Maturity and making excuses

It’s a cliche to say that everything you need to know about life, you can learn in kindergarten. It might also be a registered trademark, but that’s not for me to say. The point is, there’s an element of truth to it, and it takes a certain maturity to admit it.

When you’re young, people introduce you to the basic rules of living a good life. Your parents and your teachers tell you how to behave and how to treat people. Then they keep an eye on you, and they tell you when you’re being bad instead of good.

As you get older, though, you come to recognize that real life isn’t that simple. Relationships are complicated, the real world will eat you alive, and so on. You still do your best, but when push comes to shove, you put those rules on the shelf.

That’s one way of looking at it, and I’m not saying it’s a bad way. But as you start teaching kids of your own these rules, you wonder how well you’re following them in your own life. And that’s when you realize that there’s another perspective.

Is adult life incompatible with the kindness and compassion that we teach our kids? Is growing up a process of discovering how naive it is to think we can treat each other that way? Or is it actually just a chain of excuses for not being as decent and good as we expect our kids to be?

Real life is more complicated than kindergarten. These aren’t questions with simple answers. But they’re still worth asking now and then, don’t you think?