I don’t have a grand idea for this post, only that I want to talk about the kids in my life. I think one big lesson I’ve learned while trying to write this is that there is no one specific point I want to make. Like kids, there is no one big secret or one word of wisdom. Like kids, especially the ones I know, I think today’s post is going to be a bit disorganized and covered in glitter.
Let me start by saying that my life has almost consistently been defined children. My family is huge, my ward family huger, and I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t surrounded by a gaggle of sticky kids. I’ve talked to Marie, Natalie, and Maren a lot about families and kids and other fun short people making decisions. We discuss so often the blessings and trials of having children and they have taught me a lot about motherhood. I’m excited about having kids someday. I want a bunch of ’em. Mostly sons.
From my deaf kids in the dorm, to the 8-year-old Wiglets with whom I spent 11 summers, to the dozens of little kids in my ward I love as brothers and sisters, I have learned a lot about their lives and the blessings they have brought to mine.
For now, here is a top ten list of things I’ve learned from the shorties in my life:
1. Kids are sticky. As I write this, I am peeling glue and bits of construction paper off the back of my hand. When I think about sticky kids, I remember this one little girl, Jordan, who went to Camp Wiggi. Every day, she’d eat her chocolate snack pack puddings with gusto and enthusiasm unparalleled in the adult world. I’m fairly confident she wore more pudding than she actually consumed. Every day after snack, I’d take Jordan to the pool deck and hose her off. Yes, that’s right. I power washed a child.
2. Sometimes the monsters are real. The kids I work with will often spend the last few minutes before bedtime trying to convince me there are monsters in the closet or under the bed and that’s why “I can’t go to bed right now!” One of my boys told me that if he could stay up and watch a movie, the monster would just disappear. Most of the time, monsters are just there to postpone bed time. Sometimes, though, the monsters are real. Sometimes, it’s more important to crawl under the bed to show them there is nothing there than to try to reason with a 1st grader.
3. Their prayers are weird, but honest. I think about how my own prayers have changed over the course of my life, but especially over the last two years. I’d like to think they are more focused and more meaningful, but then I listen to kids pray, and I’m reminded that I need to bring it back to basics: thank God for my blessings, ask Him for what I need. The kids do this so much better than I do, but I still have to put a little too much effort into not laughing when they pray: Please bless us that we’ll have no robbers. Please bless us that we can live underwater. Thank you for pizza and butterflies.
4. What’s not at all important to me is a big deal to them. I had a conversation a few nights ago with one of the young women in my ward. She is so amazing and wonderful and smart and happy. I’m lucky every day to know her and her sisters. I’m lucky every day they consider me to be one of theirs. A few nights ago, she asked me if we could talk. She spoke in her serious voice and had a concerned look on her face. My heart dropped and a million thoughts crossed my mind. I didn’t know what she was going to tell me, but I was nervous about what she would say. With 14 year-old girls, the possibilities are really endless. So, we sat and talked for a few hours. I kept my ears open waiting for “the bomb” I thought she was going to drop on me, but she just kept telling me stories about the silly things she and her friends would do. While she was talking, I couldn’t help but think, “Why is she so concerned? This isn’t a big deal at all.” And then it occurred to me that these silly parts of her life are huge and important to her and all she needed from me was to sit, listen, and respect those big things.
5. You will say the weirdest things as if they were the most normal conversation. Today, I said the following sentence: “Kevin, please stop sniffing Tommy’s butt.”
6. No other sight or sound compares to a child giggling. Eli (Marie’s), Olivia (also Marie’s), and Anna (Maren’s) have the most amazing giggles on the face of the planet. My little deaf boys at KSD can’t hear themselves laugh, and yet theirs are the purest most amazing expressions of glee I’ve ever experienced.
7. Sheets and cardboard boxes and time are far more useful than gizmos and gadgets. So many times I have planned super cool projects or games or activities that clearly would convince my kids that I’m the coolest and most fun dorm teacher on the planet with the best ideas. Ever. Most of those times, my plans never see the light of day. An impromptu dorm fort made with a pile of sheets, blankets, towels, and pillow cases? Hours of bliss. They think I’m so much cooler when I roll down the hill, play dead zombie monster, play tag in the mall, or make giant forts with them.
8. Sometimes you just need to rub their back, wash their hair, make their bed for them. Even when you know and they know they are old enough to do any of those things themselves. Well, not rub their own back, but you know what I mean. Last year in the dorm, Sundays were my favorite nights with the boys. Every morning, they are expected to make their own beds and keep their rooms clean. Sundays were the only nights that I got to take extra time with the boys to get ready for their week. I’d make their beds while they put away clothes and we’d share stories about what we did this weekend. It sounds silly, but making their beds with them was such a special part of our week.
One time, one of my 8-year-olds was dilly dallying around bath time. There were no words or sentences I could have said to get this kid to take a shower. I was about ready to give up and let him just go to bed stinky. We were both frustrated, probably with each other. He threw his arms down, sighed an exasperated sigh and said, “Will you just wash my hair for me?” My first reaction was to say, “No! You’re old enough to take a shower yourself!” I’m grateful that instead of saying words that would have only prolonged the war, my heart was softened and I said yes. You know what? It was wonderful. He felt better. I felt better. We bonded and everyone got what they wanted.
9. The gift of agency is given freely to everyone. Even (especially) to those who have different wills than your own. Maren wrote about an experience she had with her kids that taught me a lot about agency. She said that in her dream world, her kids would follow every rule, respect and honor her day and night, appreciate everything she does, and always choose the right. She noticed, however, that the biggest difference between her world and the real world is that in her world, her kids do not have their own agency. Sometimes, I have do a little extra work to remember that my will is not always the will of the child I’m with. Sometimes we will get along. Sometimes we will frustrate each other. I have to remember that as long as I am engaging with that child in the spirit of love, even if I want to ground him from anything fun until he is 35 for lying about his homework, it should work out okay.
10. Kids have it figured out a lot better than grown ups. I have to teach my guys at school everything from how to properly bathe themselves to how to count on their fingers for their math homework. I have to teach them how to fold their clothes, how to make 3-D snowflakes, and to hold the door for the person behind them. I have to practice saying please and thank you with them before I trust them to be released into the world on field trips. Seriously, we have pre-meetings to practice how we’re going to behave on our field trips. In all the time I spend teaching them how to succeed in the world, I have to remember that they understand how to live in it better than most grown ups. Play hard, play fair. Treat the other kids with care.
I’m grateful for the kids in my life right now. I’m not a mom yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to experience the blessings of children. They have taught me a lot about life and faith and love. They entertain me. They have humbled me. They are my favorite small humans.
There is a StoryPeople story about this:
There are lives I can imagine without children, but none of them have the same laughter and noise.
Dear readers, it’s your turn. What are some things you have learned from children?
With so much love,