stephanie jones

when children are philosophers

In creativity, families on September 8, 2009 at 1:38 am

Children see, feel, and hear things so differently from our own adult-ridden, de-sensitized, in-a-hurry ways of moving through the world. I’m always in awe at the philosopher-like manner with which many children engage the world. Many years ago a first grade child in my classroom who had been diagnosed with severe learning disabilities wrote a very simple book. I’ll write the words here (I memorized them long ago), marking the “pages” with line breaks:

This is a line.

It is straight.

It is gray.

The line is a letter waiting to be formed.

It needs a writer to be born.

Now if that doesn’t give you the willies, then you’re even more calloused with adult ideas than I am.

Of course. The line is in waiting, and it is waiting patiently, and yet it may never be born through the formation of a letter by a writer, but then again it might be born through a writer doing very important things – or perhaps unimportant things or even horrible things. And even after all those things have been said and written, there is still another line, straight and gray, waiting to be formed into a letter, to be born by a writer.

Some of my most intimate moments with my little girl are made of philosophy as well. Always a result of her contemplative ways, mind you, and rarely mine since I’m often preoccupied with getting things “done”: breakfast, teeth, clothes on, dinner, homework, cleaning.

Tonight I just wanted her to get to sleep.

That’s all.

Just close your eyes and go to sleep.

But then the philosopher in her stops me in my tracks and after an hour-long conversation she’s fast asleep and I’m writing at my computer newly awakened by her insights about the world, about love, and about living with fear knowing the fragility of each of us. Here are some snippets:

Mom, but sometimes I don’t want to close my eyes. Because as soon as I close my eyes time passes. And I don’t want time to pass because that’s the time I could have been spending with you.

And I know I don’t have forever with you (now her tears begin to flow – this is the other thing with philosophy, it moves you in ways that few other things can).

I just know there are so, so, so, so many ways I can lose you. And I don’t want to lose you. Ever. Not ever.

And sometimes I don’t feel that important to you. Like when my foot was really hurt at school last week and you didn’t come to pick me up.

(I talked here about how I continue to learn about how to be a mother and a person in the world and that this was certainly one mistake – among many others – I had made. If I would have known her foot was as badly hurt as it indeed was, because of a reaction to an ant bite, I would have absolutely picked her up from school. I really had no idea.)

So I tell her that I’ll make more mistakes and sometimes they will hurt her, and to know in the moment that it’s probably a mistake mommy’s making and I’ll be so sorry for it later.

And she continues,

I want you to know I’m really sorry for all the times I haven’t been as good as I could have been.

And I know she is, in this moment, deeply sorry. For her consciousness in these moments of conversation and contemplation have reminded her of the fragility of life and human relationships.

And her consciousness has also reminded me of the fragility of life and human relationships.

I’ll try to do better in the next moment, and living through the words of child philosophers reminds me to do so while also giving me guidance.

That’s all I can do.

  1. This reminds me of when I was six.
    I was introduced to and fully understood the concept of ‘half-way’. This caused a shocking realization for me!
    My father consoled me that it’s okay and that I can still touch and hold things.
    I had scared myself to tears with the realization that every distance can be cut half-way, which can in turn be cut half-way again.

    Unknown to my father or myself at the time, I had stumbled upon Zeno’s dichotomy paradox of motion, at only the age of 6!

    It truly is amazing how a completely fresh start at life can be. A child’s almost naive curiosity is a beautiful gift to watch. I wish I still saw the world the way I did decades ago.

  2. Very touching and brilliant comments from your daughter!

  3. Thanks for your comments, r3df1a66 and peggysemingson! We have so much to learn from listening to children, and yet they are the least respected voices in our country – and perhaps on our globe.
    Stop by some more – i’d love to hear what you’re thinking…


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