Gosh I was a weird child. Old before my time, I think. I was so serious, very scholarly… very Hermione Granger, actually. Even had the bad hair. I once tried to read a set of encyclopedias. I actually read the dictionary. I preferred reading to everything else in the whole world, I was the worst human at any sporting endeavour (except high jump and hurdles because I was also very tall for my age), I mooned about writing in my diary and creating my own coded languages. I lived on a staple diet of TV Hits magazine and Roseanne on the TV. I thought it was actually possible to enroll at Degrassi Junior High. I had a fascination with medical texts and would read life-sciences books regularly. As you can tell, I would have been amazing company… no wonder I didn’t have any friends!
So being a kid taught me many things. Not the least of which is that life is hard at any age.
1. Books will teach you everything you want to know
I taught myself how to cook, how to write, and how to speak Japanese. I knew why the sky is blue, what life was like in the early 19th century, and the journey of a zygote to an infant. I could tell you anything about Egyptian pyramids, how to pick locks/use invisible ink/how fast you need to duck when a gun has a silencer on it, and how to make a square egg. I spent every waking moment packing things into my tiny brain because I loved it. And I learned so much not just about facts and figures, but about complex human relationships, spirituality, and the power of love. Pretty sure I also learned about the power of love from Celine Dion.
2. It’s better to say “I don’t know” than lie and pretend you do
I’ve mentioned before I lied like a Dickensian villain as a child, but mostly to my peers. I didn’t want to look stupid, I wanted to be effortlessly cool and up with the current trends although I was hopelessly out of touch. I nodded knowingly when people referenced things I had no clue about, and felt the sting of shame when people called me out on it. I’d try and bluff my way through it, but I had no fricken idea. Then one day I was with a bunch of kids and someone said something incorrect. When it was pointed out to them, they didn’t lie and try to make out that they were in the right, they just flushed red and said “I knew that!” in a joking way with an embarrassed grin. Then talk turned to something else and the moment was forgotten. I realised right then that the world didn’t end if you were wrong, you weren’t cast into a pit of fiery mortification and the world didn’t point and laugh endlessly – you could admit it and move on. I still have a hard time admitting that I don’t know things though!
3. You need to fight your own battles
Mommy can’t save you every time. You need to stand up for yourself and sometimes a little playground justice is necessary. Kids jostle and push the boundaries to work out the pecking order, to see who fits where. If adults keep butting in on behalf of their cotton-wool-wrapped kiddies, then nobody learns anything useful. Yes kids can be cruel and sometimes a deft hand from above can pop things in their place. But on the whole, kids need to be kids and to work out their politics in their own way. Now pass me the conch!
4. How fascinating a human body is
I’ve never hurt myself so much as I did when I was a kid. Being an awkward, gangly, uncoordinated gimp, I was forever falling over, getting scraped and bumping bruises. And then I would watch, fascinated, as my body healed itself over the coming days and weeks. That blew my mind. Then I’d fall into the vortex of remembering my heart pumped blood and my stomach digested food, and there were six billion of us all pumping and digesting all over the Earth. Then I’d sing the theme song Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life – “why are we here? what’s life all about?” and get all existential. It made me hungry.
5. Christmas is THE BEST THING EVER OMG
Damn I love Christmas. I remember never being able to sleep a wink on Christmas Eve (it didn’t help that I was an insomniac anyway, and there was usually partying adults), and how fricken exciting every single thing in the world was. Once I even snuck a peek at every present under the tree by opening them all just a little bit, and then sticking them back together. Not even just my own presents, but everyone’s. It was a glorious time of year and I still get excited even though it’s about nine million times better when you’re a kid. I plan on out-Christmasing myself every year and jamming those memories into my kids’ heads. Matching pyjamas for all!
6. Nothing lasts forever. This is both good and bad.
My ice cream never lasted forever. Christmas never lasted forever. These are the bad things. But also shitness doesn’t last forever, the friends you think will never stop being mean to you ever will move away. Or you will. You grow out of a grade, that embarrassing moment fades away, and this too shall pass. And that is such a beacon of hope to hold on to when things are mighty gross. That it will pass. Because nothing lasts forever.
7. Que Sera Sera
Whatever will be, will be. I loved this song as a kid, and I get a bit nostalgic when I hear it. It’s such a simple message, and was so useful to me. It signalled that things happen for a reason, you can’t wish them away and you can’t pray for something to be different. Things are what they are unless you change them. Whatever will be, will be. People who are religious might find comfort in their lives having a purpose, because God has a plan for all of them. When things are hurtful and they must endure pain, it’s God’s will and you will eventually see the reasons for having to suffer through it. They’re usually good reasons, and something positive will come of it. Well, I don’t believe in God, and therefore don’t believe my life is planned by him/her. But I do believe that whatever will be will be, and I find comfort in that, which is similar, I guess. I know there’s a reason I’m enduring something painful, and I know that good follows bad, that there’s a positive for every negative. I didn’t have to worry about the future, because I would deal with it when it came. It is what it is, it will be what it’ll be. And if I don’t like it, then I can change it. Or at least learn from it.
And yes, I thought about all that as a kid. Told you I was weird!
So what did you learn? That tomato sauce and strawberries isn’t quite the taste sensation you thought it might be?