I'll probably be the last person to ever admit to enjoy spending time with kids. Kids are scary - they tend to cry and crap themselves at unexpected times, are constantly bouncing up and down with limitless energy, and have no concept of safety or societal norms. My experience with kids is limited to the one time I held my sister's three month old daughter, during which she decided to burst into tears. I handed her back to her, the tears stopped and she was laughing again.
Taking all that into account, I would be the last person you'd imagine to volunteer at Addenbrooke's Hospital's A&E room as a child play specialist. What this involves is spending two hours a week playing and entertaining kids in the A&E department as they wait to be seen by someone. I didn't want to do it; I don't like kids, and A&E at night is often an unhappy place filled of grumpy patients and even grumpier doctors. But I signed up anyways. Partly because I wanted to see to what extent I'll actually hate it. Partly because I have a paediatric clinical exam coming up, and possessing the inability to be around kids is something I should try and tackle.
So I threw out all preconceived notions of these tiny people, sat down, and spent two hours with them. We did drawings and arts and crafts. We watched Toy Story in German because I didn't know how to work the DVD player menu. I listened to jokes and stories from kids twelve and under as they laughed at my bad drawings.
What did I learn?
Kids live in a different world. It's a world where anything is possible and nothing is off limits. I spent half an hour listen to a seven year old boy telling me about a chocolate factory that doubled as a farm that had a chocolate snowman on the porch, even though right above it he coloured in a very warm-looking Sun. He jumped from one detail to another, and while it lacked logic and sense he made up for it in wonder and excitement. To them, the limit of their world is their imagination. For us 'grown-ups', the limit of our world is material things like money, time, or possessing the required energy to be bothered about something at all. We live in a world where A leads to B, which leads to C and then hopefully D. It's logical. But it's so boring.
Children have boundless creativity, but somewhere along the path from childhood to adulthood it disappears. Do we lose it, or does society tell us to hide it? Is it because chocolate snowmen don't make money? Is that silliness is frowned upon, because time not working is time wasted? Looking at this toddler, who was already busy grabbing another piece of paper to begin his next new fantasy, I almost wanted to tell him, "Enjoy all this while you still can. Because once you grow up, you'll be signing things instead of drawing; planning instead of fantasizing; stressing instead of living."
Over those two hours, I was allowed to be silly, to escape from the adult world and into the world of this toddler. Even though it was brief, it was very much needed. Kids aren't that scary, it turns out. You just need to be brave enough to think silly, to not make sense at all, and to have the courage to put a chocolate snowman on your porch in the middle of summer.