When your child’s vocabulary and speech begins to grow, you, as a parent, are constantly bombarded with new words, phrases and sounds each and every day. At times, they can cause a few moments of strange looks on your face as you try to decipher just what it is they are trying to say. Other times it’s clear as day.
And there are some times when it is so clear and so bizarre that you’re sure you understood it, but question if you heard that right.
One night, for example, our little guy was casually playing in the living room, per usual, with nothing out of the ordinary, when he started telling us about “the little ghost” that he says “hides” from him. My wife and I immediately looked at each other and asked our son, “what did you say, buddy?” and he repeated it, the same as before, clear as day.
A separate afternoon found he and I in his room, playing with some toys, when he suddenly said to me, “Geno’s coming!” This, once again, caused a double-take and a request for repeating, which he gladly, and exuberantly obliged. Yep. He said it. You see, Geno was one of our two older neighbors who passed away this past year. When I asked questions to see if we were talking about the same Geno, yep, we were.
“Does Geno sometimes visit you, buddy?”
I’m sure some people will think I’m looking too much into it, but as I’ve detailed here in the past when one of my parents’ dogs passed away, I suddenly started thinking about children and whether or not they can see things that we adults can’t. Trying to find reference on the internet leads me down a rabbit hole of websites both supporting and debunking the entire thought, so I won’t even bother sending you across the world wide webs for it.
As I’ve said before, I’m not really a religious person these days. Spiritual, probably, but not religious. And I think that’s why I’m always so torn when faced with encounters or incidents like this.
But I certainly think it’s possible.
As we get older, we often become more cynical and hardened to the world around us, losing the open-minded nature and open-eyes that we had as children. Through our young eyes, we saw the world in a much more spectacular, much more magical place than we do as grown-ups. And because of that, I think it’s certainly possible for young ones to somehow be more attuned to what’s out there that we just don’t see or feel.
It gives me some hope that maybe there is something else…something beyond all this. While I, many times, find it hard to believe that, there is a part of me that really wants to.
And whether I am right, wrong, or off-base at all in regard to this life and whatever, if anything, is after, I will say that our little guy is certainly opening my own eyes and mind to the thought that there is much more out there than my jaded, cynical, adult mind has shut out.
He’s quite the teacher.
When I was a little kid in elementary school, I had a hand-me-down set of encyclopedias. I couldn’t tell you what brand, but I remember they had orange covers, littered with four or five photos contained in squares on each cover, giving you a hint of what’s inside. I don’t quite recall if they came from my parents or my grandparents, but they were either something a relative was getting rid of, or a good garage or book sale find. I know they were probably a decade old at the time, but I didn’t care. In a pre-internet age, this was a total fountain of knowledge and I can’t tell you how much time I spent just leafing through and reading that set of encyclopedias, just because I wanted to know.
Yes, I spent tons of my elementary school age just sitting in our house and reading encyclopedias (when I wasn’t running around outside pretending to be Inspector Gadget, Batman or a Ninja Turtle). You’d think that would’ve had some kind of effect, right? What the heck happened?
By the time I reached junior high, I fell into a trap I’m sure many do at that age. Coming out of elementary school with a history of As and A+s must have thrilled my parents and myself in my younger years, but at that oh-so awkward stage of new environments, new people, and new life changes, I felt…uncomfortable with having good grades. So, I started purposely answering questions wrong on my tests. A little here and there, just to bring the grades down so I wouldn’t seem like so much of an outcast. Average seemed pretty good looking compared to being a target for ridicule, or worse, the bus bullies that already were a thorn in my side.
At some point, though, that method started to just take over. Suddenly, I didn’t study as much, I didn’t put forth as much effort. Just getting by was all right, and before I knew it, my grades started dropping down to B or C level and I became just that – a very average student.
It’s something I regret oh so much to this day because I wonder just what type of person I would have been and where my life may have gone had I not taken that cliched detour off of academic row.
When I see my son, just about to turn two, ravenous for more books to read together, to want to know about things, pulling letter magnets off the fridge and telling me what letters they are, I encourage every moment of it, hoping deep inside that he will not follow in the footsteps of his father who, despite my own parents’ encouragement, decided I’d rather be accepted than intelligent. When you see so much potential, the last thing you want is to see it squashed. I can’t imagine how devastated my parents must have been when I started coming home with grades so lackluster compared to my earlier years.
I felt slight redemption in college. Looking back, I remember numerous discussions on philosophical levels that today I can’t even imagine getting into. I think of the bombardment of creative ideas and new ways of thinking that still seem impressive to me when I come across old notes or work.
But it’s often followed by the feeling of dread as I wonder just what happened to that intelligent person. Sometimes I feel so focused on my daily to-do lists of what needs to be accomplished, that my mind rarely has the moments of breakthrough it once did. Currently working at a university, I often find myself with this fear that I’ll be ‘found out’ as just a dummy faking his way through, unable to hold my own amid the academic minds I’m surrounded by.
I don’t know what quite happened, but what I know is that these days I look back and feel as though I was so much smarter at ages 7-12 and 20-26 than any other time in my life so far. And I sit here, at age 34, feeling as though it’s a lost era of myself. I hear things that I don’t quite comprehend, concepts that seem beyond me, and I can’t figure out if back then, I just had more confidence in what I knew (or thought I knew), or if I really am getting dumber and less creative with age.
Have I allowed myself to become content among a world where knowledge is a Google search away? Has the time I used to spend looking things up and reading about things, or having those intelligent conversations now spent online with a multitude of social media sites? Has the world around me just gotten smarter while I’ve stayed stagnant? Theories, all of them, but hopefully you get the point that I think about this a lot. There’s been lots of reports and criticism that the smarter the computers, phones, and other technology becomes, the dumber we as humans turn. But if that’s the case, am I not alone in my feeling? What does it mean as my life continues, what does it mean for my son?
Also, that whole Louis Armstrong lyric – “…they’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know.” It seems so much more somber now than ever before.
Post Script – after writing this, I saw someone online share the following link, which made me feel not only better, but like a genius. So, please, if you ever feel like I did about becoming dumber the older I get, check out these – “Dumb People Across The Internet”
Seems like an easy checklist, but not exactly the easiest of tasks with the little guy at an age when he wants to be into EVERYTHING he possible can.
And you know what, can’t fault him for that. So much is still new to him and he’s learning about the world through getting into things.
But, for this monumental task, we tried to prep well. Meg went to the store to get everything like the soil, the plants, etc while I stayed with our little monkey. She got home and we traded off as I went outside and unloaded all those bags of soil and the accompanying plants.
Then, we waited for nap time.
When his head hit the pillow, it was like a pistol going off at the track. Our feet hit the ground running and with a dedicated speed like nothing else in our week, weeding out the garden and flower beds out back and in front of our house.
We were pretty much all done with the beds and about to start on the potted plants, like herbs, when the little guy woke up. I brought him outside where he quickly took hold off some kid-versions of gardening tools he received in his Easter basket and buoyantly jumped into the fray to help. By help, of course, I mean engaging in all the fun that is sticking his tiny shovel into the garden and throwing around the soil and trying to dig up the plants Meg had just planted.
He was thoroughly enjoying himself, but it would’ve been disaster if I hadn’t intervened. So, I tried to explain to him why we couldn’t do that, but it led to a lot of “No!” and wanting to do it anyway. Meg found, while not a solution, a distraction, and that came in the form of a small watering can.
While she planted the herbs into the pots, he giggled incessantly as I’d use the hose to spray water into the can. Spray, giggle, spray, giggle. Rinse and repeat.
It made me realize how much we took time for granted before we had kids. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change anything in the world right now, but it’s funny how something like his nap time becomes a window of opportunity like never before, and just his waking up and entering the fray into our gardening activities, doubled the time it took to accomplish things. I admit not having put a lot of thought into that aspect of things before we had a kid.
Time is precious. Nap time, is sometimes like gold. 🙂