On Acting Like a Kid

“Am I too old to be doing this?” entered my mind several times that night, but I didn’t betray my self-consciousness to my husband, as we criss-crossed across Disneyland, bouncing with childish delight from candy station to candy station, filling our bags with candy and our hearts with joy. We weren’t costumed, but at Disneyland’s Halloween party that didn’t matter. And it didn’t matter that we’re in our early 40s and weren’t accompanying a child. That night, it was okay to laugh, to let go of the boring minutia of our very adult lives, and to just act like a kid.

We had flown to San Diego on an ambitiously scheduled vacation that included visiting family, celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday, soaking up time with our 10-month-old nephew, spending two days at Disneyland, and making a personal appearance at the California-based adoption agency handling our adoption journey. It took grown-up planning, grown-up money, and grown-up know-how, but, as I flew back to my life in Washington, D.C., squished into my airplane row with my husband and mother-in-law, I was surprised to find myself pondering how much acting like a kid had been a part of my vacation.

We arrived in San Diego to find our infant nephew as cute, precocious, and beguiling as we left him six months earlier, if not more so. Everyone thinks their family’s baby is the sweetest, cutest, most precious thing on the planet, and I feel sorry for those folks, as clearly our family enjoys the best little baby in the world. Just like last visit, I feared at times that my husband would not let anyone else handle our nephew, magnetically drawn to hugging, cradling, and playfully jostling baby Bryce as he is.

It’s fun to watch normally straight-laced family members melt to puddles of yammering and blabber when faced with the pile of cuteness that is an infant. You see sides of loved ones you never knew existed, peeks behind our adult selves that we flash to all the world, at work, at home, online. If only for just a moment, the trivial seriousness of life is left behind as we revel in those bits of pure connection without pretense or duplicitousness.  I had arrived at my baby nephew’s home on the heels of two months of intense work and, unfortunately, a tad under the weather. But none of that mattered as I watched my husband smile and laugh and practically beam as he held our nephew. Just as wonderfully, launching my nephew into the air, carrying him around the room, and blabbering on like a 10-month-old myself was a fantastic antidote to all of the “important” work I had been undertaking.

A few days later, I found myself at Disneyland, trick-or-treat bag in hand, snaking around in candy lines behind 8-year-olds dressed as Pixar’s greatest hits, and, yet again, I was acting like a kid. Hoping for my favorite candy — Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — to fall into my bag. Proclaiming “trick-or-treat” with gusto. And running onto rides such as It’s a Small World, Thunder Mountain, and Peter Pan — the ultimate boy who refuses to grow up. Among the doubts of age-appropriateness were other thoughts: isn’t this fun? shouldn’t I feel this way more often? why is this place so darn magical?

The next day, I arrived with very sore (but happy) feet at the adoption agency. The walls were covered with pictures of babies and toddlers and children wearing smiles with various number of teeth, as proud parents held them or stood in the background. The best pictures, though,were those of parents in the mix with their kids, be it blowing bubbles, hula hooping, or wearing funny hats. In other words, acting like a kid. We met with the lead attorney and several of the social workers, and our discussion proceeded to be very adult with talk of adoption trends, rules, and practices. All very necessary, all very warm. But none of it as sweet or meaningful as the thoughts of blanket forts, cartoons, or special stuffed animals. Is it a cliche, romanticized version of childhood and parenthood, for that matter? Of course. But, then again, adults think about things like that.

It’s not profound or novel to suggest that we could all stand to be less serious, more goofy, more playful. And right-thinking folks always do well to recognize there is a time and place for everything. But it’s certainly interesting to ponder how most of us spend our lives being a kid or trying to act like a kid via our children or grandchildren. Could it be the universe’s way of reminding us that the meaning of life isn’t so serious or complicated? That, perhaps, the answer is right before our eyes…spraying a water gun, hosting a tea party on plastic cups, or snuggling up for a nap with a favored blanket? A serious adult might write a blog post on that subject. Someone acting like a kid would probably just go color in their favorite coloring book.

On our final full day of vacation, as we drove back to San Diego to rejoin our family, my husband asked, “At what point do you think we will be too old to trick-or-treat at Disneyland?” I smiled and confidently proclaimed, “We’re a long way from there.”

I hope I’m right.

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