Out of the mouth of babes
Lessons about the value of curiosity
Working as a camp counselor this summer, I was reacquainted with how children view the world. After countless “Stop butting me!” cries and “But he started it!” exclamations, I began to reflect on the days when my biggest worry was whether I was first or second in line for a minute-long walk down the hallway. There was no need to stress about which classes to take or remembering to pay rent, and nobody was asking me, “What are you going to do with an English major?”
Overall, I was taken by the certain innocence, simplicity and eagerness children maintain, and the humorous ways this manifested itself almost made the 7 a.m. wake-ups worth the trouble. On “Decade Day,” for example, I had to explain my get-up to a six-year-old boy who asked why I was dressed so strangely. After explaining lime-green leggings, oversized shirts, leg warmers and Converse sneakers were perfectly normal 30 years ago, the boy pointed out a fundamental flaw in my argument: “You can’t be dressed like the 80s. They didn’t have green in the 80s!”
Where he got this notion from, I cannot even begin to imagine. I attempted to point out to him there were definitely trees in the 80s and that trees are green, but for all I know this young man firmly believed the world purely existed in black and white prior to the year 2000.
The intrigue didn’t stop there. Another day, I found myself dealing with a girl who decided to stick her finger on the table and lick off the salt and vinegar from our homemade play-doh construction. Immediately, she began to realize that she had done something wrong. Complaining her throat hurt, I let her get a drink of water and asked if she was okay. She responded, “Um, I ate some of the salt and vinegar. Now I am just really afraid that I am going to break a bone.”
I assured her she was not going to break a bone, as that was not a typical response to consuming salt and vinegar, but to let me know if she started to feel sick — which naturally happened a few seconds later. I took her to the nurse, who, with her aura of credibility, immediately cured the girl after explaining salt and vinegar is many common foods we eat every day. Still, only time will tell if she ever goes near salt and vinegar potato chips again.
My favorite anecdote comes from my time in the art room. As I sat with one of my fellow counselors, another young girl approached us to ask how we liked her painting. All enthusiasm, my co-worker responded, “I love it! You are the next Picasso!”
The girl looked up at us extremely puzzled and said, “Why are you insulting me?”
Of course, the other counselor explained he wasn’t insulting her, as Picasso was a famous artist. Still, something wasn’t registering. After a moment of silence, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Why is he calling me a pig?”
As I tried to hide my smirk and continued to talk to her, I discovered “Pigcasso” was the person she was referencing — a character from a children’s book she’d read when she was younger. In her world, “Picasso” didn’t exist. At least, it hadn’t until that moment.
As both new and returning students settle into their classes, I’d like to encourage everyone to take a lesson from these 6-year-olds and remember to never stop discovering new things about the world around them. Still, don’t always accept new ideas without a challenge. Question someone who is calling you a pig, and you might just find out they think you’re an artist.