My son is seven years old and wise in the way that only seven-year olds can be. He thinks deep thoughts and, lacking the filter that time imposes on us all, these thoughts –thankfully at times, painfully at other times –come out of his mouth. He comes out with pronouncements like,
“Girls are 1% weirder than boys because they run away and then tell the teachers at recess.” Another recent favorite: “The entire world has to be
cold on January 1st. Even Las Vegas. Even Africa!” My brain –and I pride myself on some degree of creativity, or I wouldn’t be writing this now –could never in a million years of writing workshops or daily journaling come up with anything even close to what this rough and tumble little Socrates comes up with minute by minute.
I believe that we can all learn much from the wisdom of youth. For this reason, I will share the latest give-and-take I had with my son, whom I will hereafter refer to as P (as in Plato, not his real name). P would probably not recall our exchange at all, because it was several days ago, which is the equivalent of several millennia in boy time. I recall the conversation vividly because I, as an older person, know how fleeting youth can be, and I am determined to memorize as much as I can about his early years before they are gone. It was a marvelous conversation and profoundly absurd. As I have said previously, try it yourself –I highly recommend that you do.
We were out walking; in truth, I was walking and he was on his scooter. It was a winter day, so we were both bundled up. There was a
merciful absence of precipitation on this particular winter day –for while precipitation can be fun when one wants to splash in rain puddles or go
tobogganing, it does not suit scooter usage (or, more importantly for a parent, scooter brake usage). On our walk, P would chat, zoom away on his scooter, zoom back, and then he would chat some more. During one of his laps, he raised a question that addresses an issue that adult brains have wrestled with throughout time immemorial, but put in such childlike simplicity, I almost missed it. This seven-year old summarized it all in one casual query, and then, zoom! Off he went. The question came out of his mouth, and he probably forgot it within five minutes, which is the equivalent of a decade in boy time. I, as an older person who thinks and rationalizes far more than is good for me, was left with that question, which I will now share with you.
“Mommy, which do you like better: chocolate chip cookies …,” P started.
In case you could not tell by P’s use of the term ‘Mommy’, I am a female, and therefore predisposed to select chocolate above all else. I am
without shame and will admit to eating it in excess in any and all of the forms made available to me: dark, milk, even (please withhold judgment) white. Throw the chocolate into a cookie and the competition is over.
There are no hanging chads, no need for a recount, no need to have the Supreme Court decide this election. Let’s call it now by a landslide. His pause before providing the alternative gave me just enough time to answer and save him the trouble.
“Chocolate chip cookies,” I responded sagely while nodding.
“… or air?” P finished without acknowledging my response.
Chocolate chip cookies or air? This was going to require a little more thought.
P came up with his choices randomly; my adult brain, however, assigned further more-than-likely unintended significance to the two selections. They became representations of something larger thanks to my overdeveloped prefrontal cortex. In this corner, we have Chocolate Chip Cookies: decadent, a Want, unnecessary but joyous, small enough to justify. In the other corner, we have Air: simple, a Need, not overly exciting, omnipresent but unnoticed. Let the battle commence.
Reader, I leave the decision with you. Your decision depends upon several factors: who you are; where you come from; and how often you get to engage in conversations with children under the age of eight. As mentioned again and again in the hopes that you will, I highly recommend that you do this last activity –converse with and really listen to children under the age of eight –as frequently as possible in order to gain perspective and joy from life. You may choose either to continue living a life slightly less sweet breathing your air or to go out breathing in a delicious swarm of cookie dust. The choice is yours. Children will not judge you for your answer and –having learned from them –neither will I.
I have been writing this for too long now. My son has been waiting as patiently for me as a seven-year old can wait, which is to say squirming and calling and trying to show me his latest interest. I cannot really blame him, though; after all, writing this has taken me a century in boy years.
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