Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to take a break from being an adult and remember what it was like when stuff like bills were ‘mommy and daddy’ problems. It’s nice to think that entirely nonsensical answers could truly be the way to deal with conflict in one’s life. It’s fun to spend the entire day reading, or playing pretend, or thinking up crafts, or baking, and consider that to be as productive as we need to be today. Sometimes, it’s downright necessary.
I’ve been getting more than my fair share of this kind of therapy this summer what with being a nanny to two girls (7 and 11) every day from breakfast to dinner time. But if I’m going to be honest, I’ve always been around kids. I have a large immediate family (five siblings, three older), and a pretty close extended family. I can’t really remember a time where there wasn’t a baby or small child under the age of ten somewhere in my family tree. As one of the ‘older’ kids, but not quite the oldest, I also can’t remember a time where I wasn’t expected to hang out with or watch other kids who were either just younger or a lot younger than me. And I’m not about to say that this was always the best of times for me, babysitting or hanging out with younger kids. Most of the time, it’s honestly a royal pain in the behind (though what isn’t, eventually).
But taking time out of your day to just hang out with children can be an awesome thing, too. It always blows me away, the things that children notice. It can be as simple as obsessing over your new hair cut or as out of the blue as pointing out the racism in a Nickelodeon movie. I think a lot of the time, when I tell people that I hang out with kids a lot, they immediately think that I’m cool with it because of the innocence of children. Honestly, I like it more because of the wisdom of children. They’re still in this age where they haven’t become so tired of the world that they don’t truly believe, down in their little bones, that they can change the world. Not someday, but today.
I love when I talk to the girls that I nanny, and one of them, ‘Star’, tells me that she wants to be a banker when she grows up, and that she wants to do a semester of school in Japan in high school. When we talk together about what kind of work that would entail, she doesn’t get discouraged. She just kind of gets this wide-eyed, goofy grin look on her face and she says, “Well, I better get working on that then”. ‘Snail’, her younger sister, wants to be a gymnast. Not tomorrow, but today. And no statistics or comparing her to other girls is going to convince her that she can’t be. These children have an unwavering faith in themselves, and they haven’t yet learned that the rest of the world has forgotten that. I know my older niece and nephew are the same, and hope my younger nieces and nephews grow into that invincibility as well. And never grow out. So I hang out with kids to remember just how dumb I’ve become regarding my own God-given potential.
Also, specifically as a writer, I love some of the questions kids ask. When I’m writing a poem, I often get stuck in this kind of rut, asking myself (and the world), the same kinds of questions over and over. Appreciating the same things that are within my comfort zone or within my immediate realm of existence. The kids I know are always challenging that. They ask questions that make no sense, are rude, or improper, or ‘common sense’. They never stop questioning. They appreciate the wonder of hairless cats and guinea pig medicine and bubbles and eating pizza with their aunt at the cool kids table. They remind me not to doubt the importance of what I’m writing. They teach me not to be ashamed of wanting to immortalize a feeling in verse, whether it be appreciation, frustration, loathing or doubt, because to them all feelings and questions and loves are valid and sacred.
So if you’re feeling like you’ve lost your magic, go ahead and take your niece or nephew or little cousin, little sibling to a picnic in the park (or the zoo, or aquarium). Don’t ask them to entertain you with their antics. Don’t expect them to come up to your level. Simply be with them, listen, and absorb all of the wonder that they have had the grace to retain. Remember the grace you were born with, but have forgotten. Recharge, and heal.