Monday, November 19, 2007
My Angel Boy turns One today. Yesterday, we had a family gathering at the river house to celebrate. There was the traditional cake and ice-cream and tons of food and a jumping “Fun” house (one of those air house things where the kids take off their shoes and jump inside it) and lots of other fun things for the kids. It was a kick. It was fascinating--and the writer in me studied the children.
Their ages varied. The older ones innately looked out for the younger ones. Guided and assisted them. Watched over them. Even inside the fun house, the older kids made sure they got rough away from the little ones, and they showed the tiny ones (there were several there ranging from 1-2 who were tiny) what to do.
The toddlers watched the older kids, copied what they were doing. They smiled a lot--at each other and at the older kids. They also wanted to do whatever the others were doing.
Little kids look to older kids as role-models. We knew that. But what we might not have known is that it’s an innate reaction. And, from my observation, the weight the toddler gave the other kids grew significantly more important to those closest to them. Not in space or distance, but in relation.
One toddler paid particular attention to her older sister. One older boy (about 9) paid particular attention to his older sister.
Now some might say the reason is the toddler best knows them. But what I witnessed went far beyond that. It went to the bond between them. Private smiles, shining eyes, a lifted brow, an “I know, I know” look. And a frown initiated an immediate reaction. The non-verbal language between the kids was amazing. Absolutely amazing.
And that’s the point of this post. If you write, and you include children in your work, do stop and fade into the woodwork and just observe them. Observe how they interact with adults--those they know and those they do not. Observe their interactions with older kids--known and unknown. Observe their interactions with kids their own age--known and unknown. And observe them when they’re alone. Kids are animated when alone.
You’ll see that many things you believed were learned behaviors are actually innate reactions. That little ones’ cries have a multitude of meanings--and they all sound very different. Hurt, frustration, hunger and wants--no two sound the same.
You’ll see that you might have a dozen mothers of toddlers in the same vicinity, but a baby’s voice or cry perks the appropriate mom’s attention. She’s that attuned--and she knows what kind of cry she’s hearing.
And in gleaming eyes and wide open smiles and unrestrained laughter, you’ll have the privilege of seeing joy in its purest form.
Once you do, you will write differently about children. You’ll write them from the inside out.