HUANG: Keep it elementary

As undergraduates, I don’t think we get enough exposure to kids and their subtle brilliance. I know, I know, this is college. These years are for making lovey eyes across the bar at someone our height. We’re growing into our adult selves now so that when the spittle and applesauce do eventually enter our every day, we might be prepared. We laugh off our Freud readings — the ones that insist on getting toilet training right the first time lest we curse a child’s behavioral capacities for life — because development and child psychology can remain purely academic concepts.

To invite kids into our lives at this stage would make about as much sense as a frat house getting a puppy.

We don’t need to be reminded to “embrace the inner child” either; campuswide ecstasy over a snow day announcement, the Branford Bigloo and Freshman Olympics attest to our very human desires to play and regress for a day or two. But the newer and more complex my college stressors become, the more elementary the solutions I seek — ice cream, bright colors, crafts — and the more I wish my 9-year-old brother, Jayden, were here to make a bad joke.

I’m pretty convinced I peaked some 10 years ago, before I knew what generalized anxiety disorder, calories, taxes or consulting was. Now that I’ve made it here and am told I can do anything, I find myself searching for levity and kid logic.

It worries me that Yale is cutting, or at least muddling, its well-reviewed Education Studies program. I suspect the superstars among us, the ones who will graduate and immediately start managing projects, advising CEOs and moving millions of dollars, would panic if two or three dozen small citizens showed up in their offices, each with his or her own needs. Negotiating with kids demands a unique type of intelligence. Especially on the rare snow day.

Last week, I spent an hour with a local resident’s 5-year-old daughter, navigating snowdrifts three times her size in our quest for pizza. Though New Haven public schools had closed for the week, work schedules persisted. I granted the favor greedily. I welcome diversions from midterms, especially the pint-sized ones.

What did Lydia and I do?

I hesitate to say that I gave her a tour of campus. At one point, it became quite evident who was doing the explaining.

“That’s our library.” I pointed a gloved finger at Sterling’s frozen façade.

“Yeah, I know,” she shot back. Sass!

I tried explaining residential colleges to her without the tour guide jargon of “community” or “microcosm,” but she immediately understood.

“It’s like homeroom.”

Yeah. Yeah! It is like homeroom. Lydia probably keeps her cubby cleaner than we keep common areas, though.

At lunch, we rejoiced in the miracle of central heating as our toes thawed. A harried woman stormed in for her take-out pizza. This woman had forgotten how to dress herself. Her very large chest spilled and swirled about. I interjected loudly, something about pepperoni, but Lydia had seen and was giggling like a cartoon.

“I can’t believe it!” she gasped between grins. I thought it best to just not say anything. She had to have her arsenal of female role models, right? But as I scrambled for an out, she pulled her torso across the table and, eyes wide to capacity, whispered:

“Why is that lady … letting everyone see … her second butt?”

Kids know indecency when they see it. A third-grade class in Wuhan, China, organized an election for classroom monitor that quickly dissolved into familiar bicameral vices: politicking, mudslinging, blackmail. One girl dissolved into tears and shortly afterwards, everyone was crying and apologizing. They glimpsed their egotistical future, and it was terrifying.

That anecdote is from my favorite “This American Life” podcast. Go have a listen, or watch Bianca Giaever’s now-viral video interpretation of 6-year-old Asa Baker-Rouse’s imagination and his profound advice about conquering our fears.

If you need a bigger dose of reality, make a list of your huge problems — that cover letter you modified for the 14th time, what his terse text message actually means, whether you’re pretty or smart or likable enough — and try to recite it back to a kid with a straight face.

The things that we’re told are important here are always told to us by grown-ups. I know age grants wisdom, but what about clarity? For that, I think we should consult our smaller selves.

Cathy Huang is a junior in Morse College. Contact her at cathy.huang@yale.edu .

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