There are a lot of ways being with young children is fun. You can play with them, cuddle them, tickle them, or bounce them around. You can stand on the side and watch their silly, brilliant imaginations at work, or duck in laughter as they come careening by at crazy speed, likely en route to a spectacular slapstick wipeout. But there’s one thing that didn’t occur to me right away when FD was little, and it turns out to be the best fun thing of all: Talking to a child quietly and respectfully is an incredible experience. (Oh, also, it’s good for the kid.)
Here’s how the game is played.
Except It’s not really a game. You’ll need a child who can talk:
- First, get eye-to-eye, whether that means kneeling down to her or his level or arranging chairs at a table just so. The point is level eye contact throughout the conversation.
- Remember just how hard the little one is working, learning so much so fast, and grant the child some adult-sized respect right now.
- Consider that everything you’re about to hear — no matter how silly, wackadoodle, or sweet — makes total sense from your companion’s young perspective. So don’t laugh at anything that comes out of that precious mouth.
- Respond to what you hear honestly — within common-sense boundaries, of course — and empathetically. Remember: respect.
- Turn off your own self-consciousness about being smart, funny, or whatever concerns you when you’re talking to a grownup. Relax for once.
- Ignore texts, phone calls, and everything else. This conversation is what you’re doing now, and all that you’re doing.
Do it if you don’t already.
There is no other experience I’ve had in life that’s so profoundly enjoyable as talking seriously — not darkly, mind you — to young FD or SD. It’s not only fascinating and endearing, but when it’s over you return to adulthood with your head screwed on a little straighter than it was before.
WARNING: This only works when they’re young. Once they’re old enough to become self-conscious, you’re done, though respect is always in order.