Monday, July 11, 2011

Little Adults - the Little Kid edition

This one time, on Facebook [catch the reference? lol], a friend of mine said something about thinking people should have grown out of certain behaviours by our age. And why were they being so childish?

Let's leave out the implications of the word "childish". Hopefully, I'll deal with that in another post. My response to her question was this:

Children are just little adults.

From an early age, there are things that children grasp as well as (sometimes better than) adults. That certain age is usually earlier than we realise.

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(Disclaimer: I've seen these all over the web with different names, but the same ages. I assume they were taken from a real study, but the names were changed.)

Kids on love:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
Rebecca- age 8

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
Bobby – age 7

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6

Ask an adult to define love. They can't. But each one of the definitions above is true. Why are kids better at defining love than adults are? I think it's because life isn't about the big picture so much for them.Love is many things. Faced with the prospect of defining it, an adult wants to include all of them. For kids, life is about little, tangible things.

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So where does a child fall short? Why don't we let little kids run their own lives? Limited knowledge.

My 4-year-old son was up in a tree in our backyard one summer afternoon. From his vantage point, he could see over the fence and onto the road that ran beside our home. After a few minutes, I heard the jingle of the ice cream truck making his rounds for the first time that summer. I braced myself for my son to come running in for some change, but what he came running in for sent me to the floor with laughter. "Mom, mom!" he screamed. "It's the sing-along mail guy!" It then occurred to me that he had no recollection of ever seeing an ice cream truck before, but he was very familiar with the comparable little white mail truck! --Rebecca Cleary, Kingsland, GA

Faced with something new, we compare it to what we already know. As a child what we already know isn't that much, so our comparisons have large tendency to result in hilarity.

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Several years ago, I returned home from a trip just when a storm hit, with crashing thunder and severe lightning. As I came into my bedroom about 2 a.m., I found my two children in bed with my wife, apparently scared by the loud storm. I resigned myself to sleep in the guest bedroom that night. The next day, I talked to the children, and explained that it was O.K. to sleep with Mom when the storm was bad, but when I was expected home, please don't sleep with Mom that night. They said OK. After my next trip several weeks later, my wife and the children picked me up in the terminal at the appointed time. Since the plane was late, everyone had come into the terminal to wait for my plane's arrival, along with hundreds of other folks waiting for their arriving passengers. As I entered the waiting area, my son saw me, and came running shouting, " Hi, Dad! I've got some good news!" As I waved back, I said loudly, "What's the good news?" My son shouted very excitedly, "Nobody slept with Mommy while you were away this time!"

Another thing that seperates a child's understanding from an adults is shades of grey. Things like nuance and connotation don't feature. It's a denotative life. Words mean what they mean, and only what they mean.

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When I was six months pregnant with my third child, my three year old came into the room when I was just getting ready to get into the shower. She said, "Mommy, you are getting fat!" I replied, "Yes, honey, remember Mommy has a baby growing in her tummy." "I know," she replied, but what's growing in your butt?"

Suffering at the hands of honesty, is tact. Eventually, we learn to phrase some things in ways that minimise damage, avoid saying other things, and outright lie about the rest. It makes for less conflict in the world. But at the end of the day, you kind of have to wonder if a child's opinion is worth more than an adults. Limited though it may be, it's the absolute truth.

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Adults often feel the need to explain things to children or not tell them for fear that they don't understand. I am not implicating that a child will understand every single thing you say, but I still believe they're further along than we give them credit for.

Have faith. Give them a chance to work through it on their own. Help them if they need it. But they are capable. After all, they probably learn more in their first ten years than they will in all of their life. They learn- and pretty much master- their first language(s). They learn the underlying mathematical concepts that they will use for computation as long as they live. They learn the basics of family and society: how to love and be loved, what's appropriate where and when, the basics of problem-solving.

If they can understand all that, then surely they can understand that little thing you're tempted to explain. After all, they are little adults.

It's Monday, that's what's on my mind.


Clarissa Draper said...

Great stories! I love the bit about love. I think children learn early what love is from their parents but as we grow, we add experience in our lives that confuse the issue as to what love really is. Perhaps too, children have a shorter memory. Adult can't let go of anger and hate as easily and will miss the bits of love thrown in their lives. Love the post.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kids are certainly honest. And I think they see things better than adults sometimes because of their simplicity.

Sophia Richardson said...

I love your thoughts about how children vs. adults define love. I also love the examples given. And I'm thinking I'm flagrantly undermining the strength of the word by using it so casually. Meta.

Marsha Sigman said...

This was awesome! I knew about the love quotes but the others were great too.

You'll like this:
Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and preceded to the checkout counter.

The man at the counter asked the older boy, "Son, how old are you?"
"Eight," the boy replied.
The man continued, "do you know what these are used for?"
The boy replied, "not exactly, but they aren't for me. They're for him. He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike. Right now, he can't do either."

Happy Monday!

Sana Castellano said...

I <3 the love definitions.

wannabecreative said...

I loved this post, especially your thoughts on tact suffering at the hand of honesty. My daughter who is now 11 with "all-seeing eyes" was so unabashedly honest and pointed in her comments for so long, there were days when I wished she wouldn't speak.
Perhaps I did her a disfavor by repeatedly telling her to "think before you speak", but the jabs to my heart have decreased slowly and for that I am thankful.

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