Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Learning from the kids.  §

© Ezra Wolfe / CC BY SA 2.0

It has been a busy week. Work is hectic, and with child care at home and running the kids to and from preschool added to the mix, it can feel as though there’s little time for anything fun.

So, determined person that I am, I tend at times like this to put “fun” on the to-do list.

And today, after a busy day of work and school and then martial arts study in the evening, we climbed into the car and began to drive to our evening “fun” outing. Upon which the kids said to me, “Can we just go home and have a popsicle?”

At first I began to respond with the standard, “But don’t you want to…”

But then I stopped. And, as I drove, I silently asked myself the all-important question. “Why are you so determined to do this? The kids want to go home and have a popsicle. They’ve just told you. That, right now, is what will be fun.”

So I didn’t finish my sentence after all, and instead we went home and had a popsicle and then roasted some hot dogs over a fire. And all were happy. And there you have it.

Sometimes the to-do list and the “schedule” are not more, but less, than meets the eye.

— § —

It is also another tent night. This becomes consecutive night number six with the kids in which we are sleeping in the back yard in a tent.

Night one happened because they’d been asking for ages when we could “camp outside,” with those requests having become more or less constant and very, very insistent over the course of June and early July.

That’s how it began. After the first night, I was rather sure that I was done with it all, and that it was time to fold up the tent, take the sleeiping bags to the laundromat, and return to “normalcy.”

But they asked for another night. And then another. I presume that at some point, the novelty will finally wear of and they’ll be ready for a bed again.

In the meantime, I’m more than surprised at just how good all of this outdoor time has been for me. With the events of divorce and the responsibilities of work otherwise having more command over my life and feelings than I’d like, I thought that the last thing I really needed were many nights outdoors in a tent.

Turns out that it’s the thing I needed most. Looking back over the last week and a half, I’m not sure how I’d have survived indoors, in a bed, clinging to “normalcy.”

© Robert Knapp / CC BY SA 3.0

Instead, here I type, in utter darkness, slight chill in the air, listening to crickets and the snoring of children as they come together in a kind of primal orchestral arrangement. And I feel calm and exposed to the world and at one with things greater than myself—the air, the hills, the stars, the kids.

This is what we all needed, apparently, but only they knew it.

— § —

I grew up hearing that “you learn so much from your kids,” but I always took it to be a kind of empty platitude—either that or a veiled reference to cuteness, as in you learn just how cute kids are and just how much you really, really love them.

But in fact you also learn certain things about life from your kids. Not always for the first time, but certaily for the first time in a long time. Because kids haven’t yet had the sense that they were born with beaten out of them by the institutions of society, by peers, and by significant others.

We all arrive in middle age as a pack of maladjusted liars, these traits having been inculcated in us by forceful and keening others who sought to make us just the opposite in one of life’s great paradoxes.

Unpolluted by good behavior and proper thoughts, kids know what’s true perhaps better than most adults do. And, in their innocence, they are also unencumbered with respect to simple pronouncements of truth.

There is certainly a fine line to be walked—after all, they will have to navigate the same waters of the world that all adults have, by middle age, navigated—but there is much to the idea that it’s often a very good idea to listen to and follow children, if you can pause for a moment to recognize and accept the unvarnished, unconscious wisdom in the things that they say and do.

— § —

And so here we are, surrounded by cool air and crickets after an evening of popsicles and hot dogs, all of which the kids recognize as implicitly valuable.

Though they’re always happy to pay lip service to such things, I’d wager that few adults, when push comes to shove and in the midst of adult life, actually recognize and act upon the value of such things in the same way.

Their loss.