Childhood

Search Party – Minnesota, 2008

You see a kid picking his nose, but I see magic.

It’s not because it’s my kid and I’m fondly remembering the days when I had to remind him throughout every day to get a tissue and stop eating his boogers. Just the opposite, in fact. I’m happy that I don’t have to remind him quite as often (though I still have to from time to time). It’s not even nostalgia for when he was cuter, his cheeks fatter, his bladder smaller, and he thought his dad was cooler. It’s that look in his eyes–that look of not caring, or not noticing that anyone is watching him sending a search party into his nostril–that I see as magic.

Max isn’t wearing a Spider-Man shirt because Spider-Man is cool. In fact, what anyone else thinks of Spider-Man or any other superhero is totally irrelevant and not even on his mental map. He wears a Spider-Man shirt because he thinks Spider-Man is cool. Actually, let’s even rephrase that more narrowly: He wears a Spider-Man shirt because Spider-Man is cool. Period, end of story.

Spider-Man

Spider-Man  –  Minnesota, 2010

This incredibly small area that exists in a child’s mind, that essentially only covers their own bodies, gives them an innocence that adults lack, divorces them from the constant need for acceptance from others around them, and leaves them free to not worry about what others think of them.

It also makes them pick their nose in public and in front of a camera, like they haven’t a care in the world.

I love that kids don’t have a care in the world. They don’t care what is or isn’t cool, until peer pressure and kids at school slowly sap that from them; before you know it they are in high school and have reached the high-water mark of living and breathing for the sake of the opinions of others. By the time you’re old, you’re back to not caring what others think, freeing one to pursue hobbies and interests that others may look down their noses at.

Super Heroes  -  Michigan, 2010

Super Heroes – Michigan, 2010

It’s precisely that youthful innocence that is so liberating. There is a certain magic in the imagination that is found in kids of a certain age, before cynicism and hard knocks take their toll and we all “grow up” to find that we are calloused and immune to the wonder to be found all around us. A window sill is not just a window sill, but anything you make it: one day it’s a volcanic battleground for superheroes to decide the fate of the world, the next it might be an underwater world inhabited by Lego blocks and Star Wars action figures.

Lost

Lost  –  Michigan, 2010

We spend so much time as kids trying to grow up, before realizing we’ve made a terrible mistake and then wishing we had done things differently in our rush to join the world of grown-ups. It’s only then that we realize the magic of the world has exited stage left; attempts to live vicariously by recreating that time for our kids is all we have left.

But we never again look at the world in the same way. Once you’ve seen the leaves change color season after season, it’s hard to see it in the same light. The same urge to touch everything in sight is gone; the age of exploration is past, leaving us to carry on in a world that holds few secrets.

The Epitome of Cool  -  Minnesota, 2010

The Epitome of Cool – Minnesota, 2010

So do yourself a favor and go out in search of some magic. Take a fresh look at the world with youthful exuberance, ask questions you don’t know the answers to, use your senses to explore the environment all around you, or put on some Spider-Man makeup and do your thing. Whatever you do do, forget about what you think others might be thinking while you’re doing it.

After all, people care a whole lot less about anyone else than we tend to believe.

8 Comments

  1. Beautiful post! Love this: “attempts to live vicariously by recreating that time for our kids is all we have left.” I think you hit the nail on the head here as to why there is such a desire to procreate (even in those of us who have a hard time relating to kids.) We remember how great we had it as kids; even if we had less than we try to give our kids today, we all were rich with imagination, energy, and resourcefulness–gifts that many of us have lost in the day-to-day scramble to pay the bills. I say fairly consistently that due to all the work it takes to raise a kid I would just like to have adult children, but let’s be honest, would I really give up the chance to re-experience the joys of Santa Claus and the fun of knitting stuffed animals and anthropomorphic mittens? Irrationally, the answer is no.

    Reply

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