Even though I’m a rebellious Catholic in that I do not have kids, and I do not plan to have kids at least until I graduate college, I actually generally like them. That makes sense when you consider I generally like adults. And that’s the thing, kids and adults aren’t really different entities!
I’m always thoughtful about how I talk to or treat little kids because I remember being one. I remember adults who talked to me like I was just another human being versus those who did talk to me like I was an outer space alien. I remember very early in my life having feelings that I could not articulate, because although I could feel, I could not yet communicate with words (or even think in words). I vividly remember this.
Even as an adult, I experience something similar. I don’t mean feeling things I can’t express, but I mean being talked to like I’m a puppy by someone who is older than I am. I generally respect people older than me, try to learn from them, and want to hear their stories and advice (unless it marriage advice from an old person who’s had three failed marriages already, or something like that). But even though I am happy to give that respect simply based on a person’s age, I am not as willing to accept disrespect, dismissiveness, or plain ole rudeness from a person just because he or she is older than I am. This is part of the reason I left the last volunteer gig I had going; the two elderly people in charge wouldn’t even hear me out on how to spin an egg — and that may sound strange, and it was, but it doesn’t matter.
Anyway, kids will surprise you. The expressions they pick up, the tones of voice, the young age by which they’ve already mastered sarcasm! I grant that I do not take much joy in my neighbors’ children randomly, loudly screaming, squealing, and/or screeching outside my window when I am practicing physics or watching TV, but it doesn’t make me mad. I sometimes wonder why they’re so loud. I sometimes wonder why their parents let them be SO LOUD. I sometimes think in a general way about the whole idea of “outside voices” and “inside voices.” But at the end of it all, even when a kid is being kind of annoying, I usually feel for them, and appreciate where they’re coming from. It’s not any easier being a kid than an adult; only the nature of the challenges themselves changes. Mostly, kids make me happy, because they have a way of finding happiness in a situation. I just find it kind of contagious.
I don’t have kids, but I do interact with them now and then. Everyone I’m close to pretty much has kids, and sometimes one will come talk to me when I’m shooting hoops. Just a little while ago, a little girl came to my door hustling cookies for a school fundraiser (and yes, I shelled out $17 for a giant box of cookies I’m going to have to take to school to get rid of). It was funny. Little kids aren’t usually the most organized of humans…
But what I found most joyful was the little girl’s sales tactic–because she didn’t have one. She came up to the door and asked if I’d like some cookies.
“Are they Girl Scout cookies?”
“No, they’re for a fundraiser.”
“Well, do you have a picture or something to show me what kind of cookies you have?”
The girl hands me her brochure, which has notes on the front of it, “Please ignore my notes.”
“Three pounds is a ton of cookies! Do you have smaller ones?” I asked, and she hesitated.
“Well, if you’re not sure. Could you come back tomorrow?” I then asked, and she hesitated again.
“… It’s due October 1st,” she looked at the notes on her little brochure, pointing out, “and these are the addresses I need to visit still.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll get just one box. I’ll have to share with other people.”
I asked the little girl some other questions as I wrote my check and all. I asked her the best cookies (since I really don’t intend to eat many of them), what the fundraiser was for, and so on.
“So when will my cookies get here?” I asked.
“Well, the order is due October first, so it’ll be in October. It takes a long time because that’s a LOT of cookies.”
“No kidding! I’m going to have to take just this one box I’m getting to school with me!”
She looked surprised, and asked, “You go to school?”
“Yeah, I go to college.”
She looked surprised still, so I added, “Why? Do I look too old?”
“No, you look too young.”
She dropped my check, and I told her she should be careful with it, to which she replied, “I have to wait ’til the people go in to put the money away.”
That made me laugh a little, so I told her I’d leave her to it then, and to have a good day.
I just found the whole thing funny in a happy sort of way, because kids aren’t sleazy about selling stuff, you know? They don’t have tactics (at least until some adult teaches them some). They just know they have something to “sell,” and they have to ask people to buy it. I’m sure some kids find it awkward, but it seems like a lot of them just take the whole task pretty matter-of-factly. I wish I could remember how I felt about it when I was a little kid selling Girl Scout cookies… although I never did do it door-to-door.
Anyway, the other day I was at the dentist’s office, and overheard another little kid with a fundraiser. He was talking to his mom, and he said, “I don’t know how to do it.”
“Oh. I’ll show you later.”
I won’t write out the whole conversation, but the best part was when the mom was looking at the fundraiser catalog of things for sale (because the boy had another catalog of rewards for selling lots of stuff). The boy asked with a decidedly adult tone of voice, “You’re actually going to buy something from in there?” The mom noticed the tone of voice just like I did, and said, “Yeah, why not?” The boy said he didn’t think she’d like the stuff, and Mom said, “Sure I like some of it. Don’t you?”
It’s so interesting to see things like fundraisers from the perspective of an adult/buyer, not a kid/seller. It’s so weird and interesting.
I don’t know that I have a real point, but I guess I just derive joy from these sorts of things. I take Jesus pretty seriously when he says that we should have faith like children. I know they can be little bastards just like anyone else, and they have their bad moods, temper tantrums, etc. Sometimes they’re messy. Parents are always cleaning vomit or poop or snot, and most of the ones I know are always catching colds too. I know, I’m not trying to idealize the whole thing. But I do think children tend to have much less guile than adults, and we tall people have much to learn from them.
Be honest. Laugh heartily. Tell cheesy jokes. Eat animal crackers. Take naps. Let your jaw drop when you see that awesome exotic animal at the zoo. Ask why the sky is blue. Be curious. Try to make things fun. Make games out of whatever you’re doing. Race your friends up the stairs or across the parking lot. Say simple prayers. Watch G-rated movies. Wear tennis shoes with all your outfits — jeans, dresses, and everything! Embrace glitter. Get dirty. Trust the people who love you. Do somersaults.
The list goes on and on! I think there is so much wisdom in all of those things. How do we forget some of the simplest wonders and joys of life? How do you quit looking for ways to make things fun? Where do we learn to become so damned serious and worried? Maybe the purpose of having children isn’t so much to perpetuate the human race, as some say, as to stay human oneself.
I’ll ponder it for the next few years though!
EDIT: Eventually the cookies were delivered. They weren’t cookies. It was a big tub of cookie dough. It made delicious cookies, but K. and I had to toss is because the richness just destroyed our stomachs. I’ll have to say no next time.