By: Emma Johnston
The other day each of my three children had a little friend over to play. For four hours, six little people had the run of my house. Everywhere I turned there were mountains of glitter glue, stuffed animals, nerf guns and mini hockey sticks. For four hours I hid myself away in the kitchen keeping myself safe from the chaos and secretly loving the sound of happy little voices as they ran around my home.
At snack time everyone gathered around our dining room table to mow down on orange creamsicle cupcakes and apple juice and I was privy to the deep, intellectual conversations of this growing generation.
The crew around my table, varying from age 5-9 talked important topics. Best sport (tied between baseball and hockey) best style of nerf gun, best friends, best place to have a birthday party – the conversation was intriguing and wildly animated.
Eventually the topic came around to food. The opinion was split between pizza and hot dogs, but one little girl, a vivacious little lady who had made me laugh on multiple occasions throughout the afternoon stood up and proudly proclaimed that the BEST food, the best dinner, best thing to eat in the whole entire world was Oreos and Bologna! She confirmed, that she did indeed mean that they were best when eaten together – since her love for bologna and her love for Oreo cookies were equal, it was only proper to have them at the same time. And I couldn’t help but smile at her confidence.
But it was what happened next that made me realize, once again, that there’s an awful lot we can learn from children. In my grown- up brain, announcing that your favourite food was bologna and cookies, was a risky thing to do, especially when the consensus was that pizza and hot dogs were the best. There was no doubt that her opinion wouldn’t be the most widely accepted and there was a chance that some of the older kids might tease her for this unusual combination. So, I entered the dining room, ready to go to her defense. I had the ready stream of encouraging statements in my arsenal. You know the “everyone is entitled to their opinions” and “we don’t all have to be the same” – momma type sentiments.
But I didn’t need them. In fact, all of the kids just sped by the statement as if it was perfectly acceptable to like bologna and Oreo cookies. There were no snide comments, no putting her down for her opinion, no ‘eeww, gross!’ exclamations. To them, her opinion was just as valid as the kids who liked hot dogs.
I realized to my dismay that adults can take a pretty good lesson from this little group of children. Very rarely do we accept with such grace, the differing opinions of others. Adults like people to ‘fit’ into our neat little boxes. You like either – hot dogs or pizza, those unpopular opinions, those glimpses of divergence aren’t accepted nearly as easily as they were around my dining room table that afternoon.
I know this because I have friends who are vegan and I have friends who eat meat, I have friends who are Christian, Jewish, Jehovah Witness and atheist, I have friends who live in the city, who are farmers, who are Liberal and who are Conservative. I have such a beautiful array of friends and people in my life, but I have noticed that we don’t always accept with such compassion and grace the varying views of others. On occasion I have noticed that having a different opinion from the group – whether that’s by having your own tastes, priorities, social issues to fight for, etc. – if it doesn’t meld with the people you are with, it isn’t always accepted as smoothly as this little girl’s opinions were.
Adults argue and bicker and try to PROVE that their way is the only way. We put down others for their views, we criticize their life choices, we stop being friends with those who don’t do all the same things we do. We want people to be like us.
But how boring that would be! This little collection of children in my dining room, could all stuff their faces with cupcakes and then shoot each other with nerf guns regardless of the fact that they didn’t all agree about one tiny aspect of who they were. So, she likes Bologna with Oreos – that doesn’t make her any less of a nerf gun champion!
How much we can learn from them! How much better we would be as a society if we could put those little insignificant differences aside and just take people as they are.
We are better, more diverse, more fun when we all have our own opinions and when we aren’t afraid to share them. We don’t always need to prove that our way is better, we don’t always need to defend all our preferences, we don’t always need to be in battle mode – we could just share a cupcake, paint with some glitter and simply enjoy the diversity of opinion and people that are all around us.
So, once again, I will learn from my children and their friends and whether you eat bologna, steak or tofu, you are welcome at my table!