From the mouths of 9-year olds

Even if they do say the darndest things, boy, does it get harder and harder to take what a kid says seriously.

I’m not talking about kid-on-kid conversation here. It goes without saying that the conversations between the under-10 crowd are the most serious, the most sanctified and true-fact exchanges that ever occurred, in the whole universe, until the end of time.

Your friend Sam is part vampire, but don’t tell anyone, because not everyone can see him, and they might not believe you? Absolutely. You know the Easter bunny’s real address? Wow. That’s what kissing is like? That’s why your mom is mad at your dad? That’s how you know someone is your friend?

It’s all true. And until disproved (if ever), it’s all very, very important information about your world.

After that, after a lot of those shared confidences have been bypassed by years and growing and some level of maturing… well, we basically train ourselves out of simply believing what kids say.

For the most part, I think that’s a good thing. The whole development of cognitive processes, social comprehension, and yes, morality… all good things. We learn to question easy statements, think through a brilliant idea before we start digging that hole to China. We start to form opinions based on thousands of tiny, conflicting particles of observation and perhaps some actual facts.

Can you imagine a City Council election based on grade-school truth and logic? “My brother told me that man eats roadkill.” “Eww! Don’t vote for him!” “Possum-breath!” “I like her dress. I’ll vote for her.” (I hear local elections are slightly more civilized that that…)

But every now and then, you just can’t ignore the smallest moment of grace when you and your verygrownuprealism stumble over some earnest assertion from the grade school set.

My niece is funny. She says funny little things, she tells me funny little stories, and she makes funny little songs and noises and dances. And I laugh, and I say “and then what?” and, like a good and responsible and verygrownup auntie,  I correct her when I think she’s misinformed or just plain ignoring facts and making things up. In turn, she laughs at my funny voices, argues with my corrections, and rolls her all-knowing eyes, when I clearly just don’t get it. And then I ignore the eye-rolling, because, guess what? She’s nine. I don’t take her seriously.

And then sometimes, she makes me wish I could just believe everything she says. My niece is exactly the kind of bossy, imaginative, and authoritative friend I always seemed to have, growing up. I would follow her into any story, any overgrown alley, no questions asked till we might get in trouble.

Yesterday, I took an extra day to visit Mom&Dad. Plans changed, and I found myself with a hot, sunny backyard and a funny little niece.”We need a sprinkler!” she said.

And because it was an extra day, and we had nowhere to be and no clothes to keep clean, I did not say an all too standard, “No, sweetie, not right now.” Instead, I raced her to the back door. “Good idea! I bet Grandpa knows where it is. Let’s go ask him, and we’ll get some towels, ok?”

“That’s why I like having you for an auntie,” she said, catching up with her funny little run. “You do useful things.” She turned around and trotted backwards a few steps, smiling up at me.  “And you’re fun.”

I haven’t wanted so hard to believe such an earnest, simple statement in quite awhile. The most imaginative person I know thinks I’m fun? And useful? Wow. And honestly–because my niece is exactly the kind of friend I would have wanted to approve of me–I’ve never been so flattered.

P.S. About an hour later, her next big idea started with, “Well, first, we’ll need a really BIG steak knife”…


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