John and I have been talking about kids a lot lately…I’m in my late twenties and many of my friends have babies, and while we haven’t yet decided whether we’re willing to tackle the terrifying realities of parenthood, it’s definitely a topic of conversation. As we were visiting with my in-laws this weekend, we got talking about our nephew, who is just young enough to be obligingly duped by the family’s colossal efforts to present him with evidence that the Easter bunny is real.
My in-laws reminisced about our Easter shenanigans with a laugh and a sigh, savoring the memory of Train Dude’s innocence even as the acknowledged that it would last for long. John wasn’t buying it: “What’s so great about innocence?” he asked. “Why do we romanticize it when kids are so gullible?”
He has said this before, and I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed in education classes at Harvard. It’s a valid question. Why do we cherish the fact that kids just plain don’t know stuff, and don’t know to question stuff?
My step-father-in-law used the word “vulnerability” to describe part of that–the “not questioning stuff” part. Vulnerable, innocent kids have a lot of trust for certain grown-ups–which implies good things. It says that they haven’t had to deal with anything really difficult, like adults lying to them about things that matter. Grown-ups can be trusted to take care of things. When a kid loses that, it means they’ve started to experience (or noticed friends experiencing) being let down in some way, and that’s sad. So…I guess vulnerability implies that some of the sad stuff is in the “unknown stuff” category.
The other piece, the “not knowing” piece, is just fun. There is nothing, truly nothing, more awesome than sharing something supremely cool with someone who’s never heard of this cool thing. There’s just so much that kids don’t know, and so much that we can share with them, that we have the opportunity to be amazing in the eyes of this small, still-uneducated person because we’re the people who are bit-by-bit helping him along the path of knowing wonderful stuff…even if some of it (like the Easter Bunny) is imaginary.
And that’s awesome.