Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching three pre-schoolers happily interacting on the train. Two were brother and sister with a woman I assume to be their mother. The other child, a girl, was with a man who seemed to be her father. These children met for the first time on the train but were instantly friends. It made me wonder why it is so easy to make friends at that age but much more difficult when you are older.
At the pre-school age children have little or no concern about social standing, money or other things that can be barriers to friendship. Cultural differences are not an issue. Saying this reminds me of an anecdote I once heard. Two young boys lived next door to each other in London and often played together. They were great mates and were pleased to be starting school on the same day.
At the end of the first day one of the boys was very upset when his mother picked him up from school. She asked him where his neighbour was because the arrangement had been she would bring both children home. Her son turned to her and muttered, ‘Why didn’t you tell me he was black?’ Until that time the young boy had not been aware of the colour of his friend’s skin and it wasn’t an issue for them.
Another thing I noticed about these children on the train was how they entertained themselves. They had no toys or gadgets but kept themselves amused with simple games of peek a boo and pulling faces at each other. There was a lot of giggling. At one stage they started to quietly sing, ‘The wheels on the bus..’ They were quite confident and did not worry about remembering all the words or singing in tune, things which stop me from singing in company.
They took delight in everything around them. When another train went past they got excited and talked about how fast it was going. How lovely to be at an age where so many simple things are exciting and fun.
Watching these children made me wonder if we have to lose all that wonder and excitement about things as basic as catching the train and making new friends. Is it inevitable that as we grow up we become bored with things we have done before? Does making friends have to be more difficult as we mature?
Do we make things more complicated than they have to be? Did we have some of the answers many years ago? We, as adults, think we have to teach children all about life, but perhaps there are some things we can learn (again) from the very young.