Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Prolonging Childhood

We were hanging outside the house the other day, sitting around the fire pit making s'mores with some neighbors and their kids.

Maybe you already knew this. But kids ask a ton of questions. All the time. Sometimes it's just "Why?" Sometimes it's "what are you doing?" ... even regarding the most obvious or mundane task, like arranging the tarp over the firewood or holding the skewer over the fire to melt away the excess marshmallow.

Sometimes I see what I can get away with. See what I can get the kid to believe. But that's easy. Kids believe anything. Maybe because they trust adults, maybe because they're a blank slate and all they have to work with is imagination sans inhibitions.

But I had a revelation. I like hanging out with the kids, not just because they are energetic and adults are docile, but because they're curious. Which means they're trying to learn. They're bettering themselves, whether they look at it that way or not.

A lot of adults don't ask questions anymore. Because they're too cool to care about that. Or too smart to need your input. Or they already know everything they need to know. Idiots.

But kids. Kids are smarter than that.

What are you doing?

"I'm changing the light bulb."


"Because the old one burned out."



At this point you have a choice. The easy thing to do is make something up, shortchange them, deflect them, ignore them

"Because the gnomes inside lost their torches."
"Because that's what light bulbs do."
"What's your mom doing? Go find her."
"Is that Bubble Guppies I hear on the TV?"

Or pretend to give a good answer while actually repelling them with technical jargon.
"The filament that provided illumination evaporated due to prolonged exposure to a roughly 4,000 degree Fahrenheit electrical current over problematic hotspots in the tungsten coil."

Worst of all, you can treat their curiosity as an annoyance. It's an easy thing to do after a long day of work and about two hours of "Why?"  But don't be that person. You'll quench their flame.

Afterall, there's an alternative.

You could look that kid in the eyes and enlighten them.

What you say might change that child's life. They might grow up to invent the next technology of luminescence because of something you say right this moment. You literally hold the future of the world in your hands. Because let's face it. Humans run this. And all grown humans were kid humans once (*subject to change as scifi and reality continue to merge).

But I don't know the answer.

Google does. How do you think I just learned the filaments in light bulbs are made of tungsten? We live in the most information-rich era that's ever been. If you are reading this right now you have access to a every answer that's ever been recorded. (ie. Can you melt wood? )

But I don't have time to answer each and every little question.

Make time. Make the world a better place. You can do it in your own living room while changing a light bulb by using that big mouth you love flapping anyway. Put it to good use.

But he asks so many questions! It's annoying.

Go to the corner! You are a grown human being, able to wipe your own butt, and an inquisitive child is more than you can handle? No desert for you.

If you respond to curiosity with intolerance, you're basically taking a dump on the planet. 

I urge you to reward curiosity. Whether it be your kid or someone else's. And don't resist helping that kid because of something their parents did or failed to do. I don't buy into many "ism" words. They're a load of political bull-diarrhea. But blaming a person for the crimes of their parents is ignorant and petty and perpetuates the divide.

If a kid asks you a question, do the world a favor. Make them smarter. You might even get smarter in the process.


On the subject of kids...

I was going to write this regardless. But it just so happened that I ran across the following links while this blog was in the works.

This one is Alison Gopnik, a child psychologist, giving an enlightened presentation on Ted talk. Very cool stuff, whether or not you like kids or babies. Check it out if you have twenty minutes. It's way more likely to better you than twenty minutes worth of news, sitcoms, Facebook or reality TV.

What do babies think?

This next link takes less time. Some of you know I'm a fan of Kickstarter. It's the platform from which I pre-sold my debut novel to so many of you lovelies. This project is from LeVar Burton, who is trying to invigorate Reading Rainbow. Yes, they're currently over 3X the goal. But I trust them. And I'm all about kids reading. What business-savvy author wouldn't be?

Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere.