I remember being seven years old and having an older cousin tell me that she wished she was still a little kid. I asked her why and she just told me that I’d know one day. At the time I couldn’t understand why she would want to be little again. Being one of the youngest of my cousins, I was always too young for anything that they did and I was always stuck at home with the parents while all the teenagers went out to the movies. As a child I was always in a hurry to grow up and catch up with my cousins. Then I finally did grow up, and now I wish I was still that little kid.
Little kids are oftentimes the most positive, the least biased, and the most forgiving. To make a new friend all you have to do is share your crayons or play tag together. Fights are over small things and never last more than a few minutes. Then you’re best friends again. Kids focus on fun things in the present rather than the negative things from the past. They’re fair judges because bias doesn’t exist in their world. They don’t know what stereotypes are, they don’t know how to judge someone based on appearance, and they easily forget the past if there’s an, “I’m sorry.”
Then time passes. The kids get older and people start to expect things of them, they get judged, or they notice how others treat each other. At first the kid is confused, they don’t understand why the lady at the store gave a nasty look to the guy with a bunch of tattoos. The little girl doesn’t get why the boys won’t let her play tag with them. And the older brother doesn’t get attention from mommy when the baby cries, but he gets a, “Not right now.”
Not knowing what to think, the kids continue to watch the world around them. And the way their mind works changes too; they start to become more observant and conclusive. They realize that people with a lot of tattoos are “bad,” that girls are “slower” than boys, and that they’re not a little kid anymore. They go to school and realize they have to impress classmates and be “cool” if they want to have friends. They learn new terms and typical judgments made about people that look a certain way. They learn how to talk.
With every year they learn new things until they realize that the world isn’t mostly made up of love. They realize why the wishes for world peace could never come true. They learn that people lie, cheat, and pretend, and in matters much greater than games. They learn about greed and lust. They figure out that just because someone acts nice to your face doesn’t mean that they are. They realize that they aren’t kids anymore.
And the thing about these innocent little kids is that oftentimes they don’t choose to grow up. A majority of the time they are forced to lose their innocence. The phrase, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you,” applies not only to the ignorant, but also the innocent. The things that they didn’t know as children didn’t affect most of them, but now that they’ve grown up they’ve learned about all the world’s evils and problems. And once they’ve been shoved into the environment of the real world, there’s no going back. I guess you can’t forget something you’ve already learned.
So yeah, I’ve grown up a bit. I understand part of what my cousin meant. Hopefully you understand, too. Sure, I’m not an adult yet (thankfully) so I might not know the worst things people are capable of. But I don’t think I’ll ever wish to be that much older. I’ll do my best to enjoy each day of being a teenager, with all the drama and confusion of growing up that comes with it. We’re all only so young for so long.