If there’s one thing I’ve learned about talking to kids, it’s that you should just go along with whatever they say and encourage their imagination. Kids are temporarily unlimited in what they think and feel, dream and imagine. I was reminded of that lesson today as I had a conversation with a four-year-old that reminded me of the simpler times when my cousins and I used to draw treasure maps of the house; jumping on pillows across the lava pit, and barely escaping the beasts chasing us through the hallways.
As he walked across a bench, our little talk went something like this:
Me: “Ryder, are you crossing a bridge?”
Ryder: “Yea, I have to get across the waterfall” He steadied himself on the bench, trying to avoid the vicious creatures as he came to the end of the “bridge.”
Me: “Are there sharks in the water?”
Ryder: “Yea and alligators, but don’t worry, I can run fast. And punch them. See?” He threw his fist out and gritted his teeth, trying to show the sharks how tough he was. “That means they’re dead and we can eat them.”
Me: “Have you ever eaten shark before?”
Ryder: “No, but I will tomorrow. And alligator. And we’ll have chocolate.”
(I didn’t really know how chocolate and alligator meat went together, but I went along with it.) “Chocolate milk?”
Ryder: “Yeah, chocolate milk and chocolate bars. I like the skinny ones. There are fat chocolate bars too, but they’re not skinny. You can come too. We’ll go in my creek with our boots and catch alligators and drink chocolate milk. “
At this point, I was trying not to laugh at his master plan, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared.
Me: “Do I need to bring my mud boots?”
Ryder: “Yea probably. It’ll be like a date.”
I didn’t know what to say after that so I just laughed and told him I’d bring my boots. I mean who wouldn’t want to fight alligators and drink chocolate milk?
I’ve had many conversations with clever kids before, but today especially taught me 1) When I grow up, I want to be like Ryder, the lil kiddo who saved me from the sharks. 2) Chocolate milk goes with everything, even alligator and shark meat. 3) Kids are blessed with an innocence and imagination that is unlimited, and it is my job and your job to let them keep that as long as they can. And 4) A date with a four-year-old may be one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever experienced.