Sunday school began yesterday. I teach the preschoolers. I was eager but nervous to begin the year. I love the kids, but they can be so unpredictable, which feeds my anxiety. They have questions that I simply do not know the answers to. They let me know if the story is boring or if they would much rather be playing than doing the activity I spent so much time—oh, precious time!—creating because I thought for sure it would be a hit. And let’s not forget the manner in which they offer critique so freely—matter of fact, unapologetic. It’s almost as if they live in a different culture than we adults do.
A lot of this we will gently work out of them in the coming years. We will teach them to be polite and what they can and cannot say in public. We will teach them to respect their teachers and do as they say without question. We will teach them to be good, quiet, courteous individuals who will hold their tongues and opinions to themselves to avoid conflict or disturbance. It doesn’t sound so pretty when written down, but it really is what a lot of us best-intentioned parents do. I see myself doing it with Story.
Watching the preschoolers interact at Sunday school was eye-opening for me. Of course, I’d seen children play before, but I don’t think I’d ever really watched. What I gained from this short hour was the following profoundly insightful ways we should be more like preschoolers:
1. Speak our minds. Preschoolers say what they think. Sometimes it can be embarrassing to parents, but it’s always honest—and in that way, it is refreshing. Our niceties of conversation are filled with little lies. What if we stripped those out and actually said what we thought? Preschoolers don’t take offense often at the truths of their friends. Would we
2. Stop apologizing. I say “I’m sorry” for everything, most often things that I have no control over. I’ve taught Story to say she is sorry when she has done or said something wrong, and so she asks what I’ve done wrong when I’ve mumbled my apologies to a cashier who is having difficulty scanning an item. How confusing! The preschoolers I watched did not say “I’m sorry” once. There was no need for apologies, so they didn’t offer them.
3. Ask questions. How many questions can a preschooler ask in an hour? All of them. They ask because they are learning. Asking questions is often the quickest route to knowledge, but do we ever inundate our conversation partners with a barrage of questions? Of course not. We don’t want to take up someone’s time or, worse, seem stupid. So we nod and make a mental note to google those things we find interesting or important to know for future conversations. That’s pretty stupid, if you ask me.
4. Do not take offense when we’re told we’re wrong. How have we come to put such a stigma on making mistakes? Every single one of us knows that perfection does not exist, so why do we pretend that it does? Those kids taught and learned from each other because of a simple interaction during which a mistake was made, noted, and fixed. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Yet we huff and puff or become defensive when someone points out a mistake we make. Why not take advantage of the opportunity and learn from it?
5. Play. The sheer joy on their faces was enough to make me jealous. How awful is that? I thought about how easy they have it—so few cares in the world, no responsibilities to speak of. They get to play and create new realities. Of course, they won’t appreciate this until they’re adults and look back on those far-gone carefree days. At that point, it will be lost to them. But why? Why do we have to wear our seriousness like a badge? Can’t we be responsible and play too? I’m willing to bet that belly laughs are a great workout for the abs. Care to give it a try?