Not Just Kidding

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Nerissa Naidoo
Member since April 30, 2016
  • 4 Posts
  • Age 22

Image by Nerissa Naidoo

Image by Nerissa Naidoo

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that he was once a kid who cared about neither. Perhaps memory loss is a side-effect of puberty, but as soon as we receive our driver’s licenses, first pay cheque or utility bill, we suddenly view children as immature beings who don’t know any better. We, however, are the paragons of wisdom by virtue of the number of birthday candles we boast.

While this may appear to be an inevitable – sometimes amusing – phenomenon of life, we often wield it to invalidate the thoughts and feelings of kids: we tell a teenage girl who’s had her heart broken for the first time to ‘get over it’, or laugh at the child who disproves quantum mechanics with a story about a dragon that breathes marshmallow. Which is ridiculous, since children are, quite often, wells of ingenuity. With this is mind here are 7 times my kid self knew more about life than I did:

1) Friendship: When it comes to relationships as a child, friendship is the default setting. ‘I’m not your friend’ was the harshest insult that existed in my vocabulary because it was almost unnatural. I could meet a kid for the first time, and after a few hours, we’d have been business partners, detectives, a pop group, international superspies, world-renowned artists, and an unlikely duo of unknown species trying to retrieve the seven dragonballs and save Goku. We could do all of the above and still not know each other’s names, because the only requirement for joy was company.

2) The little things: When you are the centre of the universe, the world ends at the tip of your nose. Everything I ever needed was always right within my reach: a cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day, or waking up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons in my pyjamas. They were my favourite things and brought me insurmountable happiness – the kind that you won’t understand unless you’ve felt it before. I never yearned for anything bigger or better, because there simply wasn’t anything bigger or better, and because I didn’t concern myself with what I was missing out on an entire ocean away.

3) Hurting people is bad: We like to take credit for teaching this to kids, but our actions discredit us. Children are acutely aware of the emotions of others – it’s why, when I’d see my cousins cry, I’d immediately start crying too. When you’re a kid, hurting someone else is rarely calculated: it’s usually an expression of misunderstood anger, or mirroring of adult behaviour. We, on the other hand, hurt others for fun, sport, personal gain and even senselessly.

4) Incredible self-belief: As someone who suffers from chronic low self-esteem, my kid self is my ultimate hero – and she thought so too. In this great story of Life, the Universe, and Other Bad Ideas, I was the main protagonist who could do anything. And anything I did do was always some momentous feat; whether it was drawing a picture with my eyes closed, or carrying a glass without sending my mother into a frenzy. There was never any obstacle I was powerless to overcome, as long as it was before my bedtime.

5) No regrets: It wasn’t that I never did anything wrong – I have teachers and relatives who can provide sworn testimony – it was just that I never held it against myself as obsessively as I do now. Being sad about my mistakes lasted for 10 minutes, before I returned to my friends (who had completely forgotten about it), or my mum dangled my favourite chocolate in front of me (I had completely forgotten about it). I firmly trusted that there are no accidents in life – only things that happen accidentally.

6) Magic is real: I believed in everything as a child, and I was happier for it. I believed in the creature under my bed, but I also believed in the superhero who could defeat the forces of darkness – they used to look like my dad, but now they only vaguely resemble myself. The world was bursting with possibility that my imagination could not constrain, so to ensure I never denied myself one of them, I believed in all of them.

7) Hugs fix everything: they really do.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from kid Nerissa is that she existed without qualification - she was just Nerissa. Children aren’t mere conduits for our adult selves, nor is childhood some transitional phase to something better. Kids might experience the world far more deeply and wholly than we do, but that doesn’t make their experience any less real. They have emotions, opinions and ideas - each just as meaningful as the other; each just as valid as ours. This is true whether it’s a fairytale about their friends, or fears about their bullies. If we shame or dismiss them into silence on lighthearted issues, they’re less likely to speak up when it’s necessary to do so.

Children don’t need to be given a voice - their voice has always been there. It’s us who need to listen.

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