Early Writings of Evan Bailyn

Why Is Childhood Important?

Posted by on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 with 0 comments

“Our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” We know nothing of what happened before our birth, and we certainly know nothing of what will happen after we die. Movies, slide shows, and accounts of what life was like in other times are all fascinating to contemplate, but we cannot ever truly know what it is like to exist outside of our lifespan. The only period of time over which we have any influence is our own, and that is why life should be enjoyed as heartily as possible.

Most people, in some form or another, can appreciate the transience of life. That is why expressions like “you only live once” exist. However, many of the same people that maintain a free-spirited philosophy when they are young consent to adult civility when they are older as if it were a necessary next stage of life. “When we were kids, we had some crazy times” says the retired party person, now forty and unenthusiastic about his career and life.

There are two related mistakes in this type of thinking. The first is not understanding what living in the present means, and the second is accepting that it has to end.

Living in the present means appreciating your life. It is often strictly interpreted as simply “having fun.” Yet fun is only one aspect of appreciating life; things like enjoying books, building friendships, and falling in love – though not strictly classified as “fun” – are still wonderful ways to appreciate life. There are countless other activities that would gladden the nostalgic adult reflecting on his younger years.

Of all of the ways people enjoy their lives, none are looked back on as fondly as those that took place before the age of eleven or twelve years old. This is because before that age, the veil of security that protects children, otherwise known as the “innocence of childhood,” still existed. These early, protected years of childhood are, to me, the most beautiful in all of life. Uncomplicated by thoughts of death, sex, and malice, young children experience the pure highs and lows of human emotion without the depth of understanding that makes being an adult so scary. The high-pitched squeals of laughter emitted by young children are inimitable; adults simply know too much to be that ecstatic. Even the fears of childhood are more tolerable than grown-up fears, for they can be calmed by a parental embrace, and at the very least they are recognized and reacted to. Adults do not wail and cry when they are afraid – and as a result, their fears sometimes do not heal.

The innocence of childhood gives rise to experiences that surpass all others in their emotional power. Even the teenage years, because they are so filled with insecurity, allow for a great range of feeling. But around the age of twenty-one or twenty-two, when most of the uncertainty of adolescence has been dispelled, people start to settle into an adult routine as well as an adult range of feeling. Childhood glee is replaced by merriment measured in glasses of liquor, and sobbing is replaced by “holding it in.”

The reason usually cited for this change is the start of a career. Once you enter the work world, adult conventions such as etiquette and professionalism become the social norm, and life becomes a lot more stable and a lot less joyful. There are, of course, plenty of happy moments among this prosaic fog, but they become the exception rather than the rule. When you’re a child, you are excited about life by default – you only calm down when you are forced to sit still, or eat your peas, or listen to the teacher. When you are an adult, you are “just fine” by default, and must plan outings and other instances of excitement.

Childhood is the source of our ability to imagine, our hope, and our greatest thrills. It is imperative for us to retain it, and if we cannot, we should at least capture it in memory and re-animate it for ourselves and others. Those that resign to a tranquil adult existence give up their greatest means of appreciating life.

We are all playing between two voids – the one we came from, and the one we will meet. It is impossible to know whether or not we matter in the larger picture. The only way to add meaning to our lives is to have children, and to instill them with the same specialness that we felt when we were young. The hope is that they will do the same for their kids, and their kids will do the same for their kids, and on and on. But we never know what will happen. In a sense, the best we can do is put our message into a bottle and throw it into the ocean, dreaming that it will get picked up and affect many others. In the meantime, we should live life slowly, and revel in the magic that we already have.

Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults. 

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