“What All Children Know”

I am working to organize my new office on our recently renovated third floor. It’s been slow going.  In fact, it looks like a small U-Haul storage facility threw up in here.

I just found a black moleskin notebook in a box from our old house which a few years ago, I used to carry with me everywhere.

Not only and I’m an innate archivist, I am a Junior Varsity record keeper.  I think this is an off-shoot of being a writer.

What’s in this notebook?

Well, notes; everything from daily “to dos”like “pick up dog pills” to a five-year plan I wrote in 2007 that I still have one year to complete.

Turns out it was a pretty ambitious plan.  I better get cracking.

I also found a list I dashed off on the morning of January 24, 2008.

This date isn’t significant, but I’m glad I date everything since 2011 has been feeling like 2008 for months now.  In fact, the last decade is a bit of a blur.

I had forgotten about this list until I rediscovered it in my old notebook.

It goes…

What All Children Know:

That they are color blind
That war is wrong
That magic is real
That smoking is bad for you
That you must always wear a helmet on a bike
And a seat belt in the car
That we should all be friends
That playing is natural
That love is all there is
That God is everywhere
That we are all One
That every child deserves safety, love, and nourishment
That it is a good idea to go to bed when you are sleepy
That the only time is “now”

I don’t recall what originally prompted me to write it, which I’m sure is due to the aforementioned blur.

I suspect that I wanted to capture the essence of who I believe we are when we first enter the world…

And the innate wisdom we possess.

When my daughter Hope was fourteen-months old, I took her to New York City for a week-long visit to see friends.

We were on the subway one afternoon.  Everyone in the car, myself included, had their eyes cast to the floor or the ceiling, afraid to make eye contact with each other.

This is Subway Riding 101.

Then there is little Hope in her jogging stroller, looking around at her fellow riders.

She starts waving and saying “hi” with her tiny hands to giant men who one might not want to encounter in a brightly lit alley.

She was persistent.  If they didn’t acknowledge her, she would wave again and say “hi” a little louder until they noticed her.

Hope wasn’t afraid to look them in the eye, because she didn’t know she was supposed to be afraid.

She didn’t see any separation between herself and the strangers on the train.

This was poignant, because I knew I would soon teach her about “stranger danger” and the ins and outs of personal safety.

The state of the world dictates that we must teach our children to protect themselves from our current roster of villains: Pedophiles, serial killers, regular killers, drug dealers, drunk drivers, terrorists, rapists, thieves, abusers, stalkers, bullies, and sociopaths.

This may be our current normal, but it’s not natural.

What is natural is when children needed to be taught to avoid the perils of nature: deadly berries, precipices, and where the mountain lions hang out.

Now kids must learn to protect themselves from other people, which is what villains are — mere people with a warped sense of right and wrong who could shatter our worlds in an instant.

This is a modern necessity thanks to the few misguided apples that might threaten to blow up our whole barrel.

However…

I believe my baby daughter greeting fellow passengers on the F Train is symbolic of who we actually are, which is loving, open, accepting, and non-judgmental.

Some might define this as “innocent” — a child not knowing any better.

But what if it’s the little kids who know best and it’s us who’ve forgotten how things are supposed to be?

This is what I believe. Why?  Because I clearly recall being little and embodying the qualities of the list.  As an adult , I aim to remember this is who I was.  It’s who I am.

My goal is to thoroughly prepare my children for life in the world, but my approach strives to balance the duality of “don’t talk to strangers” but don’t “judge the strangers” either.

So that none of us forget who we are.

Therefore, we don’t say “I hate…” or “They’re weird…” or “She’s stupid” or “You’re annoying.”

When personalities clash, we work to find the good in people, the bright side, and seek a deeper understanding of underlying motivations so that we can be as compassionate as possible.

This can be challenging, not only when I drive, but especially now as my kids’ teenage years approach, but I am steadfast.

Children are born with a light in their eyes. A light that belies their inner wisdom, their spirits, their open hearts, their fundamental capacity for non-judgment.

I feel it is part of my job as a parent to ensure that that light doesn’t go out.

In them.

Or me.

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2 Responses to “What All Children Know”

  1. Hi Gail,
    Great to hear from you! And thank you so much! I would love you to continue reading — I would be honored in fact. If you like, you can subscribe by clicking on the “follow by email” link at the top right hand corner of the page and then you'll get it in you inbox every time I post.
    We hope that you and yours are well! We all love Mrs. R. 🙂
    Best,
    Alix

  2. Anonymous says:

    I stumbled on your blog and am ever so grateful. As a mom, teacher, and always-hoping-to-be-worthy human being, I loved what you said and how you said it.
    If you don't mind, I'd love to continue reading your blog…if I can figure out how to get it again.
    Hugs to Hope and Henry and you and Nick also-
    Gail Ruggieri

Thank you for reading + commenting!