At what stage do we, as humans, begin to see the world differently?
Not in the sense of right vs. wrong or good vs. evil. But just what it is and what it offers.
Perhaps every new-ish parent sees this for a time – their child experiencing the world in a way you completely forgot. And not simplistically like how blue the sky is, or how loud a dog barks.
It’s more of a black and white.
Our lives are filled with gray. Fifty shades, if you will.
Other than knowing what is completely right (example: not murdering) and completely wrong (example: murdering) there is a lot of gray that surrounds us. Yet, even the black and white gets blurred at times. Ever seen the final episode of Breaking Bad? Somehow you convinced yourself it was OK that all of it went down. And there was some murdering happening.
(Sorry for any spoiler alert there, but if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad by now then we cannot be friends.)
To a toddler, though, there is just … the world.
They haven’t developed black and white yet. Let alone gray.
Their world is as it is now and somehow, as adults, we aren’t really allowed to re-introduce ourselves back into that.
Ever seen Elf? How innocent Buddy is? That’s how naive we’d have to be living in real life. Stuff wouldn’t get done! We’d be congratulating Denny’s for the World’s Best Cup of Coffee daily.
How long does that feeling last? That’s what I want to know.
This isn’t about definitive life moments like recess turning into study break, or sleepovers turning into sneaking out and partying.
This is more like the black and white lines of childhood turning into the gray that the rest of us operate in.
Why can’t we just go to the bathroom on the side of the road and be proud of ourselves versus being embarrassed? My daughter is still very happy with herself for having us pull into the dirt on a five-hour drive to Mammoth so she could unload.
In fact, on a recent Christmas lights-looking neighborhood walk my child wanted to “number two” it on a lawn because she had done that before “in the dirt to Mammoth” and she had to go.
This is wholly unacceptable to us as adults.
But to a child that doesn’t know better … it’s acceptable.
We shouldn’t use that example as the definitive reason in this whole essay, but it provides an insight you may not have thought about.
At what point do we see things differently?
My child loves every single kid in her classroom. She doesn’t see the differences I do.
That some kids come from different backgrounds, or of a different ethnicity or divided socio-economic paths.
I recognize that in my parental counterparts. She only sees the love she receives back. Hugs everyone equally. Yells goodbye to everyone the same when we depart. Wants to play with each kid the same way and with the same games. Worries about inviting every child to her birthday party … even though it’s two months from now.
She treats inanimate objects with respect.
After running into the coffee table: I’m sorry table. Are you OK? OK? Good. That’s OK, you’re a good table.
Who does that?!
So when does it stop? When do we notice these differences? And when do we distance ourselves from each other?
Because that’s the age I want to skip.
If we could all just see the world through a toddler’s eyes we could be honest with each other and accept everything that comes to us.
Sure, we may cry a bit. And we may fuss about it. And we may not fully get what older people are telling us.
But we’d always be happy.
And we’d get naps.