What children teach me at school

Recently, upon entering our school, I heard one of our kids’ groups singing the nursery song “If you’re happy and you know it”. Probably, most of you know this song but I found a very cute version on YouTube in case you don’t (and it’s worth watching anyway, the kids are so cute!).

The first line goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and when I saw and heard all children enthusiastically clapping their hands, it hit me: If you asked a group of adults that those who were happy clap their hands – do you think everybody would clap? Anybody? I believe, only a minority would clap their hands, because not many claim to be hands-clappingly, feet-stompingly happy. (It would probably be different if you asked those who want a new car or new shoes to clap – I certainly would join in!)

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors. (Photo credit: Lighttruth)

However, when I was watching the children with their bright smiles, I could tell they were really, really happy, because they were just living in that very moment. Yes, children too have their worries, and as small as they might seem to us grown-ups, they can be pretty haunting for a child. Nevertheless, when they get the opportunity to sing and dance and draw and play, they forget everything around them and are just happy. It is a shame that we forget how to do that!

Here in Mexico, most families don’t live a luxury life. From an early age on, many need to support their families in that they sell newspapers or bag groceries. You would think that therefore, European or US kids would be a lot happier but I doubt it. In our highly developed world, there is a lot of pressure, both on children and on their parents. Children attend special schools to learn a second language from an early age on, toys have to be educational, and at school they learn to be strongly competitive – everything in order to succeed later in life. Of course, we all have the best of intentions, all parents just want what’s best for their children. But whatever we do, we think about the future before we think about the present, and somewhere along the line, the carefree gaiety gets lost.

Most Mexicans (at least that’s what I experienced in Yucatan) don’t worry much about the future. They hardly think further than from morning till night. Maybe that’s their secret, because they never stop giggling and laughing, and very often it seems to me that they are much happier than we are in our spoilt lives.

To them, family is everything. Whenever they get a day off, they all get together, they pack their baskets, go to the beach, play some ball games (many get drunk, that might be the downside) and just have a good time. And they know that when something bad happens, the family will stick up for them. I for myself haven’t seen my family in a looong time, and experience taught me that in bad times, there are only very few in my family whom I can rely on. Everybody is just so busy shaping their lives to perfection without ever getting there. It seems to me that the better people are off, the more absorbed in their lives and the more isolated they become.

if you're happy and you know it

if you’re happy and you know it (Photo credit: l e o j)

If I had to name one thing that I learned here, it would be to really seize the moment. I don’t mean that we should stop paying into our retirement funds or do whatever comes to our mind no matter the consequences but I wish that sometimes, I could also become so absorbed by the moment that nothing else matters. As my wise friend Miss N. put it, we all have to find that inner child to be happy.

On a totally different note: Did I just give you a catchy song? For I for sure have one!

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