What kids do better than adults

I had such a fun Thanksgiving holiday break. My original plans to work throughout the weekend were thwarted when Uncle Scooty told me that we would be spending the time with our nephews and nieces in the Quad Cities. Those kids DO NOT like Uncle JoJo to be working, unless it is developing a star turn for Jack, the third of four and loudest of all. So, I put aside my work and decided to get lost in playtime.

At dinner one night, Leo, ever the conversationalist, pulled out a deck of cards filled with questions designed to help us get to know each other. Ruthie and I just wanted to giggle at poop and fart jokes, but we decided to play along. After questions about desired super powers, living in the ocean or a treehouse, and embarrassing moments related to passing gas in public (I added that one in for the pleasure of Ruthie), Ella silenced everyone with a very important question.

“What do kids do better than adults?”

Of course, I turned to Ruthie and made a poop joke.

That got me thinking, though. Why is it that kids consume my attention in ways that adults rarely do? What is it about childhood that was so great that we lament having lost along the way? What DO kids do better than adults?

Thankfully, our penultimate 5th Star Expo event was a trip to Barrel of Monkey’s “That’s Weird, Grandma”. I have worked with these cats from BOM, but am embarrassed to say I have never attended this long-running show. All that has changed. You can meet me there most Monday nights, as I have now found the best way to kick off the week.

You see, kids write stories, and these hilariously talented performers act them out, all under the direction of one of my favorite Chicago performers, Molly Brennan. We had so much fun with vegan vampires, snowmen from Mars, muscle-bound Santa, and a snowball fight to shame the makers of any Hollywood action film.

I asked Molly and another of my favorite creators, Ms. Lacy Campbell a variation on the question posed to me by my niece Ella: “Compared to adult playwrights, what do kids do better when they write?” They reminded me of three beautiful truths.

  1. Kids have no second voice that censors them. What a beautiful and right thing that is. Anyone who steps in to censor that creativity needs to be locked for one week in a room with seven clowns, fifteen pounds of Play-Doh, twenty stuffed animals, and all the arts and crafts supplies you can find at a a local pre-school.
  2. They are unbound by conventional rules of storytelling and plot points. It’s like pooping out imagination. Let the conventions come later to help shape the imagination poop into fertilizer.
  3. They just go for it. No second guessing, no second thoughts, no second takes. What comes to mind comes to life. What comes out can rarely be repeated.

So, there was my Thanksgiving lesson and reminder. Now, the two questions on my mind (besides how I can break myself of gaseous scatological language that makes me giggle) are:

How can we create safe and joyous spaces for adults to feel the creative recklessness and liberation of childhood, and

How can we create more intergenerational opportunities to stay connected across the life span, absorbing all the goodness that childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and sunset years afford us?