A couple of weeks ago, when the sun was still shining on Melbourne, Jo took our two year old Dylan on a bus ride – a big time adventure by his account. On the bus Dylan met an older boy, perhaps four or five years old. At first the two were playing together, but quickly enough things have changed.
The cause of the change was Dylan’s excitement: playing with a bigger boy was such a thrill he started making his happy sounds. These vary between duga-duga-duga and dig-dig-dig, but you get the point; the point is the older kid stopping cooperative play and instead turning to mock Dylan into acting like a baby. For his part, Dylan didn’t mind; he still considered himself playing with an older boy and didn’t understand what was taking place. Affairs, however, weren’t as nice as they were a minute earlier.
I see the above incident as a metaphor for what takes place with all of us when we lose our naivety and come face to face with the real world, a place that unlike our parents is harsh, indifferent and unforgiving. Most of us deal with the real world by copying the behavior of those around us, as the older boy on the bus did when he suddenly turned from a child playing childish games into a critical adult. I, on the other hand, don’t see this act of conformism in a positive light.
As long as no one is harmed, there is absolutely nothing wrong with us behaving like children from time to time. It is not ethically wrong to do something foolish or something meaningless or to pause and emit baby sounds when you’re happy. In contrast, blindly following what others are doing as opposed to thinking for yourself is something to be condemned: in this particular bus incident both sides lost from the breakup of the play.
At the personal level, I think Dylan’s the cutest when he’s doing his childish celebrations. There is probably a lot of positive feedback from me in those rituals in the first place, as I often do stupid things together with Dylan for the sake of having fun. As Monty Python have said, Dylan is the son of a silly person.
While I know Dylan is only behaving the way he currently does on a temporary basis and soon enough he’ll want to make an adult of himself, too, a part of me is longing to ask Dylan to remain the cute innocent child he is. It’s good to lose your naivety for the sake of knowledge, but it’s not good to lose your openness to ideas and your sense of wonder at the same time.