“Mommy. NOBODY likes me.”
My sister stiffened at the declaration. Her son is five, and is the only minority in his Fairfax county kindergarten classroom. Standing at no more than 38” and weighing about the same in pounds, Aiden is one of the smaller children in his age group. He is a jumble of emotions and personalities, at once sensitive and nonchalant. He is the type of kid you want to protect for fear that a strong wind will blow him away for the Piglet he reminds you of.
My sister was incensed, concerned that he was being made to feel excluded at school. “What do you mean, “nobody likes” you?”
Aiden insisted that no one did: not at school, not at his karate class, not no one, nowhere ever on God’s green earth. Adj (his mother) made it a point to be more vigilant the next time she dropped him off at his next activity, which happened to be karate. What happened when Aiden walked into the dojo stunned her. It stunned me. It rocked us both to our core.
“Look everyone! Aiden’s here!”
“Hi, Aiden!” the kids sang in unison.
Aiden gave a half smirk, half self-satisfied smile and returned their greeting with the panache of a young man who had just broken into the Coca-Cola vault and was hiding the secret formula in his shoe. One of the students invited him to come sit next to them, and he merrily complied. My sister walked out of the dojo, sucking her teeth. By the time she finished telling the tale, I was perspiring having laughed so hard.
“This boy isn’t for real life eh?”
“I mean, what more did he want? Confetti?”
“Even if they gave him confetti sef, he will insist they don’t like him because it wasn’t falling fast enough.”
“These are the best days of his life. He just doesn’t know.”
And it’s true. I honestly believe we are our best selves in that kindergarten stage. We are kinder, more compassionate and eager. We’re fearless risk takers, for the most part…and even when we aren’t, we don’t discourage anyone else from taking a risk. There are many reasons that the world would be better place if we all conducted ourselves like kindergartners, but for the sake of time, I’m going to outline three.
Everyone is a “friend”
“Dear friends! May I have your attention?” or “Nicholas, would you go over to the reading center and help your friends put away the books?”
In essence, before you really knew anything about your classmates, you identified them as friend and associated with them all the warm n’ fuzzy feelings that go along with that moniker. Everyone wants to sit together, everyone gets invited to Sophia’s party. Everyone is made to feel included. In Nadjah’s KG class, there was a boy with a severe learning disability that each of them took personal responsibility for. They protected and looked out for him as a unit, because that’s what five year olds do.
This all stops around 4th grade.
And by the time you enter the working world, there are no “friends” to be had. There are only bosses, snitches, opposition and foes. You are suspicious of everyone and everyone questions your motives. There is no room for “friends” in the adult world, which is why everyone looks so beat up and sullen on the bus/subway.
Everyone is soooo enthusiastic about everything!
When you’re a kindergartener, everything is just wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful! Well, except for bedtime. Bedtime sucks, but at least then you get a story, a kiss on the cheek from mom and then fall right out. There is no tossing and turning in the kindergartener’s sleep cycle. Why? Because your mind is filled with nothing but the wonder the world has to offer. Like knock-knock jokes.
“Feet the rabbit!”
Does this make any sense? No! But to your fellow KG’ers you are a comedic GOD. You have mastered the nuances and execution of a knock-knock joke, and that makes you pretty cool. It makes all of us pretty cool, because we’re all going to tell the same joke to each other for the rest of the day. That’s right. All 30 of us.
Can you imagine what would happen if you were the originator of a joke and 30 other people in your office told it without giving you credit? There would be disorder… chaos… sulking… salt in the punch bowl and Christmas!
That’ll show ‘em. Tell MY knock-knock joke without proper attribution…
You can do/be/have ANYTHING in kindergarten
The needs of a kindergartner are pretty basic. Some milk, a Hotwheel or two, a door to slam shut multiple times a day. Given enough freedom and hydration, a kindergartner can achieve anything in an afternoon. He can journey to space in a cardboard box. She can rule a kingdom from the sofa. The kindergartner is the master of all things, and (s)he doesn’t require money to accomplish any of the goals that have been set at play time. Goals which shift frequently.
“Hey guys! My mom said we can use this chalk to draw on the sidewalk!”
“We’re not chalk drawing anymore, Charles! We’re playing chemistry.”
“Oh. Well, I guess we can crush the chalk up and turn it into science powder then. Right?”
And then all of a sudden, your kids are playing Breaking Bad without even knowing it.
You know what happens to adults who “play” Breaking Bad?
In all, if I had to pick one thing from that kindergarten life it would be the exuberance with which one is greeted by one’s peers. That same excitement that my nephew takes for granted every week. It would make going into public so much more pleasurable. We don’t even make eye contact with people anymore. And why are you so happy…for no apparent reason? Happiness without cause is grounds for committal in an institution; unless you’re a kindergartner, of course!
Can you think of other ways kindergartners are better at life than adults are? Tweet me or put them in the comments!