Friday, March 5, 2010

Even Children

Tonight, when I finally got home after another 12 hour day, I could tell I wasn't the only one in need of a break.

Being gone all the time is hard on Hubster, the boys, and myself.

So we rented a movie, ordered pizza, and snuggled up under a pile of blankets on the couch.

We watched Where the Wild Things Are.

I'm not going to review the movie, or discuss the cinematography or how well I feel the story line was adapted from the book.

But after tucking my children, smelling of garlic and sleepiness, in bed, my eyes still misty from the movie, I feel like I should at least talk about it. Not about the movie itself, but about things it made me think about.

It's not a kid movie. It doesn't do anything to explain itself. But even so, my children picked up on the themes like they were child psychologists.

Which, suddenly I realized, they are.

Despite the fact that we were once all children, we as adults still patronize them. We think of them as irrational, not understanding. We look at their lives and are envious of the simplicity, the lack of responsibility, the abundance of time and the scarcity of stress.

But watching Max interact with his larger than life personality traits, I remembered just a little bit about what it was like to be little.

Maybe, when you're 5, or 10, or even 15, you don't understand all the details. Life is complex and we balance pros and cons of decisions that children may not understand.

But the impact on children isn't less just because they don't understand the reasoning. The emotions they feel aren't less real or powerful just because we don't understand why they are feeling that way.

As children, we experience a vast spectrum of emotions. Wildly crazy happy to heart wrenchingly sad. As we age, we start to limit ourselves to an ever smaller range on the spectrum of emotions. And sometimes, we limit ourselves so much, we forget that we used to experience so much more.

I vividly remember being so excited for something I couldn't sleep. I remember being so sad I thought I would fold up into myself and disappear. I've been so scared that I physically hurt. And I've been so angry that I was sure I could never love that person again.

We like to think that our children are carefree and happy. And hopefully, for the most part, they are. But I doubt there are many of us who look at our childhood and only have memories of lazy summers and simple routines.

I look at my own children and realize that is not the case.

I see Bug struggle every day to fit in at his new school. I ask him about his day at the dinner table and I can tell he is lonely. I know he has so much he wants to talk about, but so many times I've given him the excuse that I'm too busy or too tired or things are just too loud right now. I've watched him at the pool with other children and him desperately trying to hide the fact that he can't swim. I've seen him angry with his little brother. And that's only the parts he lets me see.

I think we forget that even children are carrying their own loads.

As I carry my nodding tow-head to bed, I pray I can carry not just him, but a little of the load, so that maybe he will look back and remember the evening together and not so much the lonely day before it.


  1. Love this post. So well said. Thanks, Katherine.

  2. I work with kids everyday it is so amazing to see them making connections and changing before your eyes. I hear people say all the time "oh to be a kid again" and I understand the idea- back to naps and cartoons and days at home without real responsibility but, I for one would not like to go back there. They are constantly being told what they have to do, where they have to be and so on. I think it is so emotionally hard to go through these things. It is hard for me to watch so it must be 10 times harder for kids to go through. I keenly remember how it feels to be left out or not feel good enough- these lessons we learn as children carry over into our adult lives in ways we sometimes try to forget.....As a teacher and a parent it is always a struggle to find the balance between letting them learn and grow and helping them through. You so want to dive in and fix it but at the same time you know they need to learn to fix things themselves. I still haven't found the balance yet. I don't know if I ever will.

  3. This is an amazing post. I too have a First Grader struggling to fit in at school. It's heartbreaking somtimes. Thanks for sharing

  4. I love this post! You're right when you say we think that we know so much more than children. I am often surprised by how insightful my grandchildren are without even trying it seems. And I think to myself, whoa, I should listen to them a little more, I might learn something.

    But something you said really hit home when you talked about being so excited about something you couldn't sleep. How long ago did that happen? Years and years ago and I wish it would happen again. Now if I can't sleep because of something, it's a worry not excitement. I wonder if there's any chance we can regain that ability? I'm going to try.

  5. Yes! I've discovered and re-discoverd that recognizing the child inside is what re-awakens the love for a spouse too. We get bigger, we think we're grown up and we are responsible and capable of schooling our feelings,and we've learned to draw bigger circles-- but if we look and listen like a child the dawn will pull again with excitement and the stars will still sing.The inside of us it is not lost, only hidden. Thanks for the nudge awake!