Insight from a 4 year-old sure can make you think

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 1999

Life seems filled with hour upon hour of unimportant actions. That sometimes-boring monotony is occasionally broken by brief moments of understanding or moments when you get &uot;it.&uot;

I had such a moment Saturday morning.

Something woke me up early, perhaps that slight alertness that comes when sleeping away from home. Maybe it was simply the sounds of a house with two adults, two children and one spoiled dachshond.

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Having lived alone for several years, those sounds filled my first few waking thoughts.

A few minutes later I heard the familiar &uot;Let’s wake up Uncle Kevin!&uot;

That muffled cry reminded me that I was spending the night at my sister’s house in Brandon en route to a football game.

The door creaked open and in one pounce my nieces Megan and Emily were piled on top of me.

After a few minutes the fun in waking me up was gone and Megan, the 8-year-old-going-on 15 wandered off leaving me in the room with Emily, who is 4.

She sat crouched on the floor looking around the room which she had sacrificed for the night so I had a bed to sleep in. We chatted about all sorts of stuff as I tried to wake up. Emily surveyed the room and all of the stuff I’d deposited there the night before.

&uot;Did you bring your `puter?&uot; she asked. A reference to my laptop computer which she and Megan take great pleasure in playing with.

Before I could answer she asked another question.

&uot;Hey, why are your shoes all muddy?&uot; she inquired, obviously more worried about me tracking mud and dirt in her room than the origins of the mud. I answered each question as best I could.

She asks a million questions, which my mother tells me is a sure sign of intelligence. I have never been able to not answer each one, partly because of her sweet little face and partly because she’d never let me get away with it.

&uot;Are you going to stay here tomorrow,&uot; she asked.

&uot;No, I’ve got to go back home and go to work.&uot;

&uot;What do you have to do at work?&uot;

Without thinking I spoke the truth.

&uot;I may have to go to a funeral.&uot;

As the words were falling out of my mouth, I suddenly remembered the other end of this conversation was only 4.

How could I explain to her that I might have to go to a funeral for a 14-year-old who was stabbed to death by another child as they rode home on a school bus?

In an instant it became obvious to me how wildly the world has changed for her generation, but I didn’t want her to know it yet.

When I was growing up, the worst thing that could happen if you got into a fight with someone would be a black eye, or maybe a broken bone. Life was just a given.

No one ever thought about it. We thought we were all going to live forever. Period, end of story.

Things have changed.

Today children are forced to deal with life’s problems far too soon. In fact even lots of adults have a hard time putting their hands around these type of problems.

On Saturday morning I stared into those bright little eyes, mumbled something and quickly changed the subject. It worked.

The conversation quickly moved on to something else. But my mind kept going back to how different her world is than the one I’d grown up in and taken for granted.

Even though I know lying is wrong, I would have lied through my teeth if I thought it would protect her innocence for another day.

One quick glance at that 4-year-old’s face and I knew I’d do anything I within my power so that she could have a few more precious time being a child. The world will come soon enough.