Ah, children. Toddlers, adolescents, teenagers, the whole schmear. I have raised one, am an aunt to two, and am a grandmother to three- heck, I even WAS one once upon a time. As a reader, I have always been drawn to young adult literature. I cannot begin to fathom the depths of insight and information I have gleaned over the years by reading literature that is geared to inspire the minds and souls of the young. I have been so engaged with this genre that I even wrote my first manuscript and have begun to work on my second one in that same realm.
This sounds good, doesn’t it? Inspired and impassioned by focusing on the needs and lives of the young? Tidy and proper, even, some might say? Well…um, no. Actually, I have learned that it is the opposite of tidy. In fact, I have found that to deal with children you must be prepared to muck out the stalls of life, to dig deeply into the trenches, to turn a blind eye to boogers, mucus, smelly feet and armpits, and try to maintain some semblance of dignity and shreds of humor through their tantrums and moods.
As an educator, I am to gently lead these young minds to drink deeply from the well of education and knowledge. Sadly, though, knowledge has become cloaked in the guise of standardized tests that, in my opinion, birthed the facial expression on both teachers and students that is reminiscent of those on crash test dummies. So imagine my surprise a couple of days ago, when, in the middle of an underwhelmingly titillating lesson over state standards, I noticed some excitement blooming in a section of students. I was intrigued. “What could I have done or said that captured their attention?” I thought with more than a tinge of pride and satisfaction. Was it the content? The presentation itself? Or could it have been some of my witty examples?
Alas, none of the above. The fact was that the day before, several males in the class had written a Declaration of Independence for the Right to Bare Their Legs, aka to roll up the legs of their pants above their knees in order to show off their leg hair. Would I care to sign, they wanted to know? Sigh. Leg hair? I realize that as, parents, grandparents, teachers, advocates, etc., we are to encourage children to tell us what is on their minds, but I promise you, sometimes I run in the other direction.
Yes, children are sometimes dirty, smelly, contrary, and overly conscious of their clothes, hairstyles or their, um, leg hair. You will never be able to accurately predict what they will say or do. Friday night, my two year old granddaughter lightly tapped me on the shoulder as I sat upon the floor. I turned, lips pursed, ready to kiss her on the cheek as it is a routine we sometimes do. I almost somersaulted backwards, however, as she presented her other set of cheeks for me to inspect as she had just used the restroom. Talk about a quick about-face!
But at the end of the day, after the students have left or my grandchildren have gone home, and I am lying flat on my back on the floor trying to remember my name, I realize that I would not trade one day of it because it is the children who have helped shape who I am. After all, aren’t we all comprised of every age we have been? We are made up of every layer of every year we have ever been, just like the layers of an onion. Therefore, I say, “Hail to the children, and to the child who remains in us all!”