I watched a video on the Internet the other day where somebody had interviewed a 10-year-old kid about what he thought about the cosmos. He was quite philosophical and analytical and it was clear that he had thought about these things quite a bit. He compared humans in the universe to ants on a sidewalk, which are unaware that other ants exist elsewhere.
He suggested that beyond our universe, perhaps in a parallel universe, there were others wondering whether we exist. “I could be wrong,” he cautioned.
The point of the video was that kids do think about these things and they’re capable of grasping some pretty complex ideas. They’re willing to share their thoughts on these matters but aren’t often asked by the adults around them.
The parents indicated that they encourage their kids to express themselves and that they don’t talk to them like they’re kids. That’s something I always insisted on in our house; we never baby talked to our kids even when they were babies. Our daughter started speaking in complete sentences by 15 months and we haven’t been able to get her to stop talking ever since.
Our son was a talker, too, before he went into the Marines. He was still a talker when he came out, but it was a different language. Hoorah.
Anyway, I wanted to conduct my own experiment to see how my results compared with the kid on the video. Since our granddaughter is 10, I asked her the same types of questions. Like the boy in the Internet clip, she was both philosophical and analytical but a bit less speculative. You might say she was definitive.
I asked her whether she thought other life forms might exist on other planets. “No,” she said quickly.
“Really?” I asked.
“No, Papa. There is no such thing as aliens or Martians or zombies or vampires.” She clearly placed space aliens in the same genre as fiction. She even used the word “genre,” which amazed the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of me.
But I pressed further: “How far does outer space go, do you suppose?”
“Forever,” she said without hesitation.
“Don’t you think,” I asked, “that millions and millions and millions and millions of miles away from here, there might be another planet that sustains life like this one?”
“Well,” she replied, “do you really, really, really, want to go millions and millions and millions and millions of miles away to find out?”
“No, I suppose I don’t,” I said.
She had won the debate and went back to talking about the things that are really important to her, like some singer named Harry in a band called One Dimension. Then she initiated a comparison game and posed questions to us like “stop is to go as tall is to blank.” She found out her papa is pretty good at that game, so she came up with progressively more difficult comparisons. Papa found out she was pretty good at the game, too.
Kids are smart. Smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. Grades are only part of the picture. It’s fun to engage them and test the boundaries of their knowledge and their creativity. They’ll surprise you, and they’ll benefit from the interaction.
Back in the 70s, a bumper sticker posed the question: “Have you hugged your kid today?” In today’s world of smart phones, tablets, electronic games and instant access to music, it’s more important than ever to give them that physical display of affection, but it’s also important to engage them mentally and spiritually. I would add these bumper stickers: Have you interacted with your kid today? Have you inspired your kid today? Have you had a conversation with your kid today? It’s worth doing.
(c) Copyright by David Porter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved, pondered, questioned, challenged, praised, disciplined, sought and shared.