we wanted to mark the occasion with a Facebook worthy picture, suitable for framing. Needless to say, the kids had a different idea, and I think we need to learn something from them when it comes to pictures (whether they are actual pictures, or the emotional pictures that we snap when we’re together).
We had bought the requisite matching outfits – striped shirts for the boys, cute flowered print shirts for the girls, all in matching orange and blue (for Auburn or Florida, depending on who you ask). It was a beautiful fall day at my brother’s Florida home and we placed the wicker sofa in just the right spot on the lawn for the ideal picture. Should be simple to then get an 8, 7, 5, and 4 year old to sit together for 30 seconds to take a picture, right? Nope, didn’t feel authentic to the kids. So they did what they wanted to do – piled on top of each other in a laughing, screaming mosh pit with the oldest cousin on the bottom and everyone sitting on top. Luckily, we snapped the above shots anyway and captured what life is really like for these 4 when they get together for family gatherings – it is just having fun being together. No pretenses, no false selfs involved, no talking behind each others’ backs. They just play together when they want to play together, get away from each other when they’re tired of each other; they laugh, they argue, they cry, they share; all along they are developing real relationships.
We adults ought to stop trying so hard to make every picture – literally and figuratively – a presentation of the self we want the world to see too. We ought to be ok with spending time together and spending time alone near each other. We ought to stop trying to accomplish our agendas when we get together and start just being together developing real relationships. Life is messy, we don’t always agree and we don’t always get along – even with family. That is ok, it is what makes life interesting and fun. But we need to recognize it and appreciate it, not hide it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
I dearly love my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew. I don’t agree with my parents or brother on everything and that is fine with me. We have interesting conversations with divergent points of view and I appreciate those. I don’t live my day to day life the same way as my brother and his family and our family dynamics are different. That is ok, and it makes our time together interesting for parents and kids alike because they get to interact with a different way of doing things. Everything in life doesn’t have to be neat and organized, scheduled and set. We certainly don’t all have to have the same methods to get to the outcomes we’re seeking. So let’s continue to celebrate the fact that we can just get together, pile on top of each other with laughing, screaming, and crying…and enjoy living in each moment. Oh, and let’s make sure we take some pictures of it that way so we can show each other how similar we actually are in our dysfunction.