EXPERIENCE is a wonderfully rich thing; not in the moment always, but as we reflect, the significance simply overwhelms. Seated at a table at a wedding as an impromptu guest recently, my neighbour was one delightful young man with the propriety of an adult. Trying not to look too conspicuous I engaged him in dialogue, and after introduction, I asked him questions ranging from naming pleasantries to what he enjoyed doing.
I marvelled later regarding what my conversation with young Sam—his nearby parents of which I know—revealed about myself through his eyes and I felt as if I was talking almost with myself; certainly a glimpse of the inner “me.”
Asking his age, he indicated he was turning seven. I was curious to know if that would make him a ‘lot bigger,’ thinking how significant my own memories of passing birthdays were at that sort of age. With a short pause he simply answered matter-of-factly with poise and politeness: “No, I’ll just be a little bigger.”
When we got onto the subject of counting, he proudly declared he was no longer allowed to count with his fingers; he can count to “nine thousand and ninety nine” you know! And then he set about demonstrating... but his favourite pastime was ‘playing cars’ at Recess and Lunch at school with his friends. Showing his growing aplomb with physics he described the hazards of inclines, slopes and the various terrains his cars must negotiate as he plays with them.
As we ate and talked, it was clear that this little guy was really socially conscious and recognising this forced me to adjust to his sensitivities. I had to respect this little guy. I think this is what struck me most. He was guarded but in a way wise beyond his few years; the eldest of three, a defender and explainer of his younger two siblings—which is not atypical of an eldest child.
During the remainder of the event, my interactions with young Sam built upon the initial rapport we’d developed. Like with all our relationships we’re loath to threaten the trust developed, and even more so with ever-trusting children. Our minds skip fancifully to some of the darker things adults have done with or to children, harming our precious future.
What I learned most of all during this cherishable quarter hour was just how much thought needed to go into the interaction as we wove through each other’s psyches, building rapport.
We can learn so much about ourselves through chatting with children, for we’re but kids ourselves. We never fully reconcile our pasts I find; we’re always mystified by them, and quite possibly both from positive and negative viewpoints.
Getting to know, appreciate, and most of all accept the inner child within is probably the greatest freedom we can bestow on ourselves and others we relate with.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.