Before I had Caleb, I was interning for an after school organization called Think Together. I was working in the classrooms where some of the students in the fourth grade, were unable to spell the most basic of words. It was hard and shocking to see this kind of disparity within our public school systems, but this program was there to help provide further aid with their school work, as well as other activities.
One of these boys I spoke with who had these difficulties, started talking with me about life one day. He asked questions about people and how some people do bad things. We talked about pretty deep topics, for this child not to have known me at all. It was amazing to be able to hear his thoughts and ask him questions during that special window of time. After that, I realized that even though I had no plans for children within the foreseen future, if I ever DID have a child, I wanted to be able to talk with them like that. I wanted to be able to hear their thoughts about the world and ask them questions. I loved it then, and I still love it now.
Well as time and life would have it, I got a boy child of my own. he frequently makes ferocious faces, regularly steps outside to howl like a wolf, and now practices his Karate moves alone in the bathroom. He talks daily about poop poo and pee pee, makes random sound effects out of nowhere, and has to be told not to punch or karate chop his mommy. He thinks farting is always funny, and will even inform me if any such thing has occurred. Today during dinner in fact, he said to me, "My butt just farted. HAHAHA!" My response was a dead panned, "Sit up straight and eat your dinner". Poor kid, his mommy is no fun. All of this is behavior is pretty dead on for the four year old child that my boy is.
This same child, in all of his maturity and gusto, has a mind whose breadth of intelligence and forethought I don't even know. I know he is a natural observer and thinker. He likes to know how things work. He likes to ask why, but not for the sake of pestering with the endless whys. He asks so that he can understand, and then he remembers and tells other people what he has learned. He also tries to teach other little people what he knows, and as of recent, the neighboring cat.
We do questions. Sometimes I don't get real answers from him. Sometimes his answers are silly and random because he is not in a mood for such things. Other times, his questions are ones I don't even know the answer too. Sometimes I think that I ought to Google some of them. Other times I give him my best guess and tell him that I don't actually know.
Today Caleb asked if we could do questions before bed. He asked me, "Why was Jesus nailed to the cross?" I don't even know if I answered, because this immediately opened the doors to his thoughts on the matter. I'll admit, I was little astonished to hear what he thought about it all. It isn't something we have talked about in little while, and it was using some language I don't even think I have used with him before. He told me that Jesus made a choice to stay nailed onto the cross (and/or?) go to Heaven. He told me that Jesus was heart broken, and choose to stay there, nailed. He said that there were two punishments present. He told me that there were two punishments, one for people, and one for Jesus, that he took. His thoughts about it were so complex and thought out, and it was just unexpected. Meanwhile, I can't even remember everything else he said, which is hopefully no indication for my adult brains level of memory. :(
Next he asked questions more along the line of what I was initially expecting. Topics of importance included first, why Hulk is pretend, and second, he double checked to see if Iron Man was pretend. He reasoned with me that the reason Hulk is so big and green is because he eats all his vegetables, unlike him. I agreed this was definitely the reason.
One thing that I know but still never ceases to astound me in having a child (thus really being exposed to kids for the first time in my life) is his level of understanding. I find that people so often don't explain things to kids because they don't think they'll get it, and sometimes they won't. But a good rule of thumb might be to give them the benefit of the doubt. Because I know that at least with my kid, he understands a lot more than we realize. He remembers things months later with complexities that always take me by a note of surprise. And if you explain the mechanics of how something works, he will understand and most likely remember. While I haven't really hung out with other kids, I suspect they are sharp and mindful too. I suspect that these little people are really just little theologians, philosophers, engineers, and more, learning what we are willing to teach them and sharing what they learn with others. And since he is the one kid I really know of this age, I know this to be true of him, without a doubt.
In some ways, we can and should treat kids more like adults than we do. Too much is dumbed down, but they are amazing learners and thinkers, even in their toddlerhood. It's remarkable and insanely cool.
Then you have moments like this...where the child tries to open his own yogurt and splatters it everywhere. He did this in the living room, so my coffee table, remote controls, and carpet all have a welcoming layer of berry yogurt just chilling on standby. All in a day's work. ;)