Friday, July 18, 2008

Lessons from the Nursery

I was never very close with the majority of my many step-children. At the time, I told myself I shouldn’t concern myself with them. But I was wrong. Young people have a unique way of doing things, and show a power of imagination that people sorely lack as they age.

It seems that children have a penchant for deceiving their parents. There were times when I was alone looking after them, their fathers off doing business. I would quickly grow tired of their company and send them to bed. I recall checking on them to make sure they had gone to sleep. As I approached their rooms, the floor boards invariably creaked under even my light frame. I would hear the flutter of blankets and sheets as they hurried back into bed. Eyes and faces so tightly scrunched were a sure sign they were faking, but to them the deeper they were asleep, the tighter their eyelids must be compressed. A minor example of a poor, but common, deception.

Other times, though, I was genuinely impressed. On more than one occasion, from several different children, in several different homes, they would hide contraband in the most peculiar ways. I was often married to men who could afford abundant luxuries, and their children were just as showered with gifts as I was. The little ones knew their fathers and I had no interest in their silly playthings.

Children with too much money have a tendency to buy things they shouldn’t. One of my first husband’s little delinquents had a love for horribly violent comic books, published before congress forced them to clean up their act. Well, I found a stash of them in his toy chest. He was far too young and fragile, and making sure a developing mind remains untainted is the duty of a good parent.

Still, others astonished more. One hid make-up, which she would carefully apply before, and then remove promptly after school, in her dollhouse. Another kept bottles of soda, which his father expressly forbade, in his tree house. Certainly none impressed more than the incident with the firecrackers hidden in the neck of a stuffed giraffe.

After episodes like that, I was convinced that strictness bred creativity. Perhaps the cruel constriction of time might have the same effect for me.