When was the last time you climbed a tree or skipped through a hopscotch course?
One of my favorite running routes follows the trail next to the Children’s Museum of Denver. As I was cruising along about 2/3 of the way through my run, the museum playground caught my eye. The bright colors and enticing shapes were distracting me from the running groove. And for a split second, I was back in elementary school.
The big playground has two equipment zones and a long row of swings. One area has big interconnected pieces. It’s got peep-hole tunnels, shaky bridges, and bright green slides. That’s the ‘tag’ playground. I could hear my classmates screaming as they were darting in and out of the narrow passages trying not to ‘be it’.
The other area has a curved balance beam, a capture-the-flag style castle, and monkey bars. How I love those monkey bars. The monkey bars are not the typical style. They’re in the form of an arch so instead of having two end supports and interconnecting bars, these are curved so the rungs go all the way to the ground.
My friends and I spent hours on those things. We would lie on the ground and climb the rungs up and over. We’d scale one side like a ladder and see how upside-down we could get before bailing on the other side. And then there were the friendly challenges. Use every other rung, every third rung, only the side supports, hands facing you, hang upside down. We’d climb forwards, backwards, and side-to-side until our hands were sore and arms heavy.
My mind snapped back to the present…I’ve got to horse around on that playground even if only for a second. I sprinted across the dewy grass and onto the spongy playground flooring. I jumped up onto one of the landings and grabbed the first ring (this playground has a ring-style set of monkey bars). I swung left, right, left, right from one platform to the next.
Then I was at a second set of bars. Again swinging hand over hand (I half expected the bell to go off and my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, to come outside to call us back to class). I completed that set and hopped to the high point of the structure. The fast-looking slide was too tempting to pass up. Oh how right a choice that was. That slide was great. It did that thing where you get kicked off the end into a 2-step jog. I continued the 2-stepper and hurried back to the trail.
I was on the playground for about 2 minutes but smiled for the rest of the run. In fact, the next person I passed gave me a worried look. I’m sure they were thinking, ‘nobody grins like that just from running’. I wasn’t even wearing headphones so hiding behind any audio induced laughter wasn’t an option. This made me grin even wider. I was being childish and loving every minute of it!
Challenge the Status Quo.
As adults we’re expected to behave in certain ways. Wear business casual in the office. Don’t skip down the sidewalk. Keep your lawn mowed. Boring! Your 4, 9, and 14-year old self is still within you. Don’t suppress them all the time. They like to play. And shit it feels good to let them out!
When I was a young kid, my mom would occasionally make dessert for breakfast. I don’t mean waffles with syrup, I’m talking full on chocolate cake and ice-cream. She called in a Mickey Mouse breakfast. And yeah, I occasionally still do it. And you better believe I call it a Mickey Mouse breakfast. Challenge the status quo. Age be damned!
If this is your first time reading this, you’ve got some assigned homework to do (just like back in grade school). Your homework is due tomorrow, but you’ll get extra credit if you do it today. Think about something you used to love doing as a child. Probe deep into your memory bank. We’re you a jump rope queen? Or a woodland explorer? Or maybe you were a playground enthusiast like me.
Rediscover that thing you used to love to do and let it free. No time limits. No goals. No bars held. (Unless we’re talking monkey bars, then bars held!) Get out and splash in some puddles and make a mess of your nice clothes.
Do your homework young man/lady! Get out and be childish.
I’m not condoning acting childish all the time. Making a mess of your finest suit just before an important job interview is not going to bring you much happiness. And it’s is not an excuse for damaging property or stealing a cop car. But embracing some childish behavior here and there does the soul good.
Do a cartwheel, climb something, or draw a penis on a random page in your notebook. If it’s harmless, childish, and makes you feel like a kid. Do it!
10 Ways to Act Like a Kid by Bethany Kandel