March 3rd, 2008

Being a Kid

Sometimes I wonder what will happen when I grow up.

Sure, I have the trappings of a grown-up: gray hairs, checkbook, my own scissors, but really, I’m still a kid. In addition to the dragon on my desk, there is a bottle of bubbles, a picture of Wonder Woman, a copy of Free to Be You and Me as a mini book, and a bunch of stickers with vegetables on them. I have my own picture books. I look forward to Easter as the Time of White Chocolate, although people seem to have realized that white chocolate is a good thing all year long and not just when it is shaped like birds and bunnies; forget your lasers and semiconductors: that’s real progress.

I think, actually, the question is what will happen when I accept myself as a kid. I have lots of toys in my room, but I rarely let myself play with them. It seems there is always something more important to do, laundry, or cleaning, or driving someone somewhere.

I’m not advocating that I stop doing my work. Paying attention to things like making dinner in a timely way and having clean underwear is important and useful.

But sand! And water! And crayons, paint, paper!

It’s more that I want to do those same things with my child-eyes. I remember washing the dishes as a kid small enough to need a chair to stand on to do it. I was fascinated, pouring the bubbly water from one Tupperware cup to another. I liked the warm water on my hands, the smooth feel of the soap in it, the iridescent shimmer of the bubbles themselves. I even liked the squeak of the soap on the clean plastic. Next time there is a greasy, disgusting roasting pan in the sink I will need to try it.

I’d also like to use the attention I had as a kid. I used to be able to focus in on things much more deeply. This allowed for an intensity of experience I rarely have now. I am always listening for what one of the kids might need, even when they’re not in the house, or thinking about the next thing on my ever-expanding list of things to do. My mother tells a story about me as a child: one time she was angry at me and stopped talking to me; I did not notice, just went on doing what I was doing. (She hasn’t stopped talking to me since, really. She’s learned to change her tactics when she’s angry with me.) I’m not saying that I should ignore people who are upset with me, but that it might be useful if I were more in tune with my own projects and less with the games that other people around me want to play.

Finally, I would like to have my childhood sense of infinite time. Not only in the sense that the kid in Toy Story has when his mom says they’re leaving in five minutes and he concocts and epic storyline because that’s plenty of time, but also in the sense of the future. How many different things did I want to be when I grew up when I was a kid? I was pretty sure they were all possible. I think they are still almost all possible.

Plus, when you’re a kid and you get cranky, people offer you a snack and a nap.