When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:11
Well, that last part, not so much.
But I did understand as a child. And one thing I understood from about age six that stays with me today. It has served me well my entire life and kept me on a path that has led to most happy times and some of the sad.
I’m not sure who gave me the advice, but I think it was Ricardo. He was the son of Cuban immigrants, who always wore a brown cardigan sweater and a bow tie. I’m pretty sure he was speaking about his ropas; su suéter y su corbatín. He hated both, but his madre told him that was the way a young boy dresses in Los Estados Unidos.
He would come over to my house to ride bikes or play in the woods. The first thing he would do was take off his sweater and tie. One day, we were sitting on an old log over a creek in the woods, and he looked at me in his very earnest way.
He said, “Never listen to grownups.”
Besides my dad teaching me to think for myself, that was the best advice I ever received.
Sure, adults have more experience than kids. They have lived longer and have done more things. They should get wiser as they get older and dispense with sage advice to help mold a young child.
Then why are their lives so screwed up?
Did they not follow their own advice? Or is there advice a load of hooey?
Those are really the only two choices. Of course, we all heard the same tired old line when we were kids.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Well, that’s just awesome. Why aren’t you doing as you say?
I’m not saying parents and older relatives have to be perfect. But if the things they told us to do came from a place of wisdom, it doesn’t make any sense that they wouldn’t be following it themselves.
That really only leaves one option.
Their advice is crap.
Well, a lot of it is. Don’t talk with your mouth full, wipe your feet before you come inside, don’t run with scissors in your hands. Those are all pretty good ones.
I always wondered about that last one, though. What’s the quickest way to get a kid to do something? That’s right, tell them not to do it. So what was up with the running with scissors thing. Did any child in the world’s history ever think that running with scissors was a good idea? Did any of us ever even think about doing it until they told us not to?
Hey, my parents went to the store. Let’s grab a pair of scissors and haul ass around the neighborhood.
I’m not entirely sure they were being forthright with their advice sometimes. If Bobby jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff, too? Gee, I never thought about it. Maybe Bobby knows something I don’t know. Why are you talking about jumping off cliffs anyway? You could put your eye out with that thing? Really? This thing?
A child, on the other hand, is always honest and almost always happy. Their advice always makes perfect sense. There’s no waffling or insincerity. Just fair, sincere, logical points of view. And did you ever do something a kid told you to do that wasn’t fun?
Well, maybe I should have rethought the tongue on the frozen flagpole, but other than that.
If we all listened to children’s advice and never listed to the grownups, the world would be a happier, more peaceful place. One kid might get in a fight with another kid, but no kid ever said, “Hey, you gather up everybody you know, and I’ll get everybody I know, and we’ll beat on each other until only one of us is left standing.”
Not everything any kid says is the truth. But no child ever thought that everything one kid said was a lie, while everything another kid said was the truth. And kids can get in an argument, and then still be friends.
And unless a kid is trying to hide something from an adult, they will tell be honest. I like that. I don’t like this. More importantly, you can understand their answers. Simple, frank statements of fact. You don’t have to hire a lawyer and an English professor to parse their sentences to try to get at the truth behind the bullshit.
If you want life lessons, ask a child.
Adults are idiots.