Thursday, July 13, 2006

Little Beasties

Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas - Paula Poundstone

I haven't been able to blog all week because I needed every ounce of my concentration to handle a group of seventeen 8-10 year old beasties (I know there were 17 of them because it was my job to count them day in and day out). And when I say beasties, I say it with love and affection, really I do! They are the best sort of beasties, the ones you want to visit with but are happy to give back to their parents at the end of the day.

For one very, very, very long week, I was an assistant for an arts summer camp which was evenly split between amazingly mature girls and trouble making, rough housing boys. I don't spend much time around kids so this week has put me into a constant jittery state of shock. My voice is hoarse from all the talking, yelling and cajoling and my body is tense and ready for anything. This must be how it felt in Vietnam.

Never underestimate a child's ability to get into more trouble. - Martin Mull

A week with 17 kids has been like having cold water splashed in my face repeatedly while 50 chattering monkeys bounce around me asking: "Can I have a fresh bandaid? Jerry pinched me, tell him to stop! Will you heat up my pizza? When is snack time? What is the point of this game? Did I tell you about the time my brother stuck a pen up his nose? Can you cut this for me? Where is my water bottle?"

Kids are startlingly honest which can be refreshing. They haven't started covering up what they really mean with a placid, politically correct exterior. They can tap into the imaginary world of make believe and build golden cities within seconds. Even though I am a 32 year old supposed adult, I relish this free pass to be my inner weird self. I can break into a funny accent, talk jibberish, walk funny or ask an odd question and the kids don't seem to mind.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. - Pablo Picasso

I know that technically we're supposed to grow up and become viable members of society but Quel Bore. I have yet to have a 'real' life (the traditional kind with a husband, kids, white picket fence and 401K) and I am beginning to think that might never be my path. I envy these kids their effortless enjoyment of life. They haven't started feeling guilty, behind or inadequate yet. They haven't forced themselves into some bland mold and I hate to think that they ever will.

Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression. - Dr. Haim Ginott

I envy these kids. Envy their confidence, energy and pure connection to who they really are. Still, as much as I love all the little monsters, spending every day with them has sucked me of my will to live. How is it possible to be simultaneously exhausted, drained and spent AND fulfilled, satisfied and re-energized? Kids are like candy in reverse, they hit you with an inital sugar high that exhausts you but later, when you are away from them you miss them and feel like a better person for knowing them.

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted. - Garrison Keillor

As much as they terrify me, I wish I could spend more time with them. Why are our lives so regimented and separate? Why does it have to be weird for me to ask one of my favorite students, a young filmmaker, to come and hang out and do movie projects with me (didn't stop me from asking though!)?

It's not fair. I wish generations mixed more. Then maybe we wouldn't have such separate child and adult personalities. Maybe we could integrate our dull adult selves with our younger imaginative inner-children.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. - George Washington Carver

On that note, I need to go to bed. Those kids took everything I had from me and I need about a month to recover. But I know work at the office next week will be quiet and bland by comparison.

I mean, how many adults do you know that ask you questions like this out of the blue: "Eva, how do you think a cowboy would walk?"


steve said...

"I wish generations mixed more. Then maybe we wouldn't have such separate child and adult personalities."

While I get what you're, er, getting at, wouldn't this be terrible for kids? They need to experience as many things on their own, without adults. It would be impossible for them to see things with their own eyes if yours are along for the ride too.

Or to put it another way, why would kids want to hang out with adults? Did you when you were a kid? I know adults were a constant source of embarassment for me.

"Maybe we could integrate our dull adult selves with our younger imaginative inner-children."

I don't understand why you think being an adult is so dull. It's only dull because you choose for it to be dull.

As much as I may wish I had parts of my childhood back, I also relish the fact that I have perspective, I have the ability to reflect, I can analyze, I have experience, etc. You can find deeper meaning in things--in art, in love, in whatever--only because you're an adult. Is love and art boring and dull to you?

Eva the Deadbeat said...

i feel like aging in our society is too regimented. kids get to have all the fun; college students get to have freedom and thirsty thursdays; and then the second you graduate, they expect you to sit in some office chair until you retire. when you finally make it there, your body has deteriorated, your mind is gone from too much staring at white cubicle walls and TV and you spend your twilight hours glued to the television wondering why life is so pointless.

obviously, that is a HUGE generalization but i've seen it happen enough to want to avoid it. my beef is that our adult lives are set up to be so damn boring. the 9 to 5 work week leaves you with 2 full days to do as you please and it is next to impossible to relax and tap into your kid self in 2 days.

i don't choose to be dull. i am financially forced to work a 9 to 5 job where i have to play grown up. if i was to be my kid self, i'd be out of a job in 2 seconds. it just isn't an option (unless i am teaching camp and even then i have to be adult enough to make sure no one kills each other).

i guess i just never really wanted to grow up fully and face the pressures of adult responsiblities (the few that i have). i envy the kids for their animal instincts and their focus on fun and enjoyment and their fabulous tree climbing skills. i envy their ability to tap into their acting skills and imaginations and their lack of stress and pressure and lists of things to do the next day. can you honestly say that you have all that still as an adult?

i also think it is too bad the only way to hang out with kids is to have kids. if i was back in Cali i could hang out with my friends kids but i don't have that option here. i am not suggesting kids should spend ALL their time with adults. but i think some good multi-flavored role models are nice.

love and art aren't boring to me but i had those when i was a kid. i spent every weekend working on art projects and i felt love intensely in my weird kid way. it is good to have better perspective and analysis skills BUT not at the expense of my animal instincts and pure connection to feeling and being (which is pretty clouded over these days).

i think there is no black and white about this. kids don't have all the answers, nor do adults. my point is that the two creatures are too separate in their behaviors and it would be nice if there was more common ground. if we could be childish adults without being freaks and if kids could enter the adult world more while still being little beasties. that is just my opinion.

steve said...

"i feel like aging in our society is too regimented."

I don't know. That's changed considerably in the last 10-20 years. Look at what I do for a living; I edit a videogame magazine, and I'm closer to 40 than 30.

There was an article in the New Yorker a while back that talked about how more people are holding onto their youth for longer. Or they're essentially saying, "Why do I need to start wearing Dockers and ugly shoes and listening to Sting when I dig Doc Martens and still like cool music?" You know, 40 is the new 30.

But I don't totally get this rose-colored glasses view of youth. How many college age kids are able to live a life where they don't have to work to pay the bills? Maybe they don't work 9-5, but instead they work nights, or weekends, or put in 15-25 hours instead of 40.

There are ways to live a live of leisure, but it mostly involves others being responsible for your finances. Regardless of your age, someone needs to pay for a roof over your head and food for your belly. When you're a kid, your parents pay for everything. When you're a college student, the government does (or your parents still do). And some day, your parents might need you to support them.

"can you honestly say that you have all that still as an adult?"

The physical things? No. But the mental things, sure. Why not? You're way more connected with youth culture than I think you give yourself credit for.

But as an adult, you also have the advantage of being able to act like a kid and an adult. They can climb trees; you and I can think about things on entirely different levels.

"if i was back in Cali i could hang out with my friends kids but i don't have that option here."

Yeah, well... hell, I can't find any people to hang out with here, much less people with kids. Being my age and single in Vermont is brutal.

But you're doing something. You did this thing you talked about. There's probably other programs, mentorships, volunteer work that can be done. It seems like there's always a shortage of people who want to work with kids.

"my point is that the two creatures are too separate in their behaviors and it would be nice if there was more common ground. if we could be childish adults without being freaks and if kids could enter the adult world more while still being little beasties."

I don't disagree that people separate these things, but they do it entirely by choice.

What I think we tend to want to do is go back to being kid with the knowledge we've obtained as an adult. I wouldn't spend those days sitting in my room watching TV; I'd practice baseball more, or start writing things down so I'd be able to remember the adventures I probably had but have forgotten.

But being a kid is hard today. You have more societal pressures to succeed, you have IM and YouTube and MySpace and cell phones and Blackberrys... the carefree days of youth may not even exist anymore. They never did for me, but I grew up in a suburb in Los Angeles. Where I grew up, everything was paved. I imagine it's different for people out here.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

i agree that it has gotten easier to be a child-like adult. hell, i worked in VFX for years where every desk was covered with action figures, chocolate milk, comic books, SGIs and playdoh. it feels good to be a big kid and make 6 figures for animating cartoon characters!

i also agree that being a kid these days is no picnic in many respects. i can't even imagine what i would do with all these tech options. would i be one of the you tube teenage ass shakers or one of the self-obsessed, confessional teens with bad lighting? who knows. it is a little overwhelming to imagine.

i am glad i had a simple VT country childhood with lots of play time in the woods and only 3 hrs of TV a week. although, if i had had access to a video camera at such a young age...who knows where i might be today...? perhaps i would be ....brookers!!!!!

also, i know that realistically someone has to pay the piper and for this, a 9 to 5 job is necessary. and hell, i know that mine is one of the good ones and, were this 100 yrs ago, i might be toiling away in some crap ass factory sewing buttons onto jumpers and dying at the ripe ol' age of 32. we have it pretty good today and even losers like me can do things they love like make movies on the side and indulge their pop culture addiction with massive montage making frenzies.

i think my comments are based on the simple fact that i felt more tuned in to the kids i just spent a week with than i do to most grown ups i spend time with. i am not sure why that is. i just felt comfortable with the ways their brains work and the way they feel everything out instead of discussing things to death. i guess i am more of a feeler than thinker and that is why i can dig the company of children.

it just sucks that as an adult without kids, my options for hanging out with them are few. but you're right and i will look into some mentor options. more than anything, i think it would be cool to work on media projects with them because then i can apply some of my grown up knowledge and combine it with their bottomless, neverending imaginations.

i guess you can never rewind time but i think there has to be some way to stay young and flexible in your heart as you age. otherwise, it is the old home or the coo coo bin for me, pronto. here is to trying! (MY 72 YR OLD MOM IS REALLY JUST A 7 YR OLD AT HEART SO I KNOW IT IS POSSIBLE!!)

steve said...

You spend an awful lot of time and energy writing out these long, thoughtful posts to be too much of a feeler versus thinker.

I mean, if you weren't a thinker, you wouldn't even be in your particular predicament. You'd just sort of live in the perpetual moment.

And if you were too much of a feeler, you'd never leave the house because, dude, it's scary out there.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

dude, yes it is scary out there! i am surprised i can drag myself out of the house some days. perhaps a job in the outside world is good for a hermit crab like me. forces me to expose my sensitive bits to the daily grind like the rest of the worn down worker ants...