I can empathize and tap into different maturity levels really, really easily. A little too easily; in fact sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble.
When I used to baby-sit my then 3-year-old nephew, we’d get into power battles I didn’t know how to break because he played into my own 3-year-old feelings of “fairness.” He’d cheat on a game or claim himself the winner, and it would piss me off so much I didn’t want to play with him anymore. I finally watched his grandma call him on it and realized I could still get him to play fair without stooping to his level.
But I also think it’s helped me out: I can tell which children’s stories are going to work for kids of various ages, which toys are awesome!, and have been able to sympathize with my then 2-year-old niece when she woke up from a nap and couldn’t stop crying. My husband couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but finally after sitting on the floor with her and pulling her onto my lap, through her sobs she mustered the words: “Where’s Mom?” I realized she had forgotten we were watching her for the day, and it was a bad surprise. I don’t think my husband would have ever figured that one out.
I just always assumed that everybody could remember what it felt like to be 3 or 6 or 9 or OMG 13! Some of my friends can’t remember their lives before age 12, and most forget just how they saw the world. I can still tap into that playfulness as well; I still love bubbles, I still love running around in the rain and splashing in puddles. I think art time or sandbox time should still be a regular occurrence for grown-ups.
I’m not a good group leader of small people. I’m great one-on-one. I work better when we get to collaborate rather than me being a teacher or coach or some seniority role. Remember, I’m constantly sympathizing with the toddler who’s crying because he doesn’t want to leave the birthday party, not forcing him to get his shoes on and get in the car.
I wish there was a way to utilize my powers for good, to help change the world and make it a better place for both kids and parents, rather than just get tricked by 4-year-olds. Maybe a children’s book author? No clue.
I’m just curious if I’m alone in being able to do this, the only one who remembers the feeling of freedom the first time you could slip yourself out of your own high chair. What it felt like the first time you remember consciously telling a lie about someone. Remembering how immediate and NOW and FOREVER everything felt, even at 13. Especially at 13.
I doubt I’m the only one.
What do you remember?