Some folks go gaga over babies. They love their newness, their smell, their roly-polyness. I am not one of them.
I can go gaga over a toddler too. I like the way they set their jaw and go. How do they dart in so many directions simultaneously?
Sit down with an eight-year-old. Talk with them. Hear their questions. Watch as they discover and then digest human possibility and human folly. Let their delight in the world around them stir joy in your heart. Share their sorrow as they begin to experience the darker side of our shared past.
I spent almost thirty years working with kids. Imagine–having not one but many childhoods. Imagine–sharing not one but many teenage years. I know there are some folks who would say, “I rather not imagine that much less experience it.” But me–I loved those years I spent with teenagers and the years spent with younger ones as well.
I still shake my head in awe as I remember a fifteen-year-old girl comparing the events leading up to the American Revolution to Julia Childs making a souffle and then writing to Julia Childs about the connection she had made. And getting a letter back!
I treasure the memory of two eight-year-old boys up early one morning. One was holding a jar. The other a stick. Both were leaning into a tree trying to move tiny insects into the jar. Each time they made a catch they shrieked with joy.
The sadness I feel when I remember a bi-racial seven-year-old boy learning about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott and wondering to himself where he would be on that bus as the shades lifted from his eyes and mine as well.
Sandra Cisneros once wrote,
What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. (Eleven, Sandra Cisneros)
I think Cisneros is on to something. We are all the ages we have ever been. The trick is plugging into the gifts of each of those ages and carrying them forward into the present moment.