Children are amazing. I know that not everyone subscribes to notions of theology, but I often think of the Biblical phrase “out of the mouths of babes” with both respect and winkingly sardonic resignation.
I am not yet a mommy, but I do plan to be someone’s mama one day. Regardless of that desire, it’s important for me to mention my childlessness up front here, because discussion of their adorably brutal honesty may feel different for those who deal with it daily. I have nothing but respect for the distinctions between appreciating children as a parent vs. a non-parent. I happen to have had experience working as a nanny while I was in college, so I’ve had my share of not even being able to find time to pee or take a shower because of the tiny person(s) completely depending on you, albeit only intermittently. Still, it’s different for parents.
I love being around children for many reasons, not least of all their propensity toward simple pleasures and their aforementioned honesty. In all but the most extreme cases of emotional disturbance, misery and malicious deceit are learned qualities that seep into our spirits with time, age, and exposure. Mind you, our precious little ones are capable of deceit and manipulation early on, but they’re not so much intentionally lying as they are adapting to their environment and doing whatever it takes to get the bottle, food, or affection they need exactly when they need it.
When it comes to making observations and speaking of their surroundings, however, no one will dish out the straightforward truth like a child speaking their mind. Over the next few days, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite quotes that children have said to me personally, starting with my own little kin.
I presently have three nieces and I adore them with all my heart. I feel fortunate that I get to spend time around them, and I’ve missed them terribly during times when I’ve been traveling or living out of state. They were visiting me the other day, and when the six-year-old’s Kindle battery died, she asked to use my laptop. Sidenote: I remember when a rousing chorus of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” was enough to rock her world, but now in her advanced years she requires multiple electronic devices and a strong WiFi connection to handle her business. Fine. I had a few Word documents of drafts for this site open that I went to close, referring to them as “Auntie Pia’s work.” Her reply: “But if you do it here at home, is it really work?”
Had she been an adult, that would have been some next-level shade. It could have been the first verbal missile launched in an all-out battle. But the question just hung there in the air in front of her sweet face, the words daring me to take them at anything more than face value.
Of course she didn’t mean to impugn my whole livelihood with those twelve words. In her world she knew that children go to school and adults go to work, except for an elderly great-grandmother of hers who is ill and housebound. To “go to work,” one leaves the house, just like when she goes to school. In her years and her experience, she has yet to come across those who work from home (or are homeschooled), so to her, “working” means leaving the house. Simple.
She knows that Auntie Pia is a performer and a freelance writer, but she hasn’t physically seen much of my performance in action, since it’s been a while since I’ve worked in a venue where she could attend and she doesn’t remember things she saw as a baby. She watches video clips of my stuff, but it’s hard to place that chronologically, as opposed to sitting with me at home looking at what I’m calling my “work.” Like many children in many situations before her, she had unintentionally struck a nerve.
I love writing and if you’re reading this right now, then I appreciate you. Still, I struggle with wanting to continue having more performance opportunities into my life, in ways that I have been fortunate to do in years past. My niece’s innocent comment could easily have been coming from my stern immigrant father or my dearly departed grandmother, except in those cases the words would have been weighed down with their heavy subtexts of what constitutes a “real” job and the ultimate futility of creative pursuits. It could have been coming from my own insecurities about working and what that means in my life. It could have been dripping with judgement and condescension. And despite my best efforts not to, that’s how I felt it.
I set about to opening a flurry of tabs, showing her my writer profile pages, both here and at the other sites I contribute to, and I did (what I thought was) a fun side-by-side comparison of my document files with the article pages as they ended up appearing on the sites. Scrambling to prove my worth to my little niece who wasn’t really even questioning it. I worked myself into a minor frenzy and when I finally felt that I had sufficiently pleaded my case, I turned to her and concluded with a breathless “…see?”
She turned to me calmly and said “Can I watch Spongebob?”