“My Head is full of Children,” is a slogan that used to appear everywhere maybe twenty years ago. The picture that went with it was usually a multi-colored world with kids from all places popping up around it. I think that’s a good pictogram of my head.
When I was a kid, I had zero interest in smaller kids. They didn’t get the rules, didn’t know when to stop bugging me, didn’t even know when to wipe their noses! Yuck!
My babysitting years were a disaster and as much as I could manage, a no-show. I had no desire to croon over babies and I really didn’t think toddlers were cute. Or if they were, not when I was responsible for them. As far as I was concerned, they were just annoying.
Fast forward to children of my own. I remember way too clearly staring down at my infant daughter and propping myself up with the mantra, “Teenage mothers with no support keep their kids alive…Susan, you can do this!”
And it was a learning experience. A thousand miles from home, in a different country, I nearly went down with the ship. Laurel didn’t sleep much and didn’t like to be put down, so in a haze of exhaustion, I carried her endlessly on my hip and talked to her like she was my only friend. Given the situation, in some ways she was.
We moved twice more and added Heather and Karen. They were much easier babies and in new neighborhood after new neighborhood, those three girls were my posse. They got older, did all the things kids do, and eventually our family settled in one place. I had friends aplenty of the adult variety, but I found I missed the wide-eyed passions and earnestness of children. And so I added a series of new posses – teaching fifth grade and then high school.
Over the years there have been crystal moments with children – teaching some Tanzanian kids a little math on my daughter’s porch when she was with Peace Corps. Helping some angry teens untangle emotions through writing. Doing my pathetic best to play tetherball with a class of 5th graders. Only middle schoolers can do scorn better than 10 year olds.
Years of children walking, running, flouncing, barreling into my life. Some of those first kids have kids of their own now. I feel like the old woman in the shoe, except my shoe is Facebook. I delight in their pictures and triumphs, and I remember the eager faces (or the angry faces or the sullen faces or the excited faces) while I walked beside them for a short while.
They travel with me through my life. Their words, their smiles, their misdeeds. So alive. So important. So full of the future.
My head is full of children, and I am the luckiest of people.