Here is one of my favorite conversations with one of my favorite kids. The names of those involved have been changed in order to protect the guilty…
My kids and I were hanging out with one of our little buddies. Let’s call him Ulysses. We’re at our house playing. Ulysses’ parents are not with us. Out of the blue, Ulysses says to me, as if he is about to unravel the truth about one of the world’s great wonders to me, thrilled that he possesses this wondrous knowledge:
“Hey Cory, you know what? I have to tell you something!”
“Yes, Ulysses, what is it?” I said.
“My parents… My parents…” he paused for dramatic effect.
“Yes?” I said.
“BOTH of my parents PICK THEIR NOSE!” he proclaimed proudly.
“Ulysses,” I said, looking him in the eye with great respect for the deeper bond that was just forged between us, “on behalf of both of your parents and myself, I want to thank you for sharing that with me.”
As usual, this incident reminded me of several insights that we tend to forget as adults, particularly in our interactions with other adults. The first is that honesty is cathartic, and kids are far, far more honest than adults. Sure, I know that kids will often exaggerate or lie to cover up mistakes they’ve made or massive gaps in their knowledge. Adults do that too. But kids also really, really want to share personal and private bits of information — you know, the things we try to hide as adults.
Imagine for a moment how much easier your emotional life would be if, instead of hiding your less impressive moments in life, your questionable thoughts, and your emotional baggage, storing it up inside, you just shared it immediately with everybody as you experienced it. If you didn’t fear the consequences of other adults’ reactions, and the thoughts they’d form about you, you’d probably do just that — share them and get them out there, then move onto the next feeling, thought or event in your life. So for one, I am greatful that kids I know feel comfortable sharing information with me — it means they trust I’ll love them anyway.
Ulysses’ mom is one of the few adults I know who often shares whatever is on her mind, even if it does not always paint the most pristinely perfect picture of her — and it’s one of my favorite things about her. It’s like a breath of fresh air in the adult world. Kids do this a lot more than adults.
And on that note, I will take the cue and state for the record, right here and now, that nosepicking is one of the great underrated simple pleasures in life. I tend to only engage in nosepicking in private — so, for example, my kids won’t tell you all about it when they come over to your house — but engage in it on occasion I do. It is less addictive than alcohol and it doesn’t make you drunk, it is easy to clean, it adversely affects nobody as long as you don’t pick so hard that your nose bleeds (my daughter Sidney sometimes does that), and frankly, it clears your nasal passageways for less money than a shot of saline solution. So I would like to invite all readers to pause for a moment to enjoy the enlightened mining of a fine booger nugget right now — but please do wash your hands before you touch the keyboard or mouse again.
The second insight is that kids love the simple joy of sharing experiences and knowledge with friends. When adults (particularly men) share knowledge, it is often in order to impress others with what we know (particularly when we’re sharing it with women). Sure, there’s an element of that with kids — ‘I know something that you don’t know, ain’t I cool?’ But there’s also this fantastic joy of sharing deep and meaningful information with each other. My 2 1/2 year old daughter Riley, for example, loves to share with me all sorts of information, just to make sure we’re on the same experiential page.
“Daddy?” Riley will say.
“The man is driving the orange tractor!” Riley will say.
“He is?” I’ll say.
“Yes Daddy, look, the man is driving the orange tractor!”
“He is! That looks really fun,” I’ll say.
Riley will pause to think about this for a moment, then say:
“Daddy?” (She always waits for my response to make sure I’m listening. If I don’t respond, she will repeat: “Daddy?”)
“That looks really fun for the man to drive the orange tractor.”
And so she has incorporated my thoughts on the subject into her thoughts on the subject, we have shared information, and we are closer. She’s like a wonderful, engaged color commentator on life combined with a very, very active listener. It’s the best of both worlds — giving and receiving in a conversation — and because of this, I love talking to Riley about anything.
And in this way she inspires me to try to be a better person. I try to be like Riley now when I talk to other people, kids or adults. Somebody who really gives and really listens in a conversation. It’s hard for me — and most adults — to remember to be that way. It’s easy for Riley.
Boy do I love her.
Until next time,