I cannot think of one adult for whose happiness I would drop all social conventions. But children? It was for them, the two little boys, that I brandished my plastic light-saber and ran stark-raving mad around the front yard of their historic Craftsman-style Kansan home on a residential street, long skirt waving wildly behind me… as curious evening commuters slowly cruised by.
For what adult would I dismount my leather throne, ceremoniously kneel in a blue dome camping tent (fully constructed on the hard living room floor) and carefully dispatch the coordinates for our spacecraft landing and descent?
Or repeatedly, repeatedly, leap. From the narrow white closet doors to the Dash & Albert rug. And back again. Repeatedly. Following the command of Luke Skywalker… as… well, I always forgot who I was. They would roll their eyes incredulously: “How can you NOT know these guys?” To which I responded with loud warning cries of an approaching meteor.
Once one of my friends was talking about growing up between two cultures. She looked at me with wide eyes as she realized, “If you saw me with my family in central America, you wouldn’t even know me.”
I kind of feel the same way, you know? If you saw me babysitting, you wouldn’t even know me.
Would you know the Turkey Hunter, the Coyote, and the magician? Would you know the choreographer, videographer, and pop singer? The beatboxer, actor, and sketch artist? I am a linebacker, a point guard, and goalie. All the while playing the umpire. I am a gamer, a reader, and a storyteller. I am Indiana Jones’ (girl) friend. I am a Spanish pirate, a German grandpa, and a British general. I am, quite easily, this entire cultural patchwork, and I easily bounce between the roles, as excitedly as the ensuing giggles of the tickled children.
Kid’s DO have a different culture.
First, their material culture is different. This cultural group sleeps on Dinosaur Sheets. Their evening costume is Thomas the Tank Engine Jammies. During the day, they walk about in a strange costume of black capes (male) and puffy rufflies (female). They have a strange diet consisting of peanut butter and jelly on tortillas (three-fourths of which is usually thrown away), Doritos, and tootsie rolls. They refresh themselves with Strawberry Milk.
They are also social beings. Their vocabulary is quite small, punctuated with bursts of new vocabulary hilariously juxtaposed by the aforementioned small vocab. Social gatherings include T.V., screaming, and running, and “the people” generally prefer all three at once.
They are, however, shy to outsiders, unless newcomers possess infinite mastery of Pertinent Information including (1) Star Wars, (2) Mario Brothers, and (3) location of food sources. Researchers have recognized, though, that this social group makes exceptions for newcomers who do not possess Pertinent Information as long as they are content to listen to lengthy explanations of information mastery of the first two P.I. categories as dispensed by privileged speakers (the oldest child). Children also generally take to newcomers who participate in all P.I. activities, as long as the newcomer does not participate too readily of for too lengthy a time. They additionally understand the value of body contact. They place their hand on your knee to beg you to go play with them outside. They commiserate with you by putting your troubles into perspective. Tell them you have a long paper due tomorrow, and they’ll roll their eyes and say, “That’s nothing! I have a SPELLING test!”
For all their social success, they do have one fault: their ego. You would be amazed at how content they are to watch themselves… stare at their reflection on a dark window, dancing, a Mexican bullfighter, in a suit and a top hat, and a red cape. That isn’t really there. But they saw it, and you do, too.
Sociologists recognize that their ego is sometimes the delight of them. If you remain disinterested in them, they will have a constant invitation toward you. Which is why their company is so much preferable to adults. Because children know games are games. But for adults? Every social encounter is supposed to be Real Meaningful.
But with kids you can kneel on the ground and pray for Rudy, the dead dog.