Lessons from The Beansprout

I spent all day today with my oldest daughter, The Beansprout. She’s amazing. She’s one of my favorite people to spend time with; she’s enthusiastic about life, inquisitive about many things, and possesses an analytical mind of great strength for her age. The end result is that she asks amazing questions and understands the answers, and our conversations are great.

In addition to the more standard questions about how things work, she frequently asks questions about human behavior and moral philosophy. Why do people steal things? Why am I allowed to go to the park by myself but the boy across the street isn’t? (They’re the same age; in the same class, in fact.) What should you do if someone asks you politely for something but you still don’t want to do it? These kinds of questions take us on meandering journeys into philosophical questions, interspersed with sudden bouts of scientific curiosity such as “Why do some plants have thorns, but not all plants?” and “What keeps a car from exploding?”

What I’ve come to realize in my time as a father is that kids really only differ from adults in two large ways (besides, you know, being smaller):

  1. They can do almost anything adults can do, just for shorter periods of time. My daughter is every bit as smart as me, she can carry on perfectly adult conversations and understand adult concepts, she just doesn’t have the attention span. When I see her in karate, her discipline is amazing and she performs feats of dexterity I’m definitely not capable of – for 10 minutes, and then the discipline breaks and she bounces. But it used to be 9 minutes, and 8 before that. Eventually as you age you gain the ability to stretch your discipline farther. But it’s only discipline they lack, not intelligence.
  2. Kids are still curious. When I walk down the street, I see fences, lawns, cars, houses, birds, clouds, stones. What my daughter sees are mysteries, puzzles, secrets and jewels of hidden knowledge. It’s a wonderful way to look at the world.

Sometimes parents try a little to hard to speed up the Discipline process, and in turn don’t do enough to keep the Curiosity spark alive. The world will do a lot to snuff out that spark on its own; my job is to stoke those fires for as long as I can. And I can warm myself by that fire, and see the world through her eyes.

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