Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I work with kids daily in my "grown up" job. Sometimes, these daily interactions cause the strongest desire for a glass of wine that I've ever had. Sometimes, these interactions amaze me in their ability to prove to me that kids under the age of 10 can be the most profound creatures in the world. This is only after you get past their annoying habit of asking "what" everything in the whole world is.
Those of you with children will recognize the lovely age of 8 as being the year punctuated with the questions "What is that?" and "Why is that here?" The other day, I had one of my kids in the office, and we were both thoroughly enjoying a wooden rubber-band shooter that took up residence on my desk a few weeks ago after a friend decided I needed protection if I was to continue working downtown. Because of the enjoyment I frequently get out of this rubber-band shooter, the floor of my office is often covered in ammunition—rubber bands.
This day was no different than others when my aim was deplorable, and I had to round up of spent "shells" after only five minutes. While searching under my desk for the errant rubber bands, I looked up as the kid pulled a calendar off the wall and asked me, "Ms. Lori, when do we get to do 2006 over again?"
This wasn't the kind of kid question I was used to answering. The kid questions I'm used to answering are usually along the lines of "Why does carpet exist?" Because those kinds of "kid questions" are very much a part of my job, I excel at providing answers. After all, everyone knows that carpet exists because humans decided we wanted to give the cats something comfortable to lie on while they barf.
But on this day, this kid decided to ask me why we don't get to do over certain years in our life. Crap. "Do-overs" is a concept championed by 7-year-olds for dealing with bad dodge- ball throws and the like, but it's one we leave behind as we age. We don't get to do-over certain things. But to live in a world where a do-over is possible … well, wouldn't that be the greatest thing in the whole world? Too bad we only get to live in that world until around the age of 7 or 8.
What complicated this "kid question" for me—even more than its profundity—was my ever-growing knowledge about child development. Time is a complicated concept for most adults. At the age of 8, we understand it even less. Kids get "tomorrow" and "today," and they may understand "yesterday." But yesterday may also mean 14 days ago to them. It's a total crap shoot. So as he asked the question, I was pulling information from my mind in an attempt to explain the idea to him in a way that would make sense.
After thinking for a few moments, I explained to him that we don't get to do years over. I explained how months repeat and days repeat and hours repeat, but years don't ever repeat. He asked if no matter how long time went on, we would never come back to 2006. I told him that, sadly, the answer is no. We never got to do 2006 over. Because if we did, there are several things Ms. Lori had first on her list to rectify. In fact, if we were going to get into do-overs there were many years I would like to try once again
I could do-over eighth grade, when I thought blue eyeliner and huge bangs were a good idea. I could do-over that second year of college I don't remember much due to Natural Light consumption. I could do-over that time I thought a perm was imperative and a tattoo was a natural expression of teenage rebellion. I could do-over that one time I should have said, "I love you," and kept the words to myself. I could do-over all the times I lied when I shouldn't have. Oh, the things I would do-over if do-overs were something we did.
Most everyone I know has one—if not dozens—of do-overs listed in their mind. Moments in our lives that did not go as planned. Things we really shouldn't have said, and people we really didn't mean to hurt. And yes, some of us have whole years we would like to do over. I mean, I know I've thought more than twice, "If only 1994 had gone differently, I'd totally be covered in Gucci and men that speak French now." Unfortunately, we just don't get them.
After I explained all this to him, his face got really serious. It's like he understood the gravity of each single moment. I felt somewhat responsible and began a conversation about how we try to do the best we can in every moment, and we have to live with that. I tried to explain how we all make mistakes and get up the next day and use that day as our do-over. But as much as I could give him information, I couldn't give him the past year back. He thought hard for a few moments, then looked at me and said, "Ms. Lori, I wish I had known that."
I wish I had, too, kid.