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Lately I’ve been intrigued by the people I meet who seem to be less emotionally cluttered than the rest of us–the straight-talkers among us, those who can rise above the fray, the men and women who never appear to be in a hurry because they know nothing is really that important. Somehow, they just get it. But how do they do it? I wonder. How do they buffer themselves from the swirling chaos and grind of modern life in 2016? As I play armchair psychoanalyst to these people, I’ve noticed some similarities between the way in which they approach their lives and the way children approach life. I suppose we all enter this world emotionally uncluttered, and while we do need a certain amount of emotional sophistication beyond that of childhood in order to function in this society, I think we also absorb so much noise along the way–stress, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, boredom, short attention spans, jealousy, fear, exhaustion and so much more. If we looked to our children for the answers to unburdening ourselves of much of this emotional baggage, could we achieve the joy that is so evident on our children’s faces and so lacking among adults?

Every once in a while I get the itch to find a new hobby. I don’t know why I say “new” hobby. It’s not like I had an old hobby that I lost interest in. I’ve never much been one for hobbies unless you count reading, writing or travel, which I don’t because they don’t strike me as unique enough to qualify as a hobby and they’re also fairly solitary endeavors. My husband is quite well rounded. He plays guitar, poker, tennis, and a number of other things that require both talent and social interaction. So every now and then I get a little envious of his well roundedness and wonder if I should get a hobby and do something more productive with my down time besides Netflixing and reading novels and drinking wine. But then I realize I’m just not a joiner and I just sink deeper into my novel and think about maybe going for a swim later, alone, of course. Many years ago, when I was just out of a long-term relationship, my brother (who is a joiner and also very Type A) took it upon himself to assemble a lengthy list of potential hobbies for me to take up so I didn’t slip into a post-relationship funk. They included such things as becoming a regular at my neighborhood bar, learning about horse racing handicaps and going to the races, becoming a Big Sister to an at risk child, teaching someone how to read, and learning how to make Japanese food. “Just think how cool you’ll sound when someone asks you what you do in your down time and you can say, ‘I bet the ponies, teach kids how to read and make a mean spicy tuna roll!'” he encouraged. But I was not a joiner.

Recently, I wondered if kids ever thought to themselves, “I should really get a hobby. I just don’t have enough to do with my free time.” Of course they don’t. Kids are never lacking with ideas for how to occupy their free time. Whether they’re doodling with crayons, playing dress-up, play acting, building things out of sticks they found in the yard or pretending to grocery shop by pulling canned goods out of your pantry, they are busy doing. They are not thinking about doing. They are not pondering the need to fill up their time with an organized activity. It is only in adulthood, when jobs, commutes, daily grinds and exhaustion have withered our creative spirits do we need to look to a structured hobby to decompress. You really don’t have to join anything to relax, to learn, to stimulate your mind, to create. The opportunity to do so is all around us. And children know this.

My 3-year-old nephew is what you would call a one-upper, and an aggressive one at that. If you tell him you’re tired, he’ll say, “But I’m more tired.” If you say it’s your birthday, it’s his birthday too. This is funny to us but a little terrifying to strangers.  A couple of weeks ago, we were at the park and a boy of about 12 was walking a small puppy near us. The kids stopped to pet the puppy and we asked the boy the puppy’s name. He told us his name was Brownie. “No. It’s Doobidor!” my nephew asserted. “Your dog’s name is Doobidor.” The boy looked confused, then a little scared, then he walked away. My nephew yelled after him, “Your dog’s name is Doobidor, not Brownie! It’s Doobidor, man!” He was certain the dog’s name was Doobidor and the boy had named him incorrectly, and he wasn’t backing down. I had to admire my nephew in that moment. He was misguided, for sure. But he was so sure of himself that he stuck to his guns and didn’t back down. Yes, one could argue an insane person would have done the same thing, but I chose to be inspired by him. The world hasn’t yet taught the nephew to apologize for his opinion, to phrase his statements with an invisible question mark at the end so they don’t inadvertently offend anyone. He believed it and he said it. The moment was so impactful that, since then, in our home, when we have said something with certainty, we end it with, “It’s Doobidor, man,” as if to say, “I have spoken. This is how it is.”

Let’s look to the kids when we are overwhelmed. They know how to do one thing at a time.

Let’s look to the kids when we are stressed. They know how to be present. Tomorrow doesn’t concern them.

Let’s look to the kids when we are exhausted. They rest when their bodies need it.

Let’s look to the kids when we are afraid to speak our minds. They haven’t yet learned how to filter themselves. This can be a good thing.

Let’s look to the kids when we are bored. The world around us provides endless opportunity to learn, to create and to do.

Let’s look to the kids when we are angry. They are gentle souls who love with every inch of themselves. 

Let’s look to the kids. It’s Doobidor, man.