What About the Mermaids?
Maybe kids are the ones who have it all figured out [insert moment of cliché teacher reflection]. Maybe we’re born with all the answers then manage to second guess them away over the years. The things kids say can be cute, ridiculous, but, sometimes startling profound.
I find that lately some of my best conversations are with nine-year-olds.
They spend the same day in the same school surroundings as I do, but they notice things I tend to overlook in the hustle between lesson planning and grading. By Grade 4 they’re still young enough to believe in magic and fairies, but old enough to articulate their beliefs with a bit of flair. It’s amazing to witness this special age, carefully wedged in between snotty noses and discovering the opposite sex.
Each month is almost a full percent of their lives. Maybe that’s why each month, each day, is so special to them, while many of us wise oldies wish away our lives in the process of counting down to our next holiday. Sure they can annoy the what out of me. They can drive me crazy, frustrate me to no end and, on top of it, forget their homework! But they can also remind me that just because I grew up and decided what is and what isn’t, there might just be some unexplored possibilities still out there.
Last week we “dove” into our new science unit on liquid pressure – that joke was intentional. Hey, it made the class laugh! We were all excited to learn that human bodies can only go to ______m under water, but whales can go all the way to _____m! The boys broke into spontaneous clapping and shouting “Pancake!” as they imitated what would happen to the poor sucker who misread his dive thingy and went a little too far below. But there was one unsettled student. One little girl who is normally not quiet suddenly was.
What’s the problem? I asked.
Well…what about the mermaids?
So, let me pass the buck to all of you, what about the mermaids? Do they also have to play by the rules of our grown up (underwater) world? Are they also bogged down by dive thingys to warn them danger is near?
Let’s go deeper now (another funny joke). Does Santa stress about Global Warming? Does the Easter Bunny worry about salmonella in his festive eggs? Has anyone managed to diagnose the Tooth Fairy as a hoarder, yet?
In other words, how can we grow up without actually growing up? How do we balance the poised adults we’re meant to become with the part that just wants to swim with the mermaids?
If you’ve managed to find the answer, well done.
As for the rest of us, we’re still just splashing around.
I just loved this, especially now, at Christmastime, when part of my grown-up self wants to be–and is allowed to be–a complete child again.
Thank you, Mary Ann!