In defence of childish things

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things

I’ve always hated that phrase.  It’s one that gets deployed with glib glee when confronted with something that doesn’t meet with approval.  It’s judgement masked as paternalistic wisdom rather than anything meaningful.

It’s one of the manifestations of the expectation that upon becoming a parent you should box up all the things that bring you joy.  It’s the children’s turn to play and there is no room for you in that equation.  Go read a newspaper and mutter at the state of the world instead.

I should explain more about why it’s nonsense.

Hypocrisy

When we get admonished for our childish things it generally says more about the person judging than us.  What is considered childish is hugely subjective and can usually be defined as a thing I don’t like or understand.  It’s hard to take criticism of a hobby being childish from a grown adult that plays with model railways for example.  If you share that interest in model railways than of course it is not childish it is a mark of a potential kindred spirit and playmate to swap stories and experiences.

I’ve been guilty of it myself.  I don’t get sports.

sports

The fanatical support of a sports team baffled me so I laughed along at the archaeology gag.  It was through a response to that gag I found a brilliant comic that explained it in terms that meant something to me and showed me that I was being unfair (pretty much in the way I described above!).

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From The Toast

Identity

The ‘childish things’ argument is often used as part of a wider assault on parental identity.  On the face of it it’s not an unreasonable argument.  You now have responsibility for a tiny human and that has to take priority over fun and games.

It doesn’t automatically follow that as parents we have to completely abandon all the hobbies and interests that form part of who we are.

What we read, play, and experience out of choice tells us a lot about what motivates and interests us.  It may be a desire to learn more about the world, it may something that provides calm, catharsis or inspiration or it may be something that allows us to express our creativity.

One of the best ways to beat the hateful blandness of small talk staple of ‘what do you do’.is to ask people about what interests them.  Even if that may not interest you immediately it’s the finding out what it is about that topic that excites them that can be more interesting.

Fun as it is bonding over baby poo stories it’s better if we can find out a bit more about each other and the potential spark that makes for a deeper connection than having kids.  Dropping your interests risks that fragile opportunity.

Think of the children

No, really, think about your children and the stories they will tell of you.  If we pack up our interests then all our children will see is a small part of who we are.  They won’t see the childlike excitement in our eyes or want to share in those hobbies and experiences or explore and share their own interests and passions with us.

(Important word is ‘share’ otherwise there is the danger of being like this guy:

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or these guys:

 

‘Childlike’ shouldn’t be confused with ‘childish’. We’re familiar with the stereotype of apathetic teens (and may well have been one or *whatever*…) and how much fun they are to be around. Much of that is so desperately wanting to be seen as grown up and pointing out what a terrible world we live in.

The world can be a harsh and deeply unforgiving place but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all joys or pleasures. Childish hobbies and interests offer both parent and child alike the opportunity for escapism and the chance to dream of something better.

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The world can be hard but there is no sense in letting that restrict us. Art and culture would be dull if all it did was directly reflect reality.

Think of how much of what you love reading, watching and listening to is made up.

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Now imagine what your life would be like if the people responsible for creating that had listened to the advice that they should give up childish pursuits like making up silly stories or messing around with music.

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The whole childish things argument for anyone is counter-productive if the intention is that by abandoning them we are somehow better equipped to handle the stress and toil of real life be it parenting, work or just surviving.  If we put everything into only one area of our life we are less resilient to when things go wrong.

If childish things are all you have then there may well be problems but for the most of us we’re fully aware of the needs of others and the grinding treadmill of adult responsibilities and the endless scrutiny of parenting. It seems unnecessarily cruel to deny us a little corner of our own.

I started with a quote and so I will end with one from C.S Lewis:

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

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42 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent post! I absolutely agree, people do tend to confuse childish and childlike. I think the world in general would benefit if more of us embraced being childlike more often.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emily says:

    Fab post. I’m quite childlike at times, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nige says:

    Excellent post nothing wrong with a bit of childlike behaviour I’m definitely guilty of that thanks for linking to the #binkylinky

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nsalama1 says:

    Great post – I think it’s important to be childlike at times since it can help us enjoy life a bit more. Found your post at #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kat says:

    I play video games, sometimes I play them alone, sometimes with my child, so does my partner. All I see is that we’re doing things as a family together that we all enjoy and it’s especially great on rainy days! You’re so right, if people listened to those that said they were doing too many childish/childlike things then we wouldn’t have half as much fun in the world as we do! #MarvMondays

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A really great post. I completely agree with people often confusing childlike and childish. I think that as adults we need to stay in touch with our childlike ways as it can often help us find joy in the most challenging of situations. Here is to being more childlike and embracing it 🙂 #marvmondays

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yup, you nailed it there. I think we can get so unnecessarily serious and cynical. We all could do with capturing some more childlike awe and wonder at the world. Loving all the quotes too! #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky Pink says:

    Thank you this is a really lovely ad thought provoking post – I think everyone needs to have some ‘child like’ activities, they are so much fun! #bigpinklink

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Leanne says:

    Sometimes I wish I had a bit more time and energy to rediscover some things. I’ve been trying to look at those “childish” things through the eyes of my kiddos- it is really interesting to think about what I’d go back and discover again that I have set aside. Great thoughts! #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      It’s through my children that I’ve started to rediscover long dormant interests. Watching them marvel at the fun noises and sounds that come from a guitar has made me pick it up and play a bit more.

      Drawing is another one, I used to fill the kitchen with my doodles of super heroes and villains and then stopped shamed by being considered childish.

      Now I struggle to draw a dog when my kids ask!

      Like

  10. This is such an interesting an d thought provoking read. I have also never felt very comfortable with this poem you started with. My dad used to have a copy on the fridge at home. the thing I love most about being a parent is acting like a child with my kids. There is too much seriousness in the world!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Because its Biblical it takes on a particular weight that can be used in a self-righteous way e.g. “my hobbies are valid interests, your hobbies are childish and silly.”

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  11. ljdove23 says:

    I love this post, as I do all of them! I am most definitely child like but I see that as one of my better attributes and agree that child like is most definitely not the same as childish. I think that having children keeps you young, I love sitting with the kids and playing toys or watching Disney movies, my inner child loves those moments still! Thanks for sharing with #mg

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mrs Tubbs says:

    I’m not a theologian, but know enough to know that you need to read Bible verses in context. If you look at the whole passage – 1 Corinthians 13 – I’m not sure it’s telling you that you can no longer do the things that bring you joy, more that now you’re a grown up, you need to think and act in a grown up way. (ie Not childish). But there’s a load in the Bible about the importance of being child-like – the sense of curiosity and wonder etc.

    It’s interesting that you quote CS Lewis as, at the end of the Narnia books, Susan is lost as she’s so caught up with “being a grown up” that she’s forgotten Aslan and Nania. The Gaiman short story about Susan is really thought provoking and sad. Worth seeking out if you haven’t read it.

    Like

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for the comment. I understand the need for context with Bible passages. The people generally deploying it are doing it out of context to prove a point. As you point out doing so ignores the wider context of the passage and others in the Bible.

      Their version of grown up is one devoid of life and often used to justify the status quo and shut down anyone trying to change it often with comments like ‘6th form politics’ or the hugely annoying ‘I used to think like that but then I grew up’ as if caving into the status quo is something to be proud of. These same people often see change as futile and accept as ‘having always been done that way’ traditions that are only a few decades old (see the pink for girls nonsense that’s a relatively new phenomenon but is accepted as being true for all of time).

      Thanks for your detailed comment and the recommendation!

      Like

  13. Mrs Tubbs says:

    I’m not a theologian, but if you look at the whole passage – 1 Corinthians 13 – I’m not sure it’s telling you that you can no longer do the things that bring you joy, more that now you’re a grown up, you need to think and act in a grown up way. (ie Not childish). But there’s a load in the Bible about the importance of being child-like – the sense of curiosity and wonder etc. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, “A text without a context is a pretext” and this is one that gets pulled out regularly to justify all sorts of nonsense. (I have other favourite Bible texts that don’t mean what everyone tells you they do).

    It’s interesting that you quote CS Lewis as, at the end of the Narnia books, Susan is lost as she’s so caught up with “being a grown up” that she’s forgotten Aslan and Nania. The Gaiman short story about Susan is really thought provoking and sad. Worth seeking out if you haven’t read it.

    (Apologies if I post this twice!)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. oh a great though out post. So often we feel we have to conform to growing up but actually sometimes being childish brings out the bet in us and often fuels that mosts laughs – and laughing is so good for the soul. On holiday recently there was a sign by a pool which read that you had to be 21 to enter but that maturity was optional – my kind of pool! Obviously there constraints and so there should be a but some childish behaviour within limits isn’t too harmful #BigPinkLink

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Bread says:

    Great post – just because I’m about to be a mum does not stop me from being childish sometimes. And I think people confuse childishness and immaturity. I know it’s a problem I’ve had as an adult. #bigpinklink

    Liked by 1 person

  16. mumzilla says:

    I love CS Lewis, what a brilliant quote. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I grew up with a childlike Mom and while it was fun, I felt as though I had to be the responsible parent for our family (just my Mom and brother and I). Actually I guess she was more childish than childlike. I totally agree that we should never lose our childlike curiosity and passion, I just think there also needs to be a balance with being responsible. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassy!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. mackenzieglanville says:

    interesting post and some interesting comments here too. You always take me on a journey with your writing which to me shows you are a talented writer. In my life I think there is a balance, I feel I have to be grown up when I am responsible for making huge life decisions that will affect my children, yet I think I need to demonstrate my ‘childlike’ qualities to them too in order for them to really know me and know life as an adult is till fun! #mg

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for your comment and kind words!

      What’s interested me is a lot of the comments have picked up on the childish/childlike things point.

      What I wanted to get across was the importance of not feelings as though we have to drop all our childish interests in things like writing stories, creating art or the simple joy of a complicated thing and a screwdriver.

      There’s a sense that having interests as an adult is seen as childish or at best eccentric. Adults are expected to be passionate about customer service or value (rather than values) or HR or any number of abstract things. That’s great for work but it doesn’t lend itself to inspiring young minds.

      Even with more passive pursuits like a computer game there is huge potential for creativity and learning more adult things like industry, development, design, coding etc. When there is too much focus on the thing itself there is a loss of potential for translating that interest into a passion and then something more.

      Like

  19. This is brilliantly thought provoking, and excellently written!! I too have been interested by the comments, and how people have interpreted your words differently. I’m pretty sure I interpreted it as you meant it-that childlike is not being childish, and that there is too much emphasis on being ‘adult’ in this world, when retaining childlike activities and mannerisms can help us stay in touch with our children, and help to detract from the stresses an adult life can bring. I totally agree with that sentiment, and I loved the quote at the end, which totally hit the nail on the head! I love to make collages, and I love books like the Harry Potter series, where I can lose myself in a world essentially designed for children. I can’t wait to read these books with my children, and all get lost in this fantasy world. Being an adult isn’t always fun, and we all need to retain something childlike!! Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I think one of the greatest things having children can teach us is to re-embrace our childishness. To get back to the simple joys of things like chasing bubbles around the back yard on a summer day

    Liked by 1 person

  21. mumzilla says:

    Hello, I already commented for #KCACOLS I think but back again for #BloggersClubUK & still loving this post 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      It really is the post that keeps on giving. It’s been fascinating to see how people interpret it and their own experiences.

      I apologise for flooding the linkies!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. ourrachblog says:

    Very thought provoking #bestandworst

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I really enjoyed reading this. It’s so thought provoking and I agree with you – we need passions and hobbies and ideas to inspire children and help them discover their own loves. I really like the quote from Neil Gaiman about reading, I truly feel that reading can teach you a huge amount about yourself and life. I hope my son grows to love books, but whatever his favourite things and hobbies are I will encourage him, and I hope my partner and I are both always able to engage in childlike behaviours with him, as that’s such a special and fun way to interact with your child! #BloggerClubUK

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Madeline says:

    I love the quote about growing up being highly overrated! I think people who look down on others for not putting away childish things are just miserable and a bit jealous! Yes we all have to grow up to a certain extent, and be responsible adults, but why should we also stop having fun?! x #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post, my husband and I have always acted like big kids, I don’t think we will ever grow out of it now we are parents as well!

    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  26. helen gandy says:

    What an interesting and though provoking post, so well written and thought out, it’s given me food for thought for sure. Thanks for linking up #bestandworst

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I think we all need to embrace being childlike. but I also think that the word childish should not have negative connotations. Why is it always bad when you say someone is childish?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. The Pramshed says:

    This is a great post, and I agree with you there is nothing wrong with being child-like. If anything we should be more child-like so that our children grow-up in the way that we would like them. Sometimes I feel so guilty of being too adult, and not being child-like enough, often doing too much housework, or on my phone, or blogging, sometimes I need to forget about all the adult world, and be more child-like around my baby. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back next Sunday. Claire x

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Suburban Mum says:

    I think we all need to keep our inner child and let out fo fun sometimes. Being an adult can be too serious and we sometimes need to just chill out and be as carefree as children!

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday x

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Fab post. I can sometimes be quite childish when I’m around those that make me feel young. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Silly Mummy says:

    Great post. Completely agree – I always found this a strange quote. The CS Lewis one is so much more insightful. Personally, I have always aspired to not to lose all elements of childishness & childish likes, because I think children have a wonderful way of looking at the world, and if someone loses the ability to see that at all that is actually very sad for them. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Its so true. I think if we allowed ourselves to enjoy those things that we really enjoy, those things that were maybe considered more childlike, most of us would probably be living out and enjoying our passions each and every day 🙂 Lovely post. Thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays Emily

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I love both the Neil Gaiman quotes and the C.S. Lewis one, too. I absolutely agree with all of them. Reading is usually an escape from everyday life for me, like stepping into another world. This post really fits in well with the quote I used in my latest post from The Little Prince: “All grown ups were once children but only a few of them remember it.” The same kind of idea, remembering what it felt like to be a child and how to be childlike, enjoying the moment and doing things just for the fun of it. How can we play with our children if we can’t be childlike? I think that’s something really important. I loved reading this! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      I love The Little Prince! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  34. So true! I collect a lot of “childish”‘things, and yet my pre-schooler gets just as excited as me when a new thing arrives. I feel like it’s really important for him to know that growing up doesn’t mean that you stop loving the things you always have; you just appreciate them in a different way. And I will always think of my grandfather whenever I buy a new thing. He had a train set up in the loft that he played and tinkered with every day until he got sick with the illness that took him away from us. Thinking back on it now, I think it’s wonderful that he got to 80 years old and still wanted to play :). #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

    You make some really great points here. And I agree, parents should keep their hobbies & enjoy them & enjoy sharing them with their children too. Being child like or childish shouldn’t be a negative thing at all. Thanks so much for joining us at #bloggerclubuk x

    Liked by 1 person

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