Driving my kids around can be such an enlightening experience. As they rapidly grow from children to preteens, I am amazed at how mysterious I find them. What are they thinking? What’s going on in their little minds?
The car affords one of the best places to gain insight into your child–ask any parent. And, since my boys are still relegated to the back seat, at times I feel like a taxi driver, trying to get to know my customers a little better before releasing them back into the world at large.
The boys are in a morning soccer camp this week. We are all feeling the effects of the waning days of summer–not wanting to lose this freedom, yet in dire need of a routine. Because of this contradiction, I find that they and I become irritable as the start of school approaches. Such is life.
But today, on the drive to camp, was one of those days where their thoughts revealed such deep thinkers and observant young minds.
As we rode in unaware silence, Owen (10) offered this view: “So many times, I think about how weird it is that we are here, that we’re alive, since we are all going to die.”
“I know,” I say, “I think about that a lot, too. I think a lot of people do.” PAUSE: Let me take a moment to acknowledge that just a few years ago, my neurotic tendency would have made me say something like, “Well, try not to think about death,” or “It’s best to avoid such thoughts.” Translation: Just stuff all that dark matter DEEEEEP down inside to feed on your anxieties. But now, I’m not motivated by fear. I welcome these thoughts because I understand they are completely natural and talking about them is healthy.
Hayden (9) becomes excited by this subject. “Yeah,” he chimes in, “how DID the first person come to life?”
“A lot of people think it was God, that he made humans,” says Owen.
Immediately, I counter him, “But, a lot of people also believe in science. Scientists say we came about as a natural development of the environment.” Here, I lag in expertise. “…that with the help of water, cells interacted…” I trail off, surprised at just how daft I am in the theory of evolution, having attained most of my knowledge from the first Jurrasic Park movie.
Owen pipes in, “Yeah, water was key. The body IS made up of something like 75-80 percent water.”
Sounds good to me. I move away from my scientific discourse and advance the subject. “I often think of that movie we saw about the prehistoric family, The Croods.”
“Oh, the one where they had to hide in that cave most of the time in order to survive,” says Owen, “but then they start to adventure out and realize all that they were missing.”
I love that he remembers the moral of the film.
“Yeah, and how they had to hunt for their food,” I respond. “Could you see us doing that? Imagine how skinny we would all be if we had to hunt and kill everything we ate?”
Owen, who is skin and bones, considers this: “I think I’d be one of our first meals!”
I laugh at this. A strong, hearty laugh.
A few hours later, I pick the boys up from camp. They are hot and tired. On the way out of the park, I notice a younger couple, on a lunch break from work, leaning up against the hood of their car, arms wrapped around one another, kissing passionately. I look at them and think how fast life moves. How many lifetimes ago was that? Then, I look to the back seat where Owen is watching the same encounter. He is studying their every movement. Half jokingly, I say, “Owen, don’t look at that.” This prompts Hayden to look away from the kids playing soccer and directly at the kissing couple.
“Isn’t it funny,” I say. “When someone tells you not to look at something, what’s the only thing you want to do?”
“Look at it,” say the boys in unison.
“I know,” I say.
“And if a grown up tells you not to look at something, you definitely want to be sure and look,” says Owen. “That usually means that it’s must be something awesome.”
Again, I burst out with a laugh.
Two rides. Two glimpses into the minds’ of the young. Thank God, and/or scientists, for the car!