This applies to kids in general, but I’m thinking specifically of the ones that I spend the majority of the work week with at the children’s home. My lovely 28 children, the whole messy lot of them, ages 2-17.
10. Volume. I am not a quiet person. I appreciate that it is not only acceptable but actually a language children understand that if they are actually being too loud (in the wrong situation), I can just yell back at them to illustrate that I am in fact, just one foot away and do not need to holler quite so much in order to be heard. This almost always earns some giggles. Also singing should not be quiet, it should be loud and with heart. Loudness means feeling. Whether it’s happy feelings or the rotten ones. I am reminded of the value of expressing things to their full potential either way without fear.
9. Chaos. Finger painting. Mud pies. Mulch cakes. Holes to China. Every kid following the one kid around following their orders because they have no idea how to play this game. All of these things are a testament to the fact that children are living in the moment. They don’t give two hoots about taxes, inflation, whether the oil needs to be changed, or the floor swept. We can all take a lesson from this.
8. Urgency. Just like how when they are enjoying something they couldn’t care less about the things that aren’t involved in that fun thing, they are fiercely urgent about the stuff they do care about that isn’t happening. They’re thirsty, right now. They need to help you carry that thing this second. No, their hug cannot wait until you put all those precariously balanced things down. It must happen immediately. The things that are important – just are. They cannot wait, be postponed, or talked down from their status as necessary. Priorities are not easily changed as a kid – thus making sure they have the right ones is so equally important and seeing the right priorities is so much more rewarding.
7. Status. Because I am the only person that can reach the paint you want to use. I wipe your butt without smearing your poop all over your lower back and that white shirt your silly caregiver dressed you in. I can pour your cup of water without forming a new minor ocean on the floor. I can tie your shoe and it stays tied. I can cut up the meat on your plate without even using a knife. I know numbers past 20. I know more words that you can’t pronounce than words you could even make up. I bandage my own booboos. Basically I am the coolest thing your 4 year old self could even imagine.
6. Company. You are never alone when there are little people around. They are outside the bathroom door, under foot when navigating through racing cars, speedy trikes, and piling up around you 4 thick during reading time asking for help pronounce a new word. I never want for a snuggle, a hug, a new hairdo, a workout, a checkup from the doctor who uses table saws and hammers, a playdough pizza where the main ingredient is poop, a piece of artwork for my fridge, a fake phone call on my actual cell phone, a chance to read a book, a chance to sing to an attentive audience, the chance to be in a play, to have my own cooking show, or do any other possible thing, because they are there. And knowing that I will be there is part of what makes their life so able to be loud, chaotic, and important. They know they’re taken care of. Finally.
5. Adventure. Our lives are a hyperbole that we can’t see anymore with our old eyes. It’s so easy to get annoyed by a kid playing with all the buttons in the car, until you realize that they are still young enough that everything they see is the most beautiful, amazing, fascinating thing. Everything is cooler than we are willing to admit as boring adults. With the kids, the botanical garden at the local university is the jungle, a swimming pool may as well be the entire Atlantic, a 5×5 garden is a farm, making pickles pretty much means you’re on the road to a James Beard award, going 30 in a 20 means we’re in a rocket ship instead of a car, and eating wild grape leaves pretty much means you are a cave man and also the smartest person ever to eat something off a plant that you picked by yourself and not die! I get to put away my old eyes for much of my day and practice appreciating how cool the world still is.
4. Forgiveness. I work with children who have some of the worst families I have ever heard of or could imagine. And yet, if you do something wrong, get too upset, stick their precious painting accidentally on top of someone else’s wet painting thus rendering them both essentially a cake of paint with some paper on each side, a good hug seems to fix it all. Le’ts not even talk about if you quite literally have ruined that child’s life, been the reason for them being ripped from their home (and many times they’re well aware of that and some of them not even in denial of who’s fault it was), they are still just as quick, and heartbreakingly, sometimes quicker to forgive such atrocities. So really we need to get over all of our stupid small grudges, because as one guy is good to remind those around him, “We’re all a people,” and so we all have feelings and do things wrong.
3. Music. Like They Might Be Giants, because everyone loves a good round of Particle Man after naptime. Queen, because nothing says awesome like max volume voices in a car on the way to VPK singing “Flash” and “Another One Wipes the Dust” (didn’t you know that is about cleaning, she explained to me once). Dean Martin, because “That’s Amoway” will always be our stand on my shoes and dance song. The Beatles, because “Hello, Goodbye” teaches everyone that really all greetings should be lead-ins to a practically full-on musical. & Thurston Harris, because “Little Bitty Pretty One” will always be a line of children, dripping with watermelon soaked chins, the one child finally cheerfully assuring all the others that they can “share” this song and it doesn’t just belong to the him, the one so adamant for so long that it was his song, a fact he was willing to defend with a closed fist.
2. Progress. Watching them not just learn and grow academically, but on an intellectual level that translates to enjoying learning as a life experience, not just a school experience. To watch a child throw full on tantrums about reading and within a matter of months have made so much academic progress as to not be held back a grade, but also to be discussing reading the whole Narnia series as a 1st grader who could barely read Hop on Pop a few months prior without having a breakdown. Along this line, it was just as rewarding to have successfully taught a child with severe non-verbal Autism and Down’s Syndrome how to high five. He wasn’t fully potty trained and couldn’t talk at 6 years, but he could high five me at the right times and it may have made me cry I was so happy.
1. Farts. It’s both totally unacceptable and also the most utterly hilariously acceptable thing ever if you fart in front of them. In any situation. No matter how formal or composed it is supposed to be. Also, sometimes blaming your fart on the group of kids in general, only to find that someone will totally claim it as their own. Which begs the question – who really ripped one?