Yesterday, we attended my cousin’s wedding at a historic mansion downtown. Our 4-year-old held her breath when the bride walked down the steps (she always waits for the exact moment). Our 18-month-old emptied out the contents of my bag throughout the ceremony – in and out, out and in.
We chatted with lots of people – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, childhood acquaintances, and schoolteachers from bygone years. I always find it fascinating to watch the ways that people interact with children.
The majority of people ooh and ahh at outward appearances. They tend to talk ABOUT children: “Oh, look at her blue eyes!” and “Doesn’t she have the sweetest smile?” and “Where did you get that adorable dress?”
These same people are often the ones who complain about the baby riding beside them in the airplane or the family dining adjacent them in the restaurant. They turn up their noses at the slightest peep or inconvenience. How dare a child run or smell flowers or squeal with delight when *I* am trying to enjoy this golf game/conversation/glass of wine?
But then…there are a few treasured individuals who SEE children as the smart, compassionate, critical thinking, and good-hearted people that they are. You can recognize them right away because they talk TO children. They often will kneel or sit on the floor, getting eye-to-eye. They seem unbothered by the fact that children like to explore and question and dance (even when there isn’t any music). They have warm smiles and a spring in their step, a little bit of Peter Pan in their hearts.
There was one couple in particular that stuck out to me last night. The gentleman squatted down and shook hands with my little girl, with sparkling eyes. The woman knelt down and said, “It’s nice to meet you.” Genuinely interested.
I want to be like that.
After all – Who I am to presume that my grown-up conversations about the weather, politics, and parenting are more significant than what a child has to say? Such arrogant foolishness. In fact, the truth is that children are intensely interesting. They have much to contribute. They are often wise, rarely unfeeling.
Yet our culture dictates that adults are what matter. Our voices triumph. We shoosh away little voices with “not right now” or “I’m talking to so-and-so” or “sit still and wait.” Ours is a grown-up world, full of cynicism and superficiality.
It gives me goosebumps to think about this: What would the world be like if we acknowledged, celebrated, and protected children? What would it be like if we truly listened to them? I’d like to find out (wouldn’t you?).
Think back to your childhood. Can you think of an adult who you were always excited to see because they noticed, appreciated, and valued you?