In 1637 René Descartes made his brilliant statement ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ or ‘I think, therefore I am’. He was 41 and already a noted philosopher and mathematician.
In 2011, the Blonde Bombshell, made her brilliant statement ‘I think, so it is’. She is four.
Of course, when Descartes made his profound statement he was talking about existentialism, and when the Bombshell made her statement she was talking about it being Tuesday when it was really Monday, but who’s nit-picking? Who’s to say that I don’t have a budding philosopher in the family? If she wanted it to be Tuesday, then it should be Tuesday, and too bad if the rest of the world thought it should be Monday. What’s 24 hours between friends?
There is a certain honesty in the words and beliefs of children. They speak without worrying about social niceties (‘I did two poos and one is floating like a boat’), political correctness (‘I like your bottom Mummy, it has hair on it’) or the laws of nature (Mum: ‘how much yoghurt do you want?’ Bombshell: ‘27 minutes please’).
When children speak, they say it like it is: ‘Some cars are clean and some are dirty. Daddy’s car is dirty. Adi’s car is clean. Grandad’s car has a little bit of poo’. They conversationally tread where no adult would dare, though secretly many of us would probably love to. They have no concept of self-censorship or self-preservation (‘Mum: ‘why is your sister crying?’ Bombshell: ‘because I hurt her fingers’).
The things my daughter tells me are the highlights of my day. I write them down and make them real, before they disappear into a forgotten memory of something she said once that made me smile… now what did she say? It’s on the tip of my tongue. I can’t remember…
I love that everything is so literal when you are four years old. Words do not have hidden meaning, children hear what is familiar. My daughters and I were walking past a neighbour’s garden, which had a prolific flowering tree. ‘Look at that pretty pink flower,’ the Bombshell said. I replied, ‘do you know what that is? That’s called a hibiscus.’ The Bombshell then said ‘Hi Biscus, my name is ... and this is my sister’
Similarly, there is a certain logic that is applicable only to small children. Things are taken at face value, even abstract ideas. At three and a half the Bombshell was struggling to deal with her tantrums and we were taking the approach that if I gave her a big cuddle we could squeeze out her anger and throw it in the bin. Sometimes this worked, other times it didn’t. One day after a particularly drawn out tantrum and some attempting squeezing, she told me ‘I need my anger back because I’m having a tanty.’ I let her have her anger back and said ‘do you still want vegemite crackers?’ ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Yes please,’ I corrected. She shook her head, ‘I don’t say yes please because I’m having a tantrum.’
Perhaps though what is most precious about the words of children is their unrelenting love and devotion. They are blind to shape and size and fashion and their mum is the most beautiful mum, even when she is wearing old tracksuit pants (Bombshell: why are you lying down Mum?’ Mum: ‘because I’m old and fat and tired’ Bombshell: ‘you’re not that bad’).
Eventually our children grow up, and their words will be tempered with flattery and hidden meanings and political correctness and all the other filters adults forget they use. But while they are little, we should cherish their clarity of thought, because as the Bombshell so simply puts it: ‘I make you happy Mum.’