I was talking with my 16 year old niece recently. She is studying psychology at school, so we have another thing in common, she loves psychology and I'm a nutter, actually I love psychology too.
We were pondering yesterday; at what point do human beings loose that sense of carefree, joy, silly, fun-loving, excitable, crazy love for life that children have? Is there an exact time, or phase or cause for becoming more mature and socially appropriate?
This lead me to think on what I encourage my boys to tone down due to social appropriateness. Clearly there are some things children need to learn not to do, e.g playing chase in the Mall, picking their nose in public, or holding their private parts, no one wants to see that. But do we curb personality too much in the name of character training. Must all behave the same? Are we not created uniquely, so shouldn't we retain that uniqueness?
I have one son, who is the fizz when you undo the lid on a soft drink bottle, he is bubbling, effervescent, bursting, and sometimes gets up your nose. He requires as much if not more training than his peers. However I do not wish to squash his personality for the sake of his character. Personality is God given, character is a learnt blessing. Who am I, as a parent, to change or stifle what God has designed. I have no answers, only that we need to hold in tension the responsibility to train and the beauty in God's creatively designed little people.
Parental influence is not the only thing that robs us of our carefree joy of life. Life is hard, and as each day passes, children get closer to their first major disappointment, or hurt. Parents can again make all the difference. We can teach our children to chose joy, while they know it naturally, it's intrinsic and primal, we can teach them to recognise it, and value it through thankfulness.
Most adults envy the joyful, carefree life of children. Wouldn't you want to grow up retaining the joy of childhood? As parents we can foster this joy by guiding our children in their personalities, understanding God made them unique for a reason, yet also in community, so to respect other. Teaching our children to be thankful for what they have, rather than always wanting what they don't have.
Joyful, carefree living is not irresponsible or immature, it's understanding who we are in Christ, and giving Him thanks.