My kids crack me up. They are 9 and 7, in 4th grade and 2nd grade, a girl and a boy, high-strung and easy-going, ying and yang (or yang and ying — I’ve never been clear on which one is which). You get the picture, siblings with completely different outlooks on life. Like all parents, we think our kids say the funniest things. You should know, by the way, that ours really do…say the funniest things…ever. Anyway, my wife has made a habit of posting some of the classic quotes on her Facebook page and I go there occasionally when I need a good laugh. After staring at these quotes for awhile, I started noticing something. Kids really do have a profound grasp on life and what’s around them. Sure, they tend to see things much more simply than we do. Sometimes I wonder, though, is that their failing or is it our failing that we see things in an unnecessarily complicated way.
Then, I noticed something else. My kids, even at their young age, have each developed their own fairly sophisticated way of engaging the world around them. Elise, the 9 year old, high-strung, super-genius (I’m sorry, is my hubris showing) is the explorer. Her lifelong mission is to explore strange new ideas, to seek out new facts and new knowledge, to go where no 9 year old has gone before. She hasn’t spoken a sentence that ends in a period in 7 years. Everything she says ends in a question mark. She sees the world as this great storehouse of information that she must empty at all costs. She is also concerned with separating the wheat of knowledge from the chaff of nonsense, though that doesn’t mean she won’t go with the chaff occasionally. Read some of these…
Elise: “Dad, did Mom really marry you because you could reach things on high shelves?”
I know where this question came from. She has heard me tell people that this, indeed, is why my wife married me. But her motivation goes beyond her desire for an answer to the immediate question. She wants to know what a woman looks for in a man, when choosing a husband. Luckily, my wife handled this one and now Elise is no longer planning on marrying a giraffe or an orangutan.
Elise: “When you say economy, do you mean cha-ching???”
Here is what I call the “Childhood Reduction Principle” at work. In all the talk about the economy that Elise has been exposed to in recent months, she had to find a way to reduce all the information into a neat package that she could process. I think “cha-ching” works nicely. She reminds me of Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”. After the Dukes explain to Billy Ray Valentine what they, as commodities brokers, do, he replied, quite astutely, “Sounds to me like y’all are a couple of bookies.” Bingo. I’m looking forward to hearing her take on quantum physics.
Elise commenting on Heaven: “So… if there are streets of gold, does that mean there are buildings of pearl? Need to check that out. Revelation, right?”
I love this one. One of the fascinating things that separates us humans from most of the rest of creation (in addition to opposable thumbs and an adams apple) is the capacity for synthetic thought — to take something we’ve learned, apply our life experiences to it, and to draw new conclusions. Of course it stands to reason that in a city with golden streets there should be buildings constructed of equally precious materials, right? But here’s my favorite part of this quote: “Need to check that out. Revelation, right?” Elise reached a tentative conclusion about pearl buildings, but unlike a lot of us older, more mature adult types, she recognized the need to test her hypothesis against a reliable standard. I figure that if she doesn’t take herself at face value, she’s not likely to follow anyone else blindly either. And that’s a good thing. I wonder that if all people did that, would we have ever had Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Barney the Dinosaur?
That’s Elise. My son Ethan, on the other hand, is not really the inquisitive type. He’s my commentator. Locked up in his mind somewhere is his view of how the world should be. Everything that he sees, hears, and experiences is just another excuse to comment on the state of the universe as he sees it. For him, certain things just are. Sometimes he brings clarity where we see only chaos, he brings a forest perspective in the middle of a bunch of trees, he brings logic and order to an unfolding insanity, and sometimes he just goes for the cheap laugh.
Ethan: “Mom, your agenda is too big!” (Commenting on my my wife’s school schedule)
First, a 7 year old should never ever use the word agenda…ever. I think I learned that word when I was 24. More importantly, however, this statement shows how observational kids are. I’m a restaurant manager and my wife is a full-time college student. Life here is pretty hectic. The house is a wreck, we live out of a laundry basket, and getting ready for school resembles the evacuation of Dunkirk. I’m stressed out. My wife is stressed out. But to Ethan, it’s all pretty simple. Our “agenda is too big.” He doesn’t understand why we can’t sometimes just kick back and enjoy each other more. Is it really necessary to fill our days with all this bloated stuff? Sometimes, I think he’s right. And to think we pay therapists, psychologists, and TV talk show personalities unfathomable amounts of money to tell us what a 7 year old can in an ordinary moment on an ordinary day.
Ethan: “My milk was even more delicious-er with cookie crumbs in it!”
One of my favorite shows of all time is MASH. One of the recurring characters, Dr. Sydney Freedman, once advised “Take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice.” I promise you I won’t actually do this as long as you make me that same promise. Anyway, his point was sometimes you just have to relax, let go, and find enjoyment where you can. Ethan gets that. Where a lot of us see the crumb filled milk and go “Eeewww,” Ethan sees two things he really likes, milk and cookies. If they are that good by themselves, they must be even “more delicious-er” together. The point is that we can find joy in a lot of little, seemingly insignificant things if we’ll just stop trying so hard to be so mature.
Ethan: “But Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!! I will waste water if I wash my hands… a lot of water!”
A quick show of virtual hands out there, how many parents make their kids use hand sanitizer from time to time? You know, you’re at the park, there’s no running water except for the water fountain so old that it is fed by Roman aquaducts. Well, we do. It was actually quite a challenge for Ethan, at first. You see, in his younger days, Ethan had certain quirks (he still does, they’re just different now). One was that he could not stand for his hands to be dirty. Occasionally, we would have the kids use the hand sanitizer and would have to convince Ethan that it was as effective as soap and water at killing germs. Finally, we succeeded. The only problem is now, Ethan wants to use ONLY hand sanitizer. Since we’ve convinced him that sanitizer is as effective as soap and water and since he learns about conservation at school, he now sees hand washing as an unnecessary waste of natural resources. Why use all that water when that blessed concoction of isopropyl alcohol and aloe is just one pump away? There is a point here, stay with me. You see, for Ethan everything is an absolute. If sanitizer works and we should conserve water, then it should be obvious we should use sanitizer. Kids have this enviable ability to see when we are splitting hairs in order to make something logical out of something illogical. Based on the information we gave him, Ethan’s conclusion was dead on. Adults, on the other hand, have developed the ability to draw incongruous conclusions about life, to make that which is wrong right, and in the process to convince ourselves that we are enlightened. We should take a lesson from the kids and stop wasting water.
So that’s it for now. If you want to see these and other cool things my kids have said, check out my Quotes page. More importantly, though, pay attention to what your own kids say. You might learn something.