Being “As Happy As A Child” Is Overrated

I love long walks in the park. And the city I’m currently living in, Valencia, has a huge park, in the riverbed of the Turia river – which was diverted a few decades ago. End to end, it’s about 7-8 kilometers long, and, in some places, as wide as 2 real size soccer fields.

Every once in a while, I see the normal family with small kids, and, almost always, one of the kids is crying. Or throwing a tantrum, or yelling, or whatever. And every time, one of the parents is around, negotiating somehow with the kid. The wave of unstoppable emotion is gently managed, always with calm and understanding, by an attentive and supportive parent. These kind of situations are contained inside the family circle, and I’ve never seen any one escalating. If anything, the kid keeps crying for a few hundreds meters and then stops.

As I was passing by one of these families, the other day, I remembered the saying “as happy as a child”. This seems to be very popular these days. The return to innocence, you know. The feeling of freedom and endless possibilities that we were supposed to experience as kids.

But the image of those small devils crying and yelling and throwing tantrums was quite different from the idyllic “childhood happiness”. So, how come we are so attached to this childhood happiness? Why are we idealizing it?

As I was paying more and more attention to all these situations, I realized that a child is able to express his feelings freely because he is in a safe space. Should the kid be alone in the world, the outside environment will react back immediately and there won’t be any tantrum anymore. The world will kick in and the kid will be thrown away, outside of the circle of normal people, faster than he could yell “ouch”.

In fact, this happens every time adults are actually acting like kids. Should a grown man start throwing real tantrums, he will be immediately kicked away of a building by security, or taken by the police, or whatever. If his tantrum is harmless, he will be given the eye, and avoided by anyone form his circle.

So much of what we perceive as being free, happy as a child, is in fact based on this second layer of safety around us.

We cannot be, at the same time, happy as a child, and responsible adults, these are contradicting approaches.

Excessive focus towards our own needs, or the search of a total and complete happiness, is, in fact, irresponsible. Just like a kid doesn’t care about anything outside of his own world.

Being “happy as child” is a chimera, not only impossible, but also toxic. Every time we are indeed able to express our needs in an uncensored, careless way, there is always a second layer around us that somehow mitigates this. It’s not like we are supposed to always act like this, reckless and “free”. There is always someone else paying te bill.

True happiness always takes others into account. There is no way in which “I” am happy without anyone else around me being happy. If I do experience this kind of happiness, I’m in fact a kid in the park, tutored and cushioned by someone else.

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