Don’t worry, be childish


My niece turned four last week and my sister and brother in law gave her a big party. Lots of children were invited and they all had a whale of a time bopping around on the bouncy castle, running around chasing balloons and watching a hairy man in a colourful shirt doing magic tricks. Then the kids ate cake and fruit jelly until they were stuffed and climbed back onto the castle and bounced around until their parents grew tired of watching them and dragged them away.


Afterwards we went to my sister’s home and opened my niece’s presents, then watched Barney the Dinosaur, who I hate, until she was asleep.


“Oh look”, I said “Barney is going to sing for us. Yipee!” as the annoying purple dinosaur started lumbering around a classroom and clapping his hands before launching into a horrible song so irritatingly catchy I had to slap myself later that night to stop humming it.


If Barney was a real T-Rex he would be eating those children, not singing “I love you” to them. But Barney is just a really annoying man in a silly purple suit who bounces around the soundstage. 


Personally, I would like to wring his purple neck, but my niece and nephew love him and so I pretend to like him. “Oh look, Barney is going to tell us about animals today. Whoop-de–doo. Don’t you just love Barney?” I ask the kids and they jump up and say “Yoopee!” and I smile because the pain of watching Barney is a small price to pay for their happiness.


But kids, even the children of today, don’t need much to have fun. We keep giving them more and more junk, but with a little imagination we can keep a child occupied and happy with very little. I sometimes read my niece stories from books. Not having any children’s storybooks, I make these up by looking at the photos from the travel books in the study. Catalonia and Malta are her favourites.


A ball and some grass can also keep a couple of children amused for an hour or two. You don’t need expensive toys with modern technology; all you need is infinite patience and energy. Children will often ignore the toys you get them and end up playing with the box they came in.


Why can’t we all be a little like that? Little ones don’t need gadgets or expensive cars, they don’t need the latest ipod or mobile phone. They don’t need to look forward to the weekend just so they can go to a smoke-filled bar and drink until they’re sick. Children would rather spend the night watching TV in their pyjamas or have their friends over and play with building blocks.


Kids are also allowed to enjoy silly jokes. Often they will laugh at nothing at all. If you smile at a toddler he or she will probably smile back, because at three or four none of us have a care in the world. If only we could bottle that feeling and keep it so we could experience it again.


This is what I propose: Once a year, possibly on our birthday (no matter how old we are), each one of us should be allowed to act like a child. We should be allowed all the ice cream and chocolate we want. We should be able to walk around the house in our pyjamas and go outside wearing shorts, sandals and sailor suits. We should be permitted to stay up late watching cartoons with our friends and talking. No gossiping will be permitted. Nobody will be allowed to smoke or drink. Jumping up and down on the bed will be encouraged.


Greeting card companies could take advantage of this by printing cards with Winnie the Pooh and detachable badges that say things like “Baby is 48 today” or “I’m 79 and I love chocolate”.


That said, we could even have a certain day of the year when everyone will be required to be puerile. That way, every war on the planet will have to stop so that everyone can jump up and down and have lollipops. If anyone breaks the truce then everybody else must never talk to them again and never have them over to their house for milk and cookies .


As the late, great John Lennon once said, you may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. So go on, act like a child for once. Break open that bottle of lemonade. Have that cookie. Put on your pyjamas and walk around the house. Eat that ice cream straight out of the tub. Enjoy yourself. You know you want to.


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