Children Can Leave You Speechless

>> Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I think we all think kids are cute when they say things, even if they shouldn't. Of course, lots of times we think kids are cute when they are just saying the obvious, just because ... well, they have such high pitched voices and by the time you figure out what they are actually saying, you just have to laugh. There must be something in the human species that makes most of us react this way, otherwise we might not let them grow up. After all, we make great fun of our friends and adult family members when they state the obvious.

Take yesterday, for example. We were at the pool, and I poured a bucket of water over Toddler's head. He squealed, giggled, and wiped his eyes. Then he looked at me and said, "I'm all wet!" Woah. Really? But from him, it was the cutest thing. I don't know why he needed to tell me he was all wet, or why it was such a surprise to him (we do this every day at the pool and every night in the bath), but okay. I can go with it.

Every once in awhile, though, kids say things to you that you have no answer to, or if you do, you should at least check with the child's parents before opening your big mouth. About ten years (ok longer ago than that), I was driving along a highway with a young child in the car with me. A motorcycle swerved around us on the berm, cut us off, and sped obnoxiously on his way. At these times, an insensitive adult, alone in the car might say (or wish silently), that the cops catch that *** and give him a ticket. Such adult might also whisper invectives like, "You'll be in an accident before the day's end, mark my words." (Of course, if s/he were, we would be horrified.)

This child watched this pretty obnoxious biker pass us intently. I think she'd been watching him swerve in and out in the mirror for awhile. When he was a few cars ahead, she said, "I wish he were dead."

HUH? Did I just hear that? So of course, I go into full-blown "adult" mode (I was really only half an adult at that time.) Girl Relative, that is a HORRIBLE thing to say. You should never say something like that." This child turned and looked at me, with the most serious eyes, and said, "Why not? He'll never know."

I was stopped cold in my tracks. She had me there. He never would know. What on earth do I say now? Where are the pearls of wisdom I am supposed to have to convince the child of her great wrongdoing in the moral straight path of the universe? Well, I hemmed and hawed a bit about how we should always try to help our fellow human beings, etc. etc., but it was apparent I was making no impression. Finally, after being unable to persuade her that her feelings were improper, I learned a very valuable lesson.

I finally, finally understood the great lesson of adults (even semi-adults). When you don't know what else to say to a child, stop explaining, and issue a decree. "I don't ever want to hear you say anything like that again. It's mean, rude, and I won't have it."

Guess what miss Smarty-pants said next? "Okay, but you can't stop me from thinking it."

Is it any wonder some people are afraid of children?

(I must say, in defense of this child, that she grew up to be a very sweet young woman who would never wish a single person dead ... at least not without huge pangs of guilt. Either that, or she has kept those thoughts very well hidden all these years, and we are all completely fooled. Hmm. I guess only she knows .....)


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