When do the lessons we learned as little kids become irrelevant?

~ When did we forget to use our manners?

Little kids are taught to be respectful, to “treat others the way you want to be treated” and to be polite, which includes saying “please” and “thank you”.

I work at a children’s store part-time, and I constantly hear parents ask their kids “now, what do you say to the nice girl?” after I’ve helped them with something.  They always look at me, smile and say “thank you”.  Manners are some of the first things we teach our children, and I’ve often heard parents say that they are either proud of or embarrassed by their kids due to the presence or absence of good manners.

So why is it that I am constantly disrespected by adults in the same work environment?  Why do adult customers demand things of me, treat me like dirt and yell when they can’t have their way?  Why do they snatch things out of my hands and walk away without so much as a smile or a nod of gratitude.  Heck, I would take a smirk from some of these people, just to know that they are aware of my existence.
At what age do “please” and “thank you” become replaced by demands and entitlement?  Why do we require that children show good manners (even if it takes a while for them to learn), but we don’t expect the same from adults?  I can’t imagine the reaction I would get from adults if I were to respond with “now what do you say?” when they grabbed an item out of my hands.

~ When do we stop allowing ourselves to express emotion?

When children are upset, you are most definitely going to hear about it.  Loud and clear.  There will be tears and there will be tantrums.  When children are happy, there is no limit to the giggling, jumping up and down, excited shrieking and hugging.  Kids wear their hearts right on their sleeves.  You will almost always know how they are feeling, and they aren’t scared to tell you about it if you’re unsure.

Adults, on the other hand, can be feeling one thing, yet saying another.  Adults don’t often want others to know what they are thinking and go to great lengths to hide their emotions.

Many adults I have encountered say that they don’t like giving or receiving hugs, that they don’t cry because crying equals weakness and that they don’t trust anyone because everyone is out to manipulate them.

Now, I don’t think tantrums are necessarily appropriate (or very fun, whether from a child or an adult), but I do believe it is important to show your emotions.  Being sad or vulnerable is not weakness, it is human.  Getting excited does not mean that you are immature or simple, but rather that you are able to fully appreciate things with your entire being.  You can live in the moment.  You enjoy your life.     

Showing emotion also creates connections with others who are feeling the same things or who can help you overcome difficult obstacles.  Sharing joy is how friendships are created.  I am proud of the relationships I have made because I have chosen to trust, to care deeply, to hug freely and to let others in during my happiest and saddest times.

~ When did we stop wanting to learn?

Kids ask so many questions it’s impossible to answer all of them.  They are constantly learning new things and questioning the universe.  They want to know why things are the way they are and often don’t accept the first answer they receive.  They are curious.  They want to form their own opinions and truly want to understand what’s happening around them. 

Unfortunately, many adults are not this way.  Many of us are so stuck in our own thoughts and opinions that we don’t often consider the other side of things.  We brush off someone else’s ideas and judge those who are not like us.  We don’t care to learn anything new; we already know everything we need to get by.

Often, adults don’t ask questions because they are scared of looking stupid.

~ When did we stop believing that life is supposed to be enjoyable?

If there is one thing that kids excel at, it’s playing. In fact, I’m pretty sure playing was my only responsibility when I was younger.  My parents were constantly shuffling us out of the house to build snowmen, swing on the swings, play baseball or soccer and ride our bikes around the neighborhood.  Even when we started school, we learned to color, to play games and sports and to read chapter books.  I would get up every day before my parents and be ready to go!  I was so excited that I never wanted to sleep.  Kids are taught that there should be balance between work and play, and that life should be enjoyable.

At some point, we become adults and suddenly have to “grow up”, which apparently means no longer being allowed to have any fun.  Everything becomes a chore, even things like running, which used to be done for sheer enjoyment.  Work is a necessary evil, as we have bills to pay and mouths to feed.  We no longer believe in our dreams, or that we are meant to do what we want and be whoever we choose.  In adulthood, life tends to drag on, punctuated by moments of excitement and celebratory events, but always returning to the monotony of everyday life.

What happened to us?

Aren’t we those same little kids, just with a few more years of experience?  Can’t we remember what it means to have fun, to make new friends, to dream, to live

I refuse to believe that there is a stark divide between adulthood and childhood.  We are living one, continuous life.  We bring all the experiences of our past into our future.  Our past, our childhood, makes us who we are today. 

Of all the people I have met in my life, those who are the happiest are the ones who have allowed their childhood to follow them into adulthood.  Those who continue to dream.  Those who believe that work is meant to be enjoyed.  Those who laugh, cry, hug and dance whenever the mood strikes them.

Just because we reach a certain age or pass a specific milestone does not mean that we forget about the lessons we have learned from our youth.  Rather, these times are when it is most important to remember where we have come from and how we can continue to be those little kids who are able to get up every day and enjoy their lives.

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