Kids know important stuff, stuff we mature adults work very hard to unteach them. But maybe instead of urging our children to “be careful” and “act responsible,” we should follow their lead.
Here are the top six things preschoolers have over us:
1. Make believe. You don’t have to tell a kid that “anything is possible.” They’re pros at “pretend” or what behavioral specialists call visualization. Olympic athletes, in fact, spend nearly as many hours mentally rehearsing their success as they do physically practicing. Well, duh? our kids could tell us. They don’t need anyone’s permission to be a pilot or a doctor or an architect. They’re already flying around the room and healing their dolls’ boo-boos and building sand castles. They know popsicle sticks can be boats, batons or bridges over moats. Or better yet, lined up all the way to Bulgaria.
2. The opposite game. Remember how much fun it was to state everything backwards, to say “I don’t like you very much” which, of course, meant “You are everything to me.” If we could only realize that our political opponents and anyone else who disagrees with us or nags at us or call us names are really just playing “the opposite game.” Then we could quit taking everything so personally and remember that the biggest secret in the world is “we all really love each other.”
3. Tag, you’re it. Instead of hogging all the attention, kids chase each other around and parlay being “it.” And, needless to say, we all want to be “it” from time to time.
4. Cry when they’re hurt. Instead of pretending to be all “cool” and “together,” kids just lay it on the line. The only games they play are for fun. They don’t care what color or sexual orientation or religion a playmate is. In fact, they don’t notice differences at all. I have a friend who lost his arm when he was in the Navy. Until kids get to the age of 5 or so, they don’t even notice that he’s missing his right arm. It’s remarkable the day kids he’s known since they were babies suddenly notice. “What happened to your arm?” they ask in utter amazement. Of course, their mom’s give them dirty looks and tell them to “pipe down.”
5. Show-and-tell. Think how much closer we’d all be if we stopped long enough to honor one another in a circle of show-and-tell. If we listened to one another’s stories, looked at each other’s creations. Why isn’t this a normal thing? Every week or so we should get together with families and friends and show them something we really like, something unique about us. Bring in some doodle we made on the side of a Visa bill or something we thought up while waiting at the dry cleaners. Adults still think things up. We just don’t tell anyone. We don’t think it’s important. Not with lawns that need mowing and mufflers that need fixing.
6. What’s the hurry? If you want to expand your world, go on a walk with a five-year-old. They notice everything. The sun glinting off the mud puddle. The snail making figure eights of slime along the sidewalk. The hawk perched on the neighbor’s mailbox. Sure, you know everybody’s Facebook status registered on a little screen. But preschoolers? They know everything else.