Before this trip I truly felt like kids were aliens. I didn’t understand them. One minute crying, the next minute laughing, the next crying, the next pooping.
As an adult I hadn’t been around many children. I was the guy from the movies who, upon being told to hold a baby, extended his arms outward to keep it as far away as possible.
But babies are comparatively easy. Once they start talking it gets even harder to understand them.
This was my conundrum with my cousin’s kids. I kind of missed their infancy while I was away at college. Then after college I started my international life and saw them even less. I’d only see them once a year or so and our interactions were awkward and uncomfortable. They kept growing older and more into “real people” and I just didn’t know how to play and communicate with them. Now Andrew is 11 and Rachel is 9.
A Visit To Case Western Reserve University
On May 29th I had a radio interview in the morning, the Wigs For Kids corporate event, and then a meeting with a representative at Case Western Reserve University about my trip and my speaking services.
My cousin was gracious enough to take me around that day, but at Case I had to watch her kids as she had another errand to run. Normally I wouldn’t bring kids to what for me amounts to a business meeting, but I didn’t really care too much. I knew they’d be well-behaved and there was no other choice. I bought them frappuccinos, which I told them were adult milkshakes, and they were content to talk and read magazines for half an hour.
After my meeting was over we had a couple of hours together on campus waiting for my cousin to come and pick us up. I wasn’t nervous about this large amount of time with them, but the inevitable “What are we doing to do?” crossed my mind.
We were near the library and I figured that would be something interesting for them. The campus was empty as it was summer time, but the library was open. I thought they might like to look at some books or something. In reality, they were just shocked and impressed by the size of the library.
We sat downstairs and I showed them some pictures from my trip on my computer. Andrew likes animals, especially birds, and Rachel loves to laugh. So I showed them pictures of animals and funny stuff for something like 30-60 minutes. They enjoyed it and I did as well.
Their curiosity was amazing. I wondered if we all start out that curious and gradually lose the desire to understand our environment and way of life, only to give up on that to focus on more “productive” thought.
Afterward, we went to a Mexican restaurant and we had some nice food. My cousins enjoyed hearing me speak Spanish and I hope I implanted a seed of curiosity within them of how amazing it is to learn another language.
The Happy Nomad Tour Effect?
In the end, we had a really nice afternoon together and interacted as if there were no awkward history between me and the kids. They were nice, respectful, and fun. I was sad to see them go as I know it’ll be a long time before I see them again – and so much always changes in between the times I see them.
It’s hard to put a finger on why things went so well with them now. Yes, I have spent time with a lot of kids during The Happy Nomad Tour. I volunteered at orphanages in Ecuador and Costa Rica. I lived with families, the one in Yoloaiquin having young children for example. Of course this helped in terms of practice relating to little kids.
But maybe it’s me who has changed.
I don’t think I take myself as seriously now. I think I see the world more like a kid now, with infinite curiosity and without unnecessary things weighing on my mind like a job, bills.. anything stressful, really.
And it became so logical to me. Kids aren’t aliens.. they are geniuses.. living life by asking “why not” and “what if” instead of “I wish” and “I can’t.”
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and I wish we could all go back to seeing life through their innocent but adroit eyes.
So yes, I’ve changed and it now opens up a whole new world to me, one of infinite possibility and amazement around every corner.