I have spent three years elbow deep in a generous overdraft, and so in my final, most taxing and important university year, I have myself a job. Fourth year is, I am told, turgid with academic angst and critical deadlines. I am most certainly floating, nonchalantly, along a delusional parallel slipstream. Anything resembling academic angst is yet to arrive on my plate.
If I were in a self bolstering sort of a mood, which I am, I would say I have a talent for remaining fairly balanced when it comes to academics, and remarkably unbalanced when it comes to life’s ordinary and extraordinary. I can thank a northern education that prioritised fell running over A*s for that. Why haven’t we defrosted the freezer yet when it’s been furry for over a week? Is our meticulously organised recycling system actually WORKING? Should I be making my own muesli now that I’m 22? Am I SURE God doesn’t exist? Does my penchant for odd socks reflect an internal chaos in my character that I need to address? Who decided that PUMPKINS were the vegetable elect for Halloween? And who the FUCK invented dating apps, massacring spontaneity, authenticity and gumption? Endlessly distracting, endlessly useless, endlessly fascinating internal dialogue. None of it, bar God, to do with my degree.
And so, with the theology degree bubbling along somewhat invisibly, I fill more headspace now with two smallpeople, (ages three and one), than I do my (mildly pressing) dissertation.
I have professed a dislike of children before, brandishing them vaguely annoying in their inability to have a proper conversation, their neediness and their incessant NOISE. Fruitful conversation, independence and peace feature high in my priorities. Children are conducive to none. And yet, in spite of the potties, the (scratchy) clawing of legs, the nonsensical (occasionally profound) babble that splurts from their tiny mouths like small determined combine harvesters, pausing neither for breath, burp nor thought, they improve my existence enormously. We spend two afternoons a week together, and I am yet to leave their home without a tickling sense of joie de vivre.
When we laugh, we flop around the floor like rabid walruses, wholly consumed by the genius in a fart or an odd word.
P H E N O M E N O M.
When (we) they cry, mountains are moved, trenches overflow with tears and snot and devilish screams ricochet from the walls of heaven above and hell below.
Small people are quite plainly and entirely love, anger, confusion, sadness and humour, incapable of self awareness- unapologetically a feeling, all at once, for all to see.
The other side of childish magic is the secret door they open to lands I might have left long ago, were I not quite so fond of the ridiculous. Here, vegetables and rabbits grow behind ears that refuse to be washed at bath time. Sunflowers grow from in between smelly toes, stairs to bed are Olympic slaloms. Totally disgusting apple crumble (flour and half an apple, at a push) rivals Nigella’s and pasta made of play dough is worth twenty hundred pounds.
Sincerity in what we, wizened and contemptuous large people would term the ridiculous, is why life is beautiful. I am quite convinced, actually, it’s why we’re all here.
Children do it with ease and grace. Being a fairy is not putting on a dress and playing, being a fairy is BEING a fairy. Just as bouncing on the bed in a desperate bid to inspire something called ‘tired’ into fizzy night time bodies has a likely potential to cause the roof to fly off, when you bounce high enough, you’ll be on the moon with the man and the cheese in twenty seconds- flat.
Small people help me, and us, to keep our feet on the ground, but also upside down in treetops and star drops. In their moments of unconscious brilliance, they catapult us into the sunbeams aboard their boat built on imagination and conviction, and pull our soles and toes back onto the kitchen floor when they ask for one more fish finger (please). They tell us, without telling us anything, about very important things.
If you do one thing this week, stay around a little longer in the ‘childish’, magic and enormously important part of your mind. Where DO the leaves go when they fall off the trees (I imagine the branches said something especially rude), are those mouldy pumpkins discussing the unkindness in their creators, fretting about the imminent funeral trip towards the compost bin? Aren’t we lucky we’re not pumpkins- they have a terrible time, they didn’t ask for it.
Somewhere along the way we were encouraged to stop taking these sorts of thoughts seriously.My gut is telling me that actually, they’re the most important ones, they keep us wonderfully, necessarily (in)sane.