I’m one of those few who can remember everything. Now by that, I mean I can’t remember homework assignments, of course, but I can remember everything else. I can remember specific fights my mom and dad had before they got divorced. I had a new step-dad by the time I was two.
I will always remember one fight in particular. Though I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I knew enough to know that I wasn’t welcome. I had lost a set of keys – my most cherished possession. My parents, true to style, were fighting at the mantle which sat over our large fireplace in the living room.
“Do you know where my keys are?” I thought. The words that actually came out of my mouth were even simpler than that. I had to ask three times before I got a response.
“Not now, Roddy.” My family still calls me that. I felt dejected. I felt unwanted. I felt as though my parents didn’t care. They didn’t even hear what I said.
All through my “growing up” years I continually made a promise to myself to listen to the little voices that we sometimes ignore. Had my parents listened to mine that day, they might have realized earlier that their marriage wasn’t necessarily one of bliss.
My nephew, who is now six years old, is the pride and joy of my life. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me and it’s somewhat ironic that I first talk about him on Valentine’s Day. He taught me more about love than anyone I have ever known.
I have also learned a lot from him. He’s taught me patience, respect, unconditional love, and that bad words are words we shouldn’t use (oops!). For someone who is only six years old, he reminds me constantly that children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. How many times have you heard your parents say, “Oh, I didn’t know you knew what that was!”
I was in California over semester break and visited a childhood friend of mine who now has a three-year-old son. We were killing time and talking in my car. He seemed so anxious to join in on the conversation.
“You know kids will answer anything you ask them!” I proudly proclaimed. Was I in for a shock. I thought it would be funny to ask him about the impending war with Iraq. His answer is something I can’t ever forget.
He looked up at me with great big brown eyes and said, “War hurts people.” A three-year-old told me war hurts people. How can a kid who isn’t old enough to play with G.I. Joes (do they still have those?) belittle a joke I made with the factual truth? The car was silent.
Kids surprise me. No, kids amaze me.
I’m sure many of us can remember walking in on our parents at their most intimate moments in life. Parents think that kids will forget or they just don’t understand what’s going on but we knew. In some way, we knew.
We knew what was bad, what was good, what was forbidden. We did it anyway because we were kids and that’s what kids do. What’s more important is, we knew what was going on. Never underestimate the power of kids.
So next time you’re back at home or in the grocery store and you see a small child, wave hello. Talk to them. Don’t ignore them. It just may surprise you what you can hear in a little voice.