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5 Basic Life Skills We Forget After Kindergarten

Life seemed so simple back in kindergarten, when your only responsibilities were tying your own shoes and brushing your teeth. Teachers, parents and other adults taught us everything we needed to know to succeed in the world—or at least survive a day on the playground. But lately I've noticed that many adults don't have some of the basic life skills we learned in kindergarten. It seems like we need a refresher course in being 5.

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1. Sharing

I'm the first to admit that learning to share is not an easy task. Being the oldest child meant that I was expected to share and set a good example. Share my mom? My toys? Not easy at all. Spend time in a kindergarten classroom and you'll see lots of sharing. Crayons, pencils, floor space, elbow room, snacks and even playground balls are all shared with a minimum of complaints. But many adults seem to have completely lost the ability to share, whether it's butt space on the subway or the crowded office refrigerator in the lunchroom. A co-worker shared her microwave popcorn with me last week, so I'm still holding out hope on this one.

2. Playing

When you're 5, playing is totally your gig­­—and you rock it. Watch a group of 5-year-olds play and you'll remember how it felt. Catching bugs, digging a hole to China, putting on a play for the neighbors or just a good game of tag brings a joy to the younger crowd we often can't replicate as adults. Somewhere between the games of neighborhood hide-and-seek and nights spent sliding down the grassy golf course hills on a giant piece of cardboard I have forgotten how to play. Riding my bicycle isn't a fun way to get to a friend's house, it's exercise. An afternoon spent in the backyard means pulling weeds, not a game of badminton or tossing a Frisbee. Everything I do needs a purpose, a reason. I have friends who still play, so I know there's hope for this, too.

3. Taking Turns

The worst example I see on a daily basis of adults not taking turns? The carpool drop-off.

This skill is the twin sister to sharing, and it's no easier to learn. 5-year-olds take turns with everything from toys to using the water fountain. They expect to take turns, even if they aren't totally on board with the idea. The worst example I see on a daily basis of adults not taking turns? The carpool drop-off at the high school. We all need to get our kids to school on time, and taking turns turning into the drop-off circle would make the whole process run smoothly, maybe even get the perpetually tardy kids to class on time. But somewhere along the way, these frazzled and tired parents lost the ability to take turns. And don't even get me started on the grocery store lines around 5:45 p.m. on a weeknight. Lately if I'm not rushed (too rushed) I've been letting someone with fewer items go ahead of me in line. Sure, it costs me five minutes, but the results are amazing. I might be winning this one.

4. Smiling

Walk the kindergarten playground and you'll see way more smiles than frowns. Smile at a little kid? He's likely to smile back, maybe even giggle a bit. Smile at the person standing next to you at the post office and you may as well be smiling at a wall. People have forgotten how many words can be squeezed into one simple smile—hello, you seem nice, we both have the same handbag, your kids are cute. Look up from your phone, search the faces of strangers and smile at them. In a strange twist I've found that the more you smile, the more you want to smile. 5-year-olds are on to something with this.

5. Being Honest

Ever heard the cold, hard truth from a 5-year-old? They can be brutal, but they come by it naturally. Most kids at this age just tell it like it is, no fluff added. After years of little white lies, ignoring classroom volunteer sign-up sheets and pretending you don't hear the PTA president asking for donations, many of us have lost the ability to just be honest. I've seen people flat out lie about things when it wasn't really necessary in the first place. Don't want to volunteer? Just say you can't make it. You don't need to invent an out-of-town trip or last minute toenail surgery. They don't say it's the best policy for nothing.

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I won't change the world, but I'm channeling my inner 5-year-old this spring to bring more laughs and smiles to my days. Now excuse me while I go eat a Popsicle and find shapes in the clouds.

Image via Twenty20/ehusband

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