Last night, Youngest treated me to a foot massage for Mother’s Day–a much appreciated pampering after a weekend of impromptu garage sale hosting. My feet were killing me, and I told Youngest my massage felt like heaven.
“How do you know?”
“I’m just guessing.”
He never paused, but seemed a bit disappointed in my answer. “Oh. Well, I tasted heaven once.”
In case you’re wondering, Youngest isn’t fanciful. Unlike his older two brothers who spun tales of dinosaurs visiting them in the night or their adventures aboard pirate ships, Youngest is a factual kind of kid. He’s so factual, he doesn’t even lie. In fact, he dropped his bombshell about tasting heaven in much the same way he would state that he ate pizza for lunch. As a simple truth.
I needed to know more. “When?”
“Well, one day after school I had a tummy ache–you were gone–and God came to visit me. He gave me a piece of heaven to eat and said it would make my tummy feel better.”
And then he was on to other topics. I immediately understood his disappointment in my assumption that my Mother’s Day foot massage felt like heaven when I’d had absolutely no experience with the actual place myself.
It kind of makes me wonder…
As adults, we often turn cynical in the way we view the world. We rationalize and debate and search for proof and argue our viewpoints to the point of nausea. We know what we know and we quit seeing the world through innocent eyes.
Young kids don’t see skin color or religion or sexual orientation or economic status. They simply see other kids. A potential playmate. A friend. Their take on “innocent until proven guilty” is “everything’s good, right and normal until we’re told otherwise.”
When writing for young kids, this is important to keep in mind. Kids see the world very differently than we do. They are not hardened by experience, shame, guilt, peer pressure or poverty. They are sweetly innocent until life strips them of this most precious commodity.
It isn’t until the end of our life journeys that we yearn for a return to that innocence and sheer faith in the goodness of life.
When writing for middle schoolers or young adults, we must also keep this in mind. Kids need validation for the tumultuous experiences they encounter. But, they also need hope. Hope for something better. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a return of that innocence they once cherished.
Did God really minister a piece of heaven to Youngest when I was unable to do so myself? I hope so, though I’ll never know. The only true answer I have is that Youngest experienced this event in his mind and in his heart. And that’s reality enough for him. Who am I to tell him otherwise?
Do you believe kids have an inside track on certain things? Do you feel that writers have a responsibility to foster hope and inspire change for the future? How can we accomplish these tasks if we, ourselves, have already lost the magical wonder of a child? And where can we find novel fodder so uniquely innocent besides the mind of the child?
Curious minds want to know.
P.S. Spell Check thinks massage is wrong. It wants me to replace the a with an e. I’ve never had a foot message before, but I suppose it could be interesting. And yet another example of things writers cannot make up on their own!