Power In Small Numbers: What I Learned From A 6 Year-Old


As a nanny, I spend a lot of time with a very opinionated six year old. She’s always there to tell me when my hair’s out of place, my clothes don’t match, or my eye-liner’s smudged. Two very important tips to all considering nanny-hood: 1. You will not like this job if you take yourself too seriously. Learn how to laugh at yourself or you will cry yourself to sleep at night (and possibly in front of an impressionable, albeit merciless child). 2. Swallow your pride and listen. No one tells it like it is like an unfiltered kindergartener, and if you hear them out, they’re likely to teach you a thing or two.

At times, kids tend to be right- their observations tell it like it is on the most basic, literal level that you just can’t argue with. Your twenties are time where things seem complicated, convoluted, and uncertain. From relationships to work, to living situations, we spend so much time overanalyzing and over-stressing, that sometimes, the simplest truths become overshadowed by the drama. I’ve come to realize in the last year of living my very own version of The Nanny Diaries, that I’ve learned quite a lot about life and myself by simply taking a look at life through the eyes of this kindergartener, who has allowed me to share her vantage point. Here are a few of my favorite truth-bombs that left me marveling at the wisdom in innocence.

1. “She said maybe, so that means no.”

Ah yes, a lesson best learned early-on in life. The false-glimmer of hope that the word “maybe” presents. It’s non-committal yet pacifying to a kid, but throughout life proves to be an omen of impending disappointment. When a decision is to be made, “maybe” does not instill confidence. Do you want to be exclusive? Do you think I’ll get a second interview? Do you think he’ll call me? Do you??? You want to hear a yes so badly that the person in question will answer with the single most infuriating phrase for decisive or impatient people.

In this case, Little Miss Six delivered the hard reality about the word with very little emotion or disappointment. In her past experience, when a friend’s mom says they can “maybe” have a sleep-over, the sleep-over does not in fact happen. So since maybe has been proven to mean no, she’s going to make another plan instead of keeping her hopes up. How pragmatic.

2. “Some words just don’t make sense. Can I write to the president and tell him to take off the ‘b’ in ‘lamb’?”

While I doubt that this concern warrants the attention of the Head of State, she has a point. Teaching basic principles of the English language is basically in a crash course in Life 101. Description: Lots of things don’t make sense and can’t be explained. But that’s the way it is, so learn the rules anyway and function accordingly.

I wonder when along the lines in adolescence our outrage at things that make literally no sense softens. When is it exactly that we become conditioned to accept that things Are What They Are instead of challenging what goes against principles we’ve been taught to believe? Maybe it’s around the time we learn to read and write.

3. “She’s really nice to me some of the time but really mean sometimes…so I think she’s a medium-friend.”

This seems obvious at first, but I think of all of the relationships I have in my life that I have allowed to become so complicated. I get so worked up about interactions that are stressful, or loaded with passive aggression. I stress and worry and try to adjust my behavior accordingly. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As Little Miss Six so eloquently put it, you just have to accept that some people are the way that they are and not get too worked up about the way they act or try to change them. It’s important to know who the good friends are, who the ones to stay away from are, and develop a distanced awareness of the ones who are just kind of…medium.

4. “So you’re 23…what are you going to do?” About what? “Well you’re middle-aged so if you want to get married, you need to get a boyfriend soon.”

Twenties are puzzling years to a child. I’m not as old as her parents, yet I’m definitely older than her teenage sister. I’m in charge of her, but so many aspects of my own life are ever-changing and unsettled. I’m an adult, but not the kind of adult that she’s used to seeing: married, financially stable, wearing a business suit. Realizing this and explaining my identity to her made me see myself and this time of my life a little more clearly as well. Believe me Little Miss Six, it’s as hard to justify graduate school and My Single Life to myself as it is to you, but here we are.

5. “Love means you miss them when they’re gone.”

A phrase so beautiful and perfect in it’s simplicity that it needs no elaboration. Love, at whatever age, is love.