Last month marked the beginning of a new school year for many. Not me. J Still, kindergartners, graduate students, and all those in between stepped into the next year of their formal education. Recognizing this, I took the opportunity to call one of my many nephews on his first day of the first grade. After discussing important things, like his backpack, I asked if he received any new books to put in it. He said yes, and I further inquired which ones. After a pause, he carefully responded,
“A blue one, and a green one.”
I thought his answer was perfect. Of course, a blue one and a green one, what else would they be? He’s in the first grade! I smiled for a day and a half. (My nephews often have that effect on me.)
Well, then I got curious. I wanted more golden truths from the young minds of my family. I didn’t want to exploit or manipulate them, just hear about life through their eyes. So, with great delight, I created a little questionnaire for three of my nephews. I sent the questions to my siblings with the strictest of warnings that no matter what the boys said, the answers could not be altered. Well, I received their answers, and they are definitely candid, so I’ll provide translation when needed. But first, here are the nephews:
Jordan is the youngest of the participants. He is 4 years old and currently attends preschool. He loves Transformers, and decided earlier this year that his then unborn brother should be named “Bumblebee,” after one of the Autobots. His little brother, Cayden, is now almost six months old, the nickname has stuck, but Jordan has shortened it to “Bum.” A nickname of a nickname…fantastic!
Next up is Brentan. At six years old, Brentan loves farms, tractors, and the color green. He is a brand new first grader, and as I mentioned before, has two new books. He is very polite and very thorough at making sure I take off my shoes when I visit his house.
Dylan is the oldest of the three, coming in at a mighty seven years old. He is the king of the Wii at his house, and he never fails to talk trash as he kicks mine on the basketball court.
Finally, just to keep things interesting, I’m adding one more set of answers…my own. I will be answering as my ten-year old self. Enjoy!
Q: First things first, what are you going to be for Halloween?
A: Jordan: “Mike Zazowski.” (Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.)
Brentan: “I don’t know…I want to be a Chipmunk.”
Dylan: “Darth Maul, but maybe Batman or Shaggy.”
Jeff: “MC Hammer.”
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned at school?
A: Jordan: “How to play games and color and play…”
Brentan: “Not to put sand in peoples eyes.”
Dylan: “Be nice!”
Jeff: “I can always be friends with the teacher.”
Q: How do you know who you should marry?
A: Jordan: “Um…Uh…You?!” (“You,” is his Mom. She will tell him when the time is right.)
Brentan: “Um…I DON’T KNOW!!!”
Dylan: “I don’t remember…maybe Christiana, because she is cute.” (AND his sister.)
Jeff: “Someone will show up to the temple with me.”
Q: What makes you really happy?
A: Jordan: “If you be nice to me.” (“You,” is once again referring to his mom. HAHA!!)
Dylan: “Because of all the things that I do like play video games. I am also happy about the brownies you are cooking right now.” (My brother makes brownies??)
Jeff: “Mon-Fri, 6:00 pm, the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel. Directly followed by Entertainment Tonight at 6:30 on CBS.”
Q: What would you do with a million dollars?
A: Jordan: “Leave it with me.”
Brentan: “Buy an apartment!”
Dylan: “I would buy all the Xbox Games and all the Happy Meals in town, and we would be really full of Fries, Chicken Nuggets, Apple Dippers, Milk…we would probably puke.”
Jeff: “Buy the Mickey Mouse Club.”
Q: If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
A: Jordan: “A city…Maybe like Park City?!”
Brentan: “Anywhere by Minnesota, because one million dollars would get me to Minnesota and an apartment, I think.”
Dylan: “The North Pole, so I could take all the presents!”
Jeff: “Disney World.”
Q: Name something you love.
A: Jordan: “I know..You and Bum!!” (You guessed it, his mom and little brother.)
Dylan: “Xbox, sports, and my family.”
Jeff: “Christmas Eve.”
Q: What is the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen?
A: Jordan: “A rainbow.”
Brentan: “A tulip flower.”
Dylan: “The sun, because it is shiny and has beautiful colors.”
Jeff: “Grandma North’s yard…or the light reflecting off of my sky blue, sparkle-satin clogging jacket.”
Young kids always surprise me. Besides soaking up knowledge like a sponge, I am most impressed by the freedom in which they honestly express that knowledge. That’s what I love about my nephews’ answers. You can’t ask for anything more than what they give you, because it’s the truth. More specifically, it’s their truth. They have ownership of it. And they don’t seem too frightened of the unknown. Using what they have, they answer the best they can, or confess they have no idea and move on.
So then why, as we get older, do we often allow our lives to be led by what we don’t know rather than what we do? As the highway of life presents certain obstacles, why do we spend so much time standing in the middle of the road staring at them? “Why is there suffering!?” “Why am I alone!?” “Why is my hair curly today!?” If questions are inevitable in life, then odds are there will be times when we don’t know the answers.
The truth is we already know a whole lot. We just forget. For example, there’s political mudslinging all over the news, and yet my nephew already knows that you’re not supposed to put sand in people’s eyes. Also, there are a lot of products designed to make us happy, but what about “playing” or “being nice?” My nephews already know what makes them happy, and I think we do too.
So what about when we are actually faced with the unknown? In our haste to find some sort of answer, we often decide to react to the unknown instead of moving forward into it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s easier to stand back and comment on the action rather than get our hands dirty. It might be tidier to sweep things under the rug instead of taking out the trash. And sometimes, in the moment, it may just feel better to get mad rather than love, forgive, or communicate. Still, the moments in which we choose anger, intolerance, or fear above understanding are the moments when innocence turns to ignorance.
I have been blessed to learn some great lessons in my life. In fact, I dare say that life has already taught me exactly what I need to know in order to survive. But I don’t want to just survive. Living requires more. It requires both strength and passion: the strength to remember what we’ve already learned in the face of life’s uncertainties, and the passion to use that knowledge to find more. 50% of living is remembering what we already know, and the other 50% is using that to find what we don’t.
I am very grateful for my nephews. Their confidence in what they know inspires me as an adult and reminds me that I started stepping into the unknown a long time ago. In twenty years, after school lets out for the last time, and they are armed to face the world with a degree, or diploma, or whatever, I hope they’ll remember that the future is never dark; it’s just so bright that you can’t see it clearly. Kind of like my clogging jacket.