If you want a new perspective on almost anything, hang out with a small child for a while. Not just be around generally, but spend some time interacting. Tonight I went to a rescheduled birthday party for a friend. It was an intimate gathering of friends, watching the Olympics and chatting while eating pizza and cake. One couple had brought their 3 year old daughter, who initially was hesitant to venture more than a few inches from her parents. It wasn’t that she didn’t know people in the group, but because she didn’t recognize everyone, myself included, she was immediately shy. Of course, as time went on and her parents got involved in conversations, she started pulling out toys and crayons and entered her own little world of make believe.
It was about then that she drew me in. She was playing with a boat (on wheels) and was trying to shoot it across the carpet and into some unknown abyss. I happened to be around the unknown area, so I grabbed it and sent it back. Immediately, we had a game going. For the rest of the evening, I was her new friend. Her parents periodically checked in with me, reminding me that I could escape at any time, but honestly, I was having too much fun simply watching their daughter. Small children have no filter, no fear of looking silly, and almost no end to their energy. I was part of an ongoing story that involved sea monsters and waterfalls and mermaid bears. We hunted for secret caves and got lost in swirling waters. She contrived ways to trap the sea monsters that involved papers marked with X’s and invisible buttons that if we pushed them, the monsters would fall into deep holes never to return. At one point, she wished we had a magic sword and asked if I had one, so I checked my pockets and lo and behold, I did have one. (It was a silver worry stone I often carry with me, but it worked for our imaginations.) Close to the end of the evening, she needed a method of escaping the ever present sea monster, and we decided rainbow pixie dust was the sure thing. That would mean she could fly. She’d tell me she was ready, and I’d pick her up and fly her around the room. After that, she needed to use pixie dust A LOT. Until I was forced to admit my wings were broken and needed time to heal.
I remember this age from my own children. It’s a time of wonderment and imagination. The story tonight wasn’t the fun part, it was watching the delight and intensity in which she told it. Every thing she felt was reflected in her facial expressions, the fear of the monster, the excitement of escaping, elation of flying. There was no holding back. And when her new friend was too tired to continue playing, the disappointment wasn’t hidden either. But that was ok. She didn’t know how not to be honest, and that’s what’s so wonderful about small children. They say and do what they feel with no filter or fear. How often do we, as adults, have the chance to do that? So tonight I may have missed out on a few of the adult conversations, but it was a good trade. This magical time in a child’s life doesn’t last long enough. There’s a pretty small window when everything is a possibility and imagination reigns supreme. I’m glad I was able to be share in that a little bit tonight.